Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism in the Regions of Sahel and Maghreb


Since July 2015, UNICRI has been implementing a pilot project on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) in eight African countries, namely Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia. The project is piloting most diverse grass-root projects in these countries and assessing their impact on local communities and relevant actors. Upon completion, the lessons learned from the collaboration with more than 60 civil society organizations along with the identified successful practices for countering violent extremism will be disseminated.

Implementation (2015 – 2019)

The project is now in its core implementation phase, with more than 60 civil society organizations implementing CVE-specific and CVE-related activities in the eight countries in the Sahel and Maghreb regions.

It is important to emphasise the “pilot” nature of the project. The project is designed to test numerous initiatives at local level, feeding existing research with empirical information on what is effective in countering violent extremism and why. It seeks to understand the reasons behind some activities’ greater impact and higher prospects for sustainability. As such, possible setback of some interventions is an important ingredient of the whole effort to address root causes and develop tailored answers. The engaged civil society organizations are implementing most diverse activities, involving different target groups on various topics. They are working with young people, women, religious leaders, farmers, herders, refugees, internally displaced persons, journalists and local authorities.

The topics addressed by the activities vary from human rights education to conflict management, citizen participation, religious tolerance, women rights, media training, vocational training, arts and crafts. The project has transitioned through three of four phases of its implementation, namely:

  • i) Identification of partners, which has included a mapping of civil society organizations;
  • ii) Selection of proposals through a public call, and information and technical sessions with applicants;
  • iii) Monitoring of the implementation, including review of activities, produced materials and expenditures;
  • iv) Evaluation of the results and dissemination of good practices.


The pilot project approach consisting in the implementation of small scale interventions is applicable to other regions that are affected by similar phenomena. The project aims at proposing a tested methodology for the identification, selection, engagement, monitoring and evaluation of promising grass-root interventions.

Namely, by implementing the project, UNICRI has tested approaches to:

  • Conducting field research in low, medium and high-risk environments;
  • Identify, vetting, selecting, engaging and micro-financing grass-root interventions;
  • Monitor and evaluating projects focused on resilience and inclusiveness;
  • Enhance the resilience of local communities via early warning mechanisms;
  • Enhance the resilience of local communities via continuous vocational training, education and awareness raising;
  • Strengthen the capacity of progressive local religious leaders, civil society organisations and youth.

As part of monitoring activities, UNICRI has carried out a mid-term review of 20 grass-root interventions. The review analysed the interventions’ relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, prospects for sustainability, visibility and encountered challenges. Desk review of reports, produced substantive documents and monitoring tools used during implementation were supplemented by field visits and consultations with local partners.


Despite best efforts to counter terrorism, the global wave of violent extremism is neither diminishing nor being contained. Defining this threat and formulating, monitoring and evaluating effective interventions against it has remained an elusive effort, not least due to the political and theological sensitivity of the phenomenon. As a matter of fact, there is a need to formulate conceptual frameworks, monitor and assess interventions, thus supplementing the rather limited body of research on what is effectively contributing to addressing violent extremism, including the factors behind effective practices. The pilot project is aiming to do exactly that: provide evidence for empirical analysis by supporting grass-root initiatives that promote access to justice, inclusiveness, social cohesion, economic independence and community resilience.

Both Maghreb and Sahel are regions with rich history, cultural and religious traditions. Relying upon this heritage, local initiatives can boost social cohesion and inclusion, ultimately making communities more resilient to the spread of the violent extremist ideology. Civil society is best positioned to ensure that this happens. By supporting small-scale civil-society-run initiatives that promote the values of citizenship, equality and peaceful conflict resolution, the project has the potential to make a change and pave the way for enhanced policies and practices and development assistance.

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