IMPACT Europe news digest [#9]
Welcome to the ninth instalment of the IMPACT Europe news digest. Through this series, the IMPACT Europe team will endeavour to present you with a selection of news, commentaries, journals articles and web materials relating to research and policy developments touching on the subject matters underpinning IMPACT Europe’s project’s mission. To receive the latest updates on IMPACT Europe’s research, dissemination and outreach activities you can follow our Twitter account (@impacteurope) or sign up to our quarterly newsletter through our homepage.
NEWS & PUBLICATIONS
Countering Violent Extremism: Researching Challenges in Program Design and Evaluation
This report reviews the global nature of the terrorist threat, reflecting on how the current prioritisation of counter violent extremism (CVE) programming is implemented in different settings, and the strategic considerations which contribute to the success of interventions. Drawing on examples of programming in Kenya and Pakistan, the report identifies three basic ‘foundation blocks’ which are key enablers of the effectiveness of CVE initiatives and use of resources. The report offers five core recommendations for CVE programmers and practitioners, which focus particularly on the need for CVE programs to be adaptive and responsive to the local operating environment and the specific needs of beneficiaries. The recommendations stress the importance of regular Monitoring and Evaluation activities (M&E), but argue that traditional M&E approaches may not be suitable to CVE interventions, for which more innovative mechanisms must be developed in order to learn – and share – what actually works in this field.
Advancing CVE Research: The Roles of Global and Regional Coordination Bodies
This report looks at the state of the art in CVE research worldwide, reviewing recent developments, such as the establishment of new centres and networks, the increasing interest in foreign terrorist fighters, and the synergies between counter-terrorism and other research fields, particularly development studies. The authors argue for increased collaboration and coordination between new and existing CVE research centres and initiatives. Furthermore, the authors propose the creation of a platform to be used for gathering and consolidating relevant research, as well as for catalysing further collaborative work. Finally, the report offers ten key recommendations for how ongoing research and networks can better support CVE policy and programming.
Review of UK Prevent strategy
UK Home Affairs Committee
On 25 August, the UK Home Affairs Committee published a report on Radicalisation: the counter-narrative and identifying the tipping point which raised concerns over the government’s Prevent strategy. Prevent is one of the four arms of CONTEST, the UK national counter-terrorism strategy. The report concludes that the program has failed to build trust and achieve buy-in among Muslim communities, and is instead perceived as a top-down security operation, which is severely alienating those communities it seeks to support. The report recommends that in order to achieve its objectives, the strategy should build real partnerships between communities and the state; the government should be more transparent about their approach, and the training delivered to educators and other professionals on the Prevent duty should be reassessed regarding its suitability. The Liberal Democrats have since declared that the party can no longer support the continuation of Prevent, which they described as counterproductive and which they will seek to scrap through an amendment to the proposed counter-extremism and safe-guarding bill. The party’s Home Affairs spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael, also said that any successor program should replace the term “British Values” with “universal democratic values”, due to the former’s adverse implications for societal cohesion and inclusivity (see further details here).
Further debate and development around the role of internet giants in the countering and prevention of violent extremism
In the same report on radicalisation and counter-narratives, the UK Home Affairs Committee criticised the present involvement of social media companies in CVE efforts. These were described as ‘consciously failing to combat the use of their sites to promote terrorism and killings,’ and were urged to take greater social responsibility and a ‘zero tolerance’ approach in this area. Contributing to the debate on the role of internet giants in counter-terrorism, Yasmin Green, Head of Research and Development at Jigsaw, a Google tech incubator and think tank, recently discussed the development of and initial results from a pilot counter-messaging program which Jigsaw has launched in partnership with Moonshot CVE and Quantum Communications. This new ‘Redirect Method’ uses the Google search engine to redirect those users seeking extremist content to a range of other curated content which provides a counter-narrative to extremist propaganda (see further details here). These developments also follow a Home Affairs Select Committee hearing where representatives from Google, Twitter and Facebook discussed their role in combatting the exploitation of social media by violent extremist recruiters earlier this year (see previous IMPACT news digest here). The role of the media in CVE policy has also sparked concerns around censorship and freedom of expression. Dunja Mijatović, the Representative on Freedom of the Media for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), recently outlined some important considerations for embedding human rights at the heart of any counter-terrorism legislation. These relate to the rights and responsibilities of journalists and editors, the definition of key terms in public discourse, the avoidance of indiscriminate mass surveillance, the use of censorship, and the promotion of free expression and communication technologies in counter-messaging efforts (see further details here).
German government proposes new security measures
In the wake of a spate of violent extremism-related incidents that occurred in Germany in July, and in light of increasing pressures on the federal government to take a tougher stance to tackle them, the German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, has outlined plans for increased security in the country. The proposals put forward include: larger numbers of police personnel; a central cybercrime investigation unit; routine searches of the smartphones and social media accounts of refugees arriving in Germany; and the accelerated deportation of migrants convicted of criminal offences. The “sympathetic promotion” of terrorism would also become a crime, and German citizens who join foreign terrorist militias would be deprived of their citizenship. In addition to this, preventative efforts would be strengthened through the training of integration teachers to deal with war trauma, and better mechanisms to allow refugees to report signs of radicalisation among their peers. The proposed changes have generated controversy, but De Maiziere expressed confidence that these plans could quickly improve security in Germany.
UPCOMING EVENTS AND CONFERENCES
- One-day workshops on partnerships to improve CVE communication
Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) Centre of Excellence (CoE)
27, 28 and 29 September, Brussels, Belgium
- RAN High Level Conference
Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) Centre of Excellence (CoE)
November 2016, Brussels, Belgium