Global Resources

Preventing violent extremism through inclusive development and the promotion of tolerance and respect for diversity

Publisher: United Nations Development Programme
Publication Date: Mar 2016

In recent years, new waves of violent extremism based on religious, ethnic or political grounds have taken the lives of many innocent people. Extremist ideologies glorify the supremacy of a particular group, while opposing the idea of a tolerant and inclusive society. Violent extremism poses two distinct but related challenges for contemporary societies: its rise and spread across national borders, and the governance of increasingly diverse and multi-cultural societies. These challenges require us to look beyond the necessary but insufficient focus on strict security concerns, and identify and tackle the root causes in any strategy aimed at the prevention of violent extremism (PVE). That is the argument throughout this discussion paper by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which promotes the need for inclusive development and the promotion of tolerance and respect for diversity as an important component of PVE.

The paper begins with an executive summary, before providing an overview of the latest rise in violent extremism globally. The UNDP's conceptual framework is then presented, and through literature review, the drivers of violent extremism are identified, namely: economic inequality, political exclusion, limited social mobility, injustice and corruption, the rejection of diversification in society, the normalisation of violence by media, and weak nation states. Regarding the UNDP’s conceptual framework, the discussion paper proposes eleven interlinked components which together can help in achieving PVE. These building blocks, discussed in-depth in the paper, will inform global, regional and national strategies for PVE:

  • Promoting a rule of law and human rights-based approach to PVE.

  • Enhancing the fight against corruption.

  • Enhancing participatory decision-making and increasing civic space at national and local levels.

  • Providing effective socio-economic alternatives to violence for groups at risk.

  • Strengthening the capacity of local governments for service delivery and security.

  • Supporting credible internal intermediaries to promote dialogue with alienated groups and re-integration of former extremists.

  • Promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

  • Engaging youth in building social cohesion.

  • Working with faith-based organisations and religious leaders to counter the abuse of religion by violent extremists.

  • Working with the media to promote human rights and tolerance.

  • Promoting respect for human rights, diversity and a culture of global citizenship in schools and universities.

Finally, the paper presents an organisational strategy based upon research, advocacy, and action conducted by the UNDP, concentrating on three key aspects: policy research and advocacy; action oriented agenda at regional and country level; and the UNDP's implementing capacity. These are summarised in the executive summary, with key points being that:

  • The initiative will specifically look at the role of women, youth, religious organisations and leaders, and the media when analysing problems and generating solutions, as well as at the way these roles play out in diverse socio-cultural and political settings.

  • The research agenda will seek to contribute to a better understanding of the challenges hindering effective governance of diversity in multi-cultural and multi-confessional societies.

  • UNDP will develop advocacy and communications toolkits for outreach to alienated and radicalised groups and individuals.

  • Using the building blocks for PVE, UNDP will support the design and adaptation of regional, sub-regional, national and sub-national strategies.

  • In implementing this corporate initiative, UNDP will work with interested member states, development partners, media, academia, the private sector, youth groups, women’s organisations, faith-based organisations, and judicial, law enforcement and security communities.

  • Strategies at the national level will consider the design of both new initiatives, and a review and adaptation of UNDP’s existing portfolio of projects.