The B side of policies to counter violent extremism

Last February Transnational Institute and the academics Arun Kundnani and Ben Hayes published the report The globalisation of Countering Violent Extremism policies. Undermining human rights, instrumentalising civil society. The document reviews what the policies associated with the fight against violent extremism have been (Countering Violent Extremism CVE) and their consequences regarding respect for fundamental rights and accountability.

CVE policies intend to be a more forward-looking, holistic and preventive approximation in contrast to the reactive nature of the so-called war against terrorism. The first to implement them were the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (in the middle of the last decade), to later expand to other European countries, the USA and supranational institutions like the European Union and the UN.

In spite of everything, the authors of the report consider that the CVE approaches have several elements that generate controversy. Despite having a holistic vocation and looking for the factors underlying radical violence, the promoters of these policies have identified the spreading of extremist ideology as a detonating factor in the radicalisation process. This means that, although the scope of action is very broad, the control and eradication of the spreading of the message is focused on, as is an effort to shape it.

Therefore, according to the authors, this approximation can lead to an expansion of surveillance policies and an excess of zeal that bring about Internet censorship or a criminalisation of different communities due to a mere ideological issue. At the same time, bearing in mind that CVE make a great effort to involve different public and private actors, it is almost impossible for agents of civil society that work in this area, but with different perspectives, to distinguish themselves from government campaigns. And finally, CVE initiatives are applied from public ambits for the execution of public policies, but far from the control of legislative chambers, leading to a weakening of democratic controls and accountability.[1]

In the end, the authors point to the danger that the desire to reach all social ambits to prevent violent radicalism can finally become a tool of social engineering and stigmatisation if elements of democratic control and accountability are not put into practice.[2]


Report “The Globalisation of Countering Violent Extremism Policies. Undermining human rights, instrumentalising civil society.”

Transnational Institute. 


Ben Hayes.                  

War against terrorism. 

Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN).

[1]The authors suggest several examples, at the level of the European Union, the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) that, according to the study, does not submit its activity to any relevant democratic control and keeps its extended network of affiliation in the dark.

[2] The authors suggest up to twelve points to assess if a CVE policy conforms to democratic criteria and fundamental rights.   We would stress; an approximation based on respect for fundamental rights like gender equality and the rights of minors, democratic and judicial control, avoiding the objective of a single racial or religious collective that may lead to discrimination, at the same avoiding intrusions in privacy or censorship activities and finally, not thwarting the efforts of civil society in this field.


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