Preventing extremism in West and Central Africa Lessons from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger and Nigeria

Efforts aimed at preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) have emerged onto the global stage with unprecedented speed and attracted substantial financial investment. This is unsurprising – the idea that action can be taken to eliminate the potential for devastating violence before it is perpetrated brings great hope and inspiration. While efforts to contain terrorist violence continue on other fronts – military, security, and criminal justice – P/CVE offers the potential to address factors directly associated with extremism and to energise action to address structural and development problems that contribute to the grievances associated with extremist actions. The past few years have witnessed the rapid expansion of P/CVE initiatives. This has been enabled by significant financial investments from international donors combined with actions by local individuals and organisations to address the problems that affect them. High expectations have been created for P/CVE, notwithstanding its obvious complexities and on-going debates about the meaning of the concept, its range and scope, and its expected outcomes. Global, regional and national policies offer substantive guidance on the content and actions that could be taken. However, a great deal depends on the translation of the theories and ideas associated with P/CVE into practical efforts, and how these actions are designed to achieve their intended results. This practical question was the focus of this study, which reviewed selected P/CVE projects in six countries in West and Central Africa. The study is designed to present an understanding of how programme designers and implementers are giving meaning to the concept of preventing violent extremism (PVE), as described in the policies discussed below. It is intended to contribute to the growing body of information about P/CVE, and promote an effective evidence-based approach to addressing terrorism. Importantly, the study seeks to understand how programme activities have been designed to achieve results that relate to the prevention, or even reduction, of violent extremism, as described in PVE policy. Many of the projects covered by the study are still active, and thus this report can offer only a snapshot of their current state. It is not within the scope of the report to analyse the results of the projects. Similarly, no commentary is offered on the projects’ impact on specific dynamics relating to violent extremism. Rather, the report offers observations on the design, implementation and evaluation of interventions, and recommendations for promoting more evidence-based P/CVE policies and practices. It focuses on broad trends rather than the experiences of specific organisations or projects. The report focuses on six countries in West Africa and the Sahel: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. A similar study is being conducted in four countries in East Africa and the Horn of Africa: Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda. Those findings will be reported separately. The acronym P/CVE is used throughout this report to refer to interventions that might have features of both preventing and countering violent extremism (PVE and CVE).

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