Portraits of Violent Extremism

in South-East Asia

Welcome message

Mr.  Christophe  Bahuet

Deputy Regional Director for UNDP in Asia and the Pacific, and Director, Bangkok Regional Hub

 Mr.  Christophe  Bahuet  (France)  has  been  appointed  as  UNDP  Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, effective 1 October 2020. From  January  2019,  he  has  been  UNDP  Resident  Representative  in Indonesia, and Country Director in the same country for the period 2015-2018. His earlier assignments with UNDP included China, Vietnam, Ghana, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. Mr. Bahuet also worked in UNDP Headquarters in New York, in the Evaluation Office and then in Partnership Bureau. Prior to joining UNDP, he was posted in the French Embassy in Yugoslavia.

We live in challenging times. Radicalisation and violent extremism are putting societies across the globe to the test. While each situation is unique, we need to join forces to address these challenges. Together, we can achieve better results. Doing things better together brought peace and prosperity to the peoples of the European Union. Doing things better together is why we joined forces with UNDP on the Entry and Exit Points initiative. We are proud to share with you testimonies from this extra-ordinary project.

This exhibition brings us the stories from women and men, girls and boys. They could be our mothers or fathers, sisters or brothers. They are people just like us. Violent extremism crossed their path.  They dealt with it, each in their own way.

These stories show us suffering, but bring also hope. They show how tolerance and respect for diversity can make the world a better, more beautiful place. 

I hope this exhibition will inspire you.

Welcome message

Hilde Hardeman

Director and Head of the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments at the European Commission

Hilde Hardeman is the Director and Head of the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments at the European Commission. She has spent over twenty years working for the European Commission, covering external relations and economic and competitiveness issues.  Hilde holds a PhD in Slavic Philology and History of the University of Leuven after studies at Leuven, Stanford University, Paris, Moscow and Amsterdam.

Violent extremism in South-East Asia remains a significant but not insurmountable challenge. Understanding how conflict, violence, identity, human rights and extremism are enmeshed offers an entry point for states to better understand and respond to this problem. 

The Portraits of Violent Extremism exhibition is part of UNDP’s Entry and Exit Points: Violent Extremism in South-East Asia, a flagship publication that investigates factors that contribute to violent extremism in South-East Asia, and the actions required by states to prevent it. Policies and programmes from the government level can overlook the fact that state actions can contribute towards an environment conducive to extremism. The Entry and Exit Points report is based on a thorough document review and on more than 200 interviews of key informants in South-East Asia including activists, analysts and government officials as well as protagonists such as convicted terrorists, insurgents, negotiators, peacebuilders, and security forces. 

In addition to background research and interviews, a number of case studies of people affected by the issues discussed in the report have been included. Through highlighting the intimate stories of survivors, former terrorists and extremists, refugees, and returnees from ISIS’ caliphate in Syria, these stories are intended to help personalize the data, research, and citations. Overall, both the exhibition and associated report show how states and the international community must incorporate development approaches to successfully prevent violent extremism rather than relying on overly securitized responses.

Key recommendations

  1. Offer support for conflict resolution. In a region where there are several ongoing conflicts, it is imperative that governments support targeted and inclusive policies that differentiate between insurgent and extremist violence and address local grievances as well as socio-political and economic drivers. 
  2. Back individualized programmes for foreign terrorist fighters. A combination of fair and transparent judicial processes, prison reform, effective rehabilitation and reintegration programmes are essential. Support must be tailored for local conditions and build local capacity to run deradicalization programmes with communities.
  3. Support prison reform. Greater attention is needed on prison conditions, education and reintegration into communities. Prison reform that encompasses deradicalization and violent extremist programmes is needed. States must ensure transparency regarding policy, trials, sentencing and rehabilitation programmes.
  4. Push for violence reduction. Donors and international organizations should encourage governments to protect human rights at all times and support programmes that encourage social cohesion, and build tolerance and understanding in local communities.
  5. Support measured responses to hate speech. Programmes and policies that focus on positive narratives by different voices and address a range of social issues that are known drivers of extremism in each national context are required.
  6. Strengthen human rights advocacy. All available evidence suggests that respect for international human rights norms lies at the heart of any solution to violent extremism. 
  7. Fund further research, looking beyond narrow definitions of violent extremism. Data, research and communities of practice will be vital to identify and create monitoring systems and knowledge that provide societies with the tools to understand and act against extremism and violence. It is also critical to test P/CVE policies against empirical evidence.

Entry and Exit Points Report

Entry and Exit Points: Violent Extremism in South-East Asia investigates the factors that contribute towards violent extremism and the actions governments can take to prevent it.

In this UNDP-European Union co-funded study, the role of the state is examined through empirical research conducted across five countries as well as interviews providing personal accounts of those impacted by violent extremism.

In 2016, the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre (OGC) initiated a global conference series on Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE). The conferences have come to serve as a platform to bring together a global community of PVE actors to create a common understanding of what could be learned both from the past and from each other to inform future PVE work.

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Oslo I

Oslo I, the first global meeting in 2016, contributed to UNDP’s development of preventing violent extremism (PVE) work and launched the strategy paper: Preventing Violent Extremism through Promoting Inclusive Development, Tolerance and Respect for Diversity. This framework highlighted that PVE must look beyond strict security concerns to development-related causes of – and solutions to – the phenomenon. 

UNDP’s approach to PVE reflects the fact that the world then was faced with two interlinked trends:

  1. Rise of violent extremism
  2. Need to govern increasingly diverse and multi-cultural societies

At the heart of UNDP’s approach is a belief that better governance of diversity will lead to societies better protected against violent extremism.

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Oslo II

Two years after Oslo I, UNDP had significantly contributed to, facilitated and/or supported PVE through evidence-based research, policy support, and programmatic interventions around the world. As a result, a growing repository of cutting-edge research findings and lessons learned on the implementation of PVE-specific or relevant policy and programmatic support was available. Research and programmes had been developed and conducted by UNDP in collaboration with research think tanks and Civil Society Organisations on reintegration of former terrorist fighters, media, and counternarrative programming, linkages between the private sector and violent extremism, online radicalisation, and the roles of women and young people in preventing and addressing violent extremism.

In 2018, Oslo II was convened by UNDP’s Oslo Governance Centre and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It provided an opportunity to draw together a broad community of relevant stakeholders and take stock of new evidence and experience to assess what has worked well, identify challenges, and generate new insights. Specific recommendations aimed at enhancing UNDP’s future efforts research, policy-development, and programmatic intervention.

Oslo III

In 2021, UNDP OGC supported by the Government of Norway, will host its third global conference on PVE. Twenty years since the events of September 11th that drove a global counter-terrorism agenda and the evolution of a countering and PVE framework, the time is right for UNDP to lead a conversation on how to contextualize this work to modern challenges.

As the world moves on from the health crisis of COVID-19, the global community of PVE researchers, practitioners, and governments needs to reassess how the eco-system for violent extremism has evolved, evaluate if its policies and programmes are still fit for purpose, and – where they are not – develop new approaches to prevention efforts.

The main aim of the conference is to understand how the violent extremism landscape has evolved since the onset of COVID-19 and to distill lessons for future research, policy, and programming by:

  1. Understanding the changes in the violent extremism eco-system
  2. Reviewing current approaches
  3. Framing UNDPs forward looking approach

Preventing violent extremism

Since 2014, UNDP has been working to develop a deeper and more nuanced understanding of violent extremism. We aim to address two interlinked challenges: (1) the rise of violent extremism, using a development and peacebuilding approach firmly grounded within human rights principles, and (2) the need to govern increasingly diverse and multi-cultural societies, which requires attention to institutions, political, and religious ideologies and people and promotion of human rights based approaches.

The Oslo Governance Centre (OGC) initiates research on the drivers of violent extremism – political, social and economic. A key focus for the OGC is to use insights from research to strengthen UNDP’s approach to PVE programming in terms of the role of women in PVE and the gender dimension of PVE. Our work specifically looks at good practices in gender sensitive design of PVE programmes, as well as gender sensitive impact measurement frameworks for PVE programmes.

OGC has a strategic role in UNDP’s efforts to address violent extremism, and works closely with other units in UNDP to link research results to our action on the ground.

In response to demand among Member States, and in coordination with the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism and UN Country Teams, UNDP has supported national efforts to PVE through evidence-based research, policy support, and programme delivery. As a result, there is a growing repository of cutting-edge research findings, and lessons learned on the implementation of a range of PVE interventions. This has helped to accumulate knowledge and garner the interest of more partners to join hands with UNDP to tackle the root causes behind violent extremism.