While numbers vary widely, it is generally believed that most individuals who are recruited into violent groups (including gangs, violent extremist organizations, trafficking rings, and other non-state groups) are "youth" (under the age of 35).  A PYD lens on violence and recruitment prevention programming treats youth as the most likely victims and opponents of these violent groups - as opposed to framing youth as a "risk" category.  A growing body of evidence demonstrates that PYD and complexity-aware approaches to programming can have significant outcomes.

Promising Practices for Engaging Youth in Peace & Security and PVE/CVE

This document, created by YouthPower Learning's Community of Practice for Youth in Peace and Security, seeks to identify best practices, bright spots, and possible opportunities for their replication with a primary focus on preventing violent extremism/countering violent extremism (PVE/CVE). It operates under the hypothesis that youth engagement in positive alternatives to violence should be maximized in order for peace writ large to take hold.

Impact Evaluation of USAID's Community-Based Crime and Violence Prevention Approach in Central America

As part of the U.S. Government’s (USG) Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has designed and implemented a set of programs to improve citizen security in Central America by strengthening community capacity to combat crime and by creating educational and employment opportunities for at-risk youth. This multi-method, multi-country, multi-year evaluation was designed to contribute to an understanding of the effectiveness of USAID’s community-based crime and violence prevention approach in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama. This package of interventions – that is, the “treatment” in this impact evaluation – includes activities such as planning by municipal-level committees; crime observatories and data collection; crime prevention through environmental design (such as improved street lighting, graffiti removal, cleaned up public spaces); programs for at-risk youth (such as outreach centers, workforce development, mentorships); and community policing. The main finding, on average, of this multiyear impact evaluation of the community based interventions is that in several key respects the programs have been a success. Specifically, the outcomes in the treatment communities improved more (or declined less) than they would have if USAID’s programs had not been administered.

Youth Action Agenda to Prevent Violent Extremism and Promote Peace

We, young people and youth organizations present at the Global Youth Summit Against Violent Extremism, recognize that the choice to support violent extremism is driven by many factors. The resulting violence has taken too many innocent lives. Many CVE initiatives frame youth as either perpetrators of violent extremism or as possible victims of recruitment into violent groups. However, this narrative fails to capture the fact that most young people are part of the solution. They are not turning to violence. Young people around the world are working to build peace and prevent violent extremism.  All actors must partner with young people more effectively to jointly address this challenge. In this agenda, we offer ways that governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, donors, international and inter­governmental agencies, and the media can join us in preventing and countering violent extremism.

Transforming Violent Extremism: A Peacebuilder's Guide

There is an opportunity to reframe the challenge of countering violent extremism (CVE). Drawing from the tools and tactics from peacebuilding, state and non-state actors can be equipped to (1) understand the dynamics which foment violent extremism, (2) identify a set of tools and approaches that prevent those dynamics from giving rise to violent extremism; and (3) ensure that responses do not aggravate and radicalize affected communities even further. Transforming violent extremism recognizes that while violent extremism exists, the reasons and motivators leading to an individual being drawn to violent extremist movements can be transformed into a different type of agency or engagement.  In developing this guide, Search for Common Ground has drawn on three decades of experience in transforming violent conflict in communities plagued by many of the same dynamics underlying violent extremism: frustration with weak, corrupt, or illegitimate governance, marginalization, fractured relationships, lack of voice and opportunity, and struggles with diversity. This experience gives us tangible insight into building communities that are resilient to the pull of violent extremist groups. They also aid in early detection, thus helping to prevent violent extremism before it happens. Our goal is to offer questions, insights, and general guidance to peacebuilders and policy-makers who are stepping into this nuanced space while highlighting the value of peacebuilding practices in what has become an overly security-driven and militarized field. 

Working Together to Address Violent Extremism: A Strategy for Youth-Government Partnerships

As countries articulate and implement their P/CVE strategies, this document provides guidance on how government and youth can work together in addressing violent extremism at the national and local level, recognizing youth as partners in peace and agents of positive change.  In total, 122 individuals (118 youth, including 34 women, and 4 government officials) from Bangladesh, Cameroon, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, the Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Tunisia, and Sri Lanka were interviewed because they work on P/CVE in countries dealing with violent extremism. Young people have a unique and critical expertise in P/CVE, based on their understanding of what drives recruitment at the community level and the programs and policy necessary to address it. In addition to expertise, youth are more connected to each other and the rest of the world than ever before, both in-person and online. Finally, there is global momentum and recognition behind the need and value of working with youth at all levels of decision-making to effectively address violent extremism. This strategy provides recommendations for youth-government collaboration and partnerships in addressing violent extremism. It is divided into a set of underlying principles, or “Core Principles”, and recommended steps for moving forward listed under the “Suggested Steps for Collaboration”. 

Reconceptualizing the drivers of violent extremism: an agenda for child and youth resilience

This report examines the phenomenon of violent extremism, and the unique vulnerabilities of, impacts on and consequences for children and youth. It starts by presenting a new way of conceptualizing violent extremism; that individuals join a violent extremist group either in rejection of/rebellion against a given state of affairs, or driven by highly personal returns, and then enabled by contextual conditions. Structural motivators include, inter alia, repression, corruption, unemployment, inequality, discrimination and hostility between identity groups. Individual incentives include a sense of purpose, adventure, belonging, acceptance, status and/or material reward. Enabling factors include the presence of extremist mentors, access to social networks with violent extremist associations, and religious ideology. We offer a different framework for preventing violent extremism by promoting a more integrated and resilient youth society. Building upon this, we set out areas of youth engagement with high potential for bolstering youth life satisfaction, and thus an enabling framework for preventing violent extremism at the individual level: sports and extracurricular activities ; alternative pathways for ‘would-be’ fighters and ideological radicals to constructively, but non-violently, address their concerns ; and creative messaging that bolsters youth critical thinking skills and respects their agency.

Mid-Term Evaluation of Three Countering Violent Extremism Projects

Beneficiaries of USAID’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) projects in East Africa have a demonstrated advantage over comparison groups on a host of variables known to be drivers of violent extremism. In a survey of almost 1,500 ethnic Somali youths in Somalia and Kenya administered in November and December 2012, full beneficiaries of three USAID CVE projects were compared to similar numbers of partial beneficiaries (mostly program drop outs or less involved participants) and a comparison group of non-beneficiaries. The five survey thematic areas, referred to in short form as engagement, efficacy, youth associations, identity and violence, are the primary organizing principles behind the data analyzed in this evaluation. First on the list of recommendations is that contrasting results between high levels of engagement and low levels of efficacy indicate that more emphasis needs to be placed on working with authorities to be more responsive to youth priorities and open improved channels of communication and dialogue. In Hargeisa especially, it was clear from focus groups that youth who are engaged, but have a low sense of efficacy, were frustrated and possibly vulnerable to extremist attitudes. This deficit of responsiveness of authorities to take youth voices and opinions into account should be addressed with adjustments to programs to emphasize projects addressing youth voice and influence.

Critical Choices: Assessing the Effects of Education and Civic Engagement on Somali Youth’s Propensity Towards Violence

Mercy Corps undertook a rigorous impact evaluation of a 5-year stability-focused youth program in Somalia known as the Somali Youth Leaders Initiative (SYLI) and analyzed the impact of two program components on youth propensity towards political violence.
The research compared the impact of the following two components of the SYLI program: formal secondary education and civic engagement activities. Using survey data from Somaliland--where the program has been implemented the longest—they compared attitudes and reported violent behaviors among youth in the program and outside of it. In addition, they conducted in-depth interviews with teachers, community leaders, government officials and youth. The study found that although the provision of secondary education through the SYLI program reduced the likelihood of youth participating in violence by 16%, it increased support for political violence by 11%. However, the combination of both secondary formal education and civic engagement through the SYLI program reduced the likelihood of youth both participating in (by 13%) and supporting (by 20%) political violence.
Taken as a whole, the findings signal that education by itself does not address the underlying drivers of potentially destabilizing actions such as support for political violence. Education is important, but just the first step. What matters to youth is not just having an opportunity to learn but also being able to use their skills to influence their lives, their communities and their nation. Hence, the study concludes that to reduce violence, youth development programs must address both the lack of skills and the lack of opportunities that hinder youth from succeeding.