“There are millions, billions of people who are poor and are law-abiding and peaceful and tolerant, and are trying to advance their lives and the opportunities for their families. But when people — especially young people — feel entirely trapped in impoverished communities, where there is no order and no path for advancement, where there are no educational opportunities, where there are no ways to support families, and no escape from injustice and the humiliations of corruption — that feeds instability and disorder, and makes those communities ripe for extremist recruitment. When people are oppressed, and human rights are denied — particularly along sectarian lines or ethnic lines — when dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremism. It creates an environment that is ripe for terrorists to exploit. When peaceful, democratic change is impossible, it feeds into the terrorist propaganda that violence is the only answer available. And finally, we have to ensure that our diverse societies truly welcome and respect people of all faiths and backgrounds, and leaders set the tone on this issue”

President Obama at the White House Summit

Why Do People Become Violent Extremists?

One way of conceptualizing the factors that may lead to violent extremism is the idea of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ influences:

  • ‘Push Factors’ may include: marginalization, inequality, discrimination, persecution or the perception thereof, the denial of rights and civil liberties; and environmental, historical or socio-economic grievances, whether actual or perceived.
  • ‘Pull Factors’, by contrast, might nurture the appeal of violent extremism at the individual and psycho-social level. For example: violent extremist groups may be a source of services and employment. Groups may attract new members by providing outlets for grievances, the promise of hope, justice, and a sense of purpose. This social network can be a significant pull factor for youth as extremist groups offer youth a sense of acceptance and validation (UNESCO, 2016).
  • However, there remains very little evidence of exactly whether, how, and in what way these push or pull factors influence may people’s choices to join extremist groups or commit violent acts

No single reason explains why people become violent extremists, but it often happens when someone is trying to fill a deep personal need. For example, a person may feel alone or lack meaning and purpose in life. Those who are emotionally upset after a stressful event also may be vulnerable to recruitment. Some people also become violent extremists because they disagree with government policy, hate certain types of people, don’t feel valued or appreciated by society, or think they have limited chances to succeed. In an age where the threat of terrorism from non-state actors is on the rise and traditional counter-terrorism policies do not seem to be reducing terrorism worldwide, governments are looking towards strategies, policies and programs to interrupt radicalization and recruitment into violent extremism and terrorism. Lone offenders or small groups may be radicalized to commit violence at home or attempt to travel overseas to become foreign fighters. The use of the Internet and social media to recruit and radicalize individuals to violence means that conventional approaches are unlikely to identify and disrupt all violent plots. (Researching Solutions to Violent Extremism -RESOLVE).

Across the world violence is more pronounced. All are of a sustained and protracted nature fuelling movements for and against caliphates whilst reinforcing bigoted stereo typing. Youth from educated, affluent backgrounds are killing and dying in the process. Suicide bombings were unthinkable. It grew in Sri Lanka and is now found even in Europe. Across the world radicalizing is spewing forth previously unthinkable manifestations. These conflicts, and associated terrorism, often stem from social and political grievances that are best addressed through peace building approaches such as strengthening dialogue and mediation skills and supporting the rule of law.  There is growing recognition that the factors contributing to particular communities’ vulnerability or resilience to violent extremism are contextual, and that efforts to counter and prevent violent extremism will be more effective if tailored to those specific factors.

The existing literature on CVE suggests that more research is needed to better drive policy and programming design, specifically research that investigates the processes of radicalization in local contexts. Deeper research is therefore needed to understand the factors that enable or prevent the spread of violent extremism at the community level. While there are many studies that outline processes of radicalization there are far less studies that present and analyze primary data within a framework based in localized contexts of radicalization and recruitment. Such local knowledge is crucial for successfully designing interventions that counter these processes. (RESOLVE)

CVE programs have existed for some time, often with dubious results. And while purportedly aimed at rooting out all violent extremism, they have previously focused only on Muslims, stigmatizing them as a suspect community. These programs have further promoted flawed theories of terrorist radicalization which lead to unnecessary fear, discrimination, and unjustified reporting to law enforcement.

Our commitment

We are committed to:

1. Building Greater Awareness

  • Increase knowledge about the drivers of violent extremism and recruitment to violence through research and information sharing—particularly those at the community level;

2. Countering extremist narratives

  • Directly addressing and countering violent extremist recruitment narratives, such as encouraging civil society-led counter narratives online;

3. Emphasizing Community Led Intervention

  • Empowering community efforts to disrupt the radicalization process before an individual engages in criminal activity.
  • Support for communities to help them identify and prevent people from moving down the path of radicalization to violence.

4. Work to ensure that

  • knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned flows to policymakers and practitioners at the local, national and global level.

The Approach

A community fostering a shared understanding of local dynamics, a shared place- based CVE research agenda, which creates opportunities for collaboration, knowledge sharing, and innovative new initiatives.

To build this community, we will network with researchers, research institutions, practitioners, and policymakers focused on CVE research and practice, particularly those at the community level in the Southern Hemisphere. The linkages will be created through a dedicated and Network knowledge platform, through regional and global meetings, by leveraging and linking to existing CVE initiatives and networks, and by encouraging collaborative projects across the network.

A Call for Abstracts and contributions:

Policy Priorities

  • Sustain and develop local, community-based research on the drivers of violent extremism and community assumptions about drivers to support the development of national CVE strategies that incorporate locally relevant and contextually sensitive programming.
  •  Develop evidence-based prevention policies and programming to move CVE beyond near-term law enforcement actions, towards effective longer-term development and conflict resolution grounded actions.

Knowledge Priorities

  • Synthesize the existing evidence on the drivers of violent extremism and the effectiveness and impact of CVE programming
  • Expand the focus area studies to include cases of communities that successfully withstood violent extremism in the past and other cases where the manifestation of violent extremism or radicalization is expected, but not yet imminent.
  • When examining the dynamics of violent extremism in a country or area, shift focus from risk and fragility to the elements that create resilience or guard against the infiltration of violent extremism
  • Support greater cross-disciplinary research on radicalization that explores the relationship between gender, ethnic, sectarian and cultural issues as well as how economics affects vulnerability to recruitment and radicalization.
  • Develop an assessment framework to examine the risk of radicalization to violent extremism.
  • Assess de-radicalization, de-mobilization and re-integration programs for lessons learned and best practices.
  • Understand the commonalities and differences between CVE and peace building and traditional development.

Methodology/Process Priorities

  • Develop more rigorous monitoring and evaluation tools for CVE. More thorough practice evaluations are needed, including further consideration of the unintended consequences of CVE projects. Develop better indicators are also needed to monitor progress.
  • Create mechanisms to ensure local researchers and communities at risk are both the consumers and designers of research in order to ensure locally-driven research questions and community input in the development of a research agenda on CVE.


  • Strengthen the capacity of local researchers, for example through training or mentoring on mixed-method approaches for data collection and analysis.
  • Offer opportunities for networking and knowledge-exchange on best practices and lessons learned

News and latest updates

Key Resources

Contacts and further information :

Jeevan Thiagarajah   Email: execdir@cha.lk

Dhanya Ratnavale Email: manager-reg-rehab@cha.lk