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The fight against violent extremism

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Explainer: The fight against violent extremism

WEF (World Economic Forum) By Khalid Koser

The term “countering violent extremism” (CVE) has become common currency this year.

It was the focus for the speech by the US Secretary of State to the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in January. President Obama subsequently hosted two Leaders’ Summits on the subject; the UN will launch its Action Plan on CVE in December; and numerous states are currently developing national CVE strategies. Recent terrorist attacks provide a grim reminder of how pressing this work is.

But fundamental issues remain unclear: what exactly is violent extremism, what causes it, how it is countered, who is responsible for countering it, and how will we know when they’ve succeeded?

What is violent extremism?

There is no single definition. However, broadly speaking, it refers to supporting or committing ideologically motivated violence to further social, economic or political objectives. Definitions in particular differ on whether the violence is intended to further political goals only, or a wider set of objectives. Any definition acknowledges that it is broader than terrorism alone, as it incorporates advocating, preparing and supporting violence, in addition to perpetrating it. Another important distinction is between violent and nonviolent extremists – the former promote violence, the latter may sympathize with extremist beliefs but not enact them.

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