Submitted by Fernando Aguiar on Thu, 07/27/2017 - 14:16

In the last 3 chapters, we have argued that moving from frameworks to more effective implementation requires further attention to integrating a gender perspective in efforts to address violent extremism. As discussed in Chapter 2, it has been realized by the international community that gender, as a system of power relations, reveals context-specific particularities that enhance situational awareness and operational effectiveness. Yet, to date, these efforts have not been prioritized or sufficiently advanced in practical terms, despite the number of normative frameworks put in place, both at the UN and EU levels.

 

Until recently, the EU’s strategies in preventing and responding to violent extremism overlooked gender perspectives, since most of the focus were put into “hard-power” initiatives, such as the use of military and economic power.

EU Policy Framework on Violent Extremism:

The rise of violent extremism acts, such as the attacks in Barcelona[1] earlier last August, are becoming a feature of the current security landscape and prompting the European Union (EU) to revisit its strategy on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), especially its preventive pillars.

The EU counter-terrorism policy architecture has been mainly built upon the 2005 EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy[2], which is based on four cross-cutting pillars – prevent, protect, pursue and respond. The preventive pillar, for instance, highlights the EU’s commitment ‘to prevent people turning to terrorism by tackling the factors or root causes which can lead to radicalization and recruitment, in Europe and internationally’, while better protecting potential targets, investigate members of existing networks and respond to their threats in an effective manner.  Across these four pillars, the EU also seeks to act in conjunction with the United Nations and other international or regional organizations.

In 2014 the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy was updated in order to reflect the ‘changing nature of the threat and the need to prevent people from becoming radicalized, being radicalized and being recruited to terrorism and to prevent a new generation of terrorists from emerging’[3]. The revised strategy therefore addresses Violent Extremism with new patterns and preventive mechanisms more adapted to the contemporary issues, such as the role of internet and social media in the process of radicalization of individuals.

Complementing this new EU approach to VE, the European Commission’s (EC) 2014 communication on ‘Preventing Radicalization to Terrorism and Violent Extremism: Strengthening the EU’s Response’ highlights that along with the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EC will undertake actions to ‘incorporate new strategies to prevent radicalization and violent extremism into traditional development cooperation tools and instruments, particularly in fragile states prone to violent extremism’[4].

In addition to this, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council adopted a ‘counter-terrorism strategy for Syria and Iraq, with particular focus on foreign fighters’, within which the priorities are included in the four pillars of the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy (prevent, protect, pursue and respond), but adding two more components: political dialogue and engagement with key stakeholders.

Most recently, the EC published a communication on ‘Supporting the prevention of radicalization leading to violent extremism’, which targets seven areas of work, including the promotion of inclusive education and EU common values, an open and resilient society reaching out to young people and also more support for research about the topic[5].

Among the main programmes and projects supported by the EU, the Radicalization Awareness Network (RAN) stands out as the leading network composed of practitioners, researches and policy-makers around Europe providing the policy framework for EU’s efforts to prevent radicalization[6].

This shifting in the recognition of gender perspective at the EU policy level has led the regional block to put more emphasis on this front, and a number of projects and programmes that include gender have been supported by the EU.

Until recently, the EU’s strategies in preventing and responding to violent extremism overlooked gender perspectives, since most of the focus were put into “hard-power” initiatives, such as the use of military and economic power. Nevertheless, more investment in research has led experts within the RAN to highlight that a gender perspective is essential to any prevention initiatives. As highlighted in their study, investing more in gender equality and including women in the preventive efforts towards radicalization can have positive impacts in the overall goals of any prevention programme on VE and radicalization.  That being said, the RAN experts have concluded that:

Women can be empowered to come forward and help in the design of CVE interventions by empowering other women to share their experiences, and by providing training for women and in the community itself, via civil organisations and personal networks. [7]

Furthermore, a recent research conducted by the Brooking Institute argues that a ‘gendered approach’ to CVE programming is crucial for achieving optimal results, and women should also be also implicated in these efforts[8].

This shifting in the recognition of gender perspective at the EU policy level has led the regional block to put more emphasis on this front, and a number of projects and programmes that include gender have been supported by the EU, such as the EU’s Strengthening Resilience to Violence and Extremism (STRIVE)[9] and the CT Morse project[10]. The former, for instance, have implemented a peace consolidation and transitional justice programme in Côte d’Ivoire, which included a training on gender in different regions affected by conflict. In addition, the CT Morse project has recognized the intersection between conflict, violence, and gender, and the importance of integrating a gender dimension in the prevention of VE. According to CT Morse, a particular emphasis must be put on addressing issues related to gender equality, as ‘this could have a “dampening” effect on reducing violent extremism’[11].