81 these organizations. Businesses and philanthropic organizations looking to have an impact in the struggle against violent extremist could do a lot worse than to fund programs designed specifically to give young people positive alternatives to those on offer by extremist movements.
A framework for discussion and action There are near limitless ways in which civil society can provide a framework for discussion and action, with the production of reports such as this being only one of many. What is desperately needed, however, is a way of networking many of the different efforts already underway. As a number of people have pointed out, extremist movements are generally very well networked and we need to catch up. EWI therefore recommends the creation of an inventory of the elements of civil society already dedicating resources to this cause. The geographic and substantive scope would need to be established. There is no reason why multiple inventory projects cannot be undertaken in different geographic locations, provided the organizations responsible coordinate at the outset toward the ultimate aim of combining the finished product. Regardless of whether undertaken by one or multiple organizations, the inventory would begin with research on and outreach to relevant governments, civil society, and faith-based groups involved in combating extremism. This research will identify and collect data on a comprehensive array of counter-extremism efforts, answering the following types of questions: what aspects of extremism are being addressed and combated (recruitment, rhetoric, preparation for violent action); what methods are being used to counter extremism; what audiences and communities are being targeted; how are communities included in the shaping and implementation of the effort; is there coordination between this effort and others of its type (e.g. civil society, government, the religious community); what challenges have been faced; and what lessons have been learned in combating extremism that could be applied in other contexts or cases. This research will be compiled in an inventory that will catalogue all counter-extremism efforts in the geographic region identified. Over time, this inventory should be developed into an online data source that can be expanded yearly. The outcome fostered could include new co-operation between hitherto unacquainted groups, information-sharing and greater awareness of the work being done within the network of groups devoted to combating extremism, and the adoption of new techniques and approaches discovered through this interchange.14
In addition to networking different organizations currently underway, networking people—and particularly leaders—from civil society is imperative. According to Mark Gerzon, a Distinguished Fellow at EWI who leads the Institute’s Leadership Program, one of the greatest contributions civil society can make in reducing the threat of violent extremism is to champion a vision of leadership that models nonviolent inclusiveness. To develop this kind of leadership requires work in every sector of society— from schools to universities, from business to academia, from media to religion. Every part of civil society can play a role in making citizens aware that the most effective antidote against violent extremism is for mainstream civic leaders to stand up for the kind of leadership that leads to stronger communities and a safer world. To this end, identifying or creating venues to bring together leaders from within and across different realms of civil society, is a more personalized—or micro—approach to facilitating the cross-pollination of ideas. Further, by designing specific leadership programs around the problem of extremism it is possible to motivate people toward additional action and to equip them with the tools necessary to undertake such action. Such programs should bring these leaders together with those who have been affected by religious extremism or on the front lines working to counter it. Such efforts would foster crosscultural sharing and cooperation and engage new and powerful allies in the search for actionable solutions. In addition, on a more macro level, civil society groups that are focused on "conflict resolution" or "democratic dialogue," as well as those who are seeking to improve parliamentary processes and make government more transparent and accountable, are also making a significant contribution to combating extremism. As the recognized institutions of decision-making become more effective, the rationale for violent extremism is weakened.
A framework for mediation Many elements of civil society—particularly academia, community and faith organizations, pressure groups, and the media—already agitate for addressing the economic, political, and social conditions that can constitute the underlying risk factors for violent extremism. By the nature of their mission, these entities are often best suited to offering a non-violent means for marginalized individuals and groups to appeal for redress or vent frustration. Consequently, some of these entities—especially community and faith organizations and pressure groups—can act as intermediaries between communities and governments when tensions arise. Academia is likely better suited to providing a roadmap for how to mediate or redress the
The initial impetus for this recommendation came during a meeting by EWI President John Mroz with then-Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, Hank Crumpton. Soon after, the same idea was proposed at an EWI working group on the Role of Civil Society in
Countering Extremism, with members of European NGOs and EU officials on Friday, September 29, 2006 in Brussels. EWI is continuing to develop the idea.
Published on Jul 23, 2010