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A Systematic Review on the Outcomes of Primary and Secondary Prevention Programs in the Field of Violent Radicalization

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The Canadian Practitioners Network for the Prevention of Radicalization and Extremist Violence (CPN-PREV; https://cpnprev.ca/) has conducted a systematic review on the effectiveness of primary and secondary prevention programs in the field of preventing violent extremism. The goals of this review were threefold: 1) to determine if primary and secondary prevention programs are able to counter violent radicalization; 2) to identify specific program modalities associated with a higher chance of success or failure for the targeted populations; and 3) to assess the quality of the literature in order to identify less reliable evidence, knowledge gaps, and studies which should be given more weight in the interpretation of results. The review integrated evidence on the following: a) religiously-inspired (e.g., Islamist), right-wing, extreme-left, and “single-issue” (e.g., misogyny) violent radicalization; b) outcomes classified by prevention levels; and c) benefits/harms, costs, transferability, and community-related implementation issues when mentioned by the authors. We used systematic review methods developed by the Campbell and Cochrane collaborations. The logic model driving the review is grounded in an ecosystemic public health model, dividing programs into primary and secondary prevention levels.
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... Reactive and exclusively policyfocused approaches have been found to be limited, especially when addressing a medium-and long-term strategy, and when aiming to preserve social cohesion and inclusion (Stephens, Sieckelinck, & Boutellier, 2021;Trujillo & Moyano, 2019a). Based on this premise, many countries and institutions consider preventive work with youth at risk as a priority action in preventing violent extremism and the processes of radicalization before they emerge (Hassan et al., 2021;Siegel, Brickman, Goldberg, & Pat-Horenczyk, 2019). ...
... Although sports are generally part of several prevention programs (Broeders, Woltman, & Zuiderveld, 2021;Koehler & Fiebig;Lenos & Jansen, 2019), they usually target the less relevant factors of integration and identity (Wolfowicz et al., 2021), and most have not been evaluated to assess their impact (Hassan et al., 2021). As far as we know, the only evaluation of a program of this type was conducted by Johns and colleagues (2014), who assessed the impact of the sport-focused youth mentoring program "More than a Game." ...
... In recent years, comprehensive approaches to this phenomenon have been developed in an attempt to focus on young people as a fundamental target group, both because of their potential vulnerability and because they are possible positive agents for generating social resilience (Zimmerman et al., 2013). However, the scientific evaluation of this type of actions has not been common (Hassan et al., 2021). In this research we have presented the results of a preventive program to prevent extremism in young people through sports. ...
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Preventive approaches have gained weight with regard to violent extremism. However, although the number of interventions aimed at prevention has increased, many of them do not have a solid theoretical basis and very few have been evaluated, so we do not know the real impact of these interventions. Based on these limitations, a sport-based intervention program was designed to prevent violent extremism. Using the 3N model of radicalization as a theoretical reference, the program was designed and implemented trying to influence the needs, narratives, and social networks of the participants. Thus, the objective of the present research was to evaluate the impact of the program, for which two studies were designed. The first study used a quantitative approach using questionnaires that were answered by the participants and by a control group. The second study used a qualitative approach that included open-ended questionnaires that were completed by the participants’ referents. Both studies assessed the needs, narratives, and social networks of the participants. Overall, the results showed an improvement in social networks and differences in the effects on needs and narratives depending on the study. We conclude by highlighting the role of sports-based interventions in generating a sense of belonging and improving social support as preventive factors.
... L'une des premières revues systématiques du domaine a examiné environ 20 000 documents, mais n'a trouvé qu'un très petit nombre d'études évaluant l'efficacité des mesures de lutte contre le terrorisme (Lum et al., 2006). Au cours des dernières années, de nouvelles revues de la littérature empirique sur la prévention de la radicalisation et de l'extrémisme violents sont parvenues à des conclusions similaires (Baruch et al., 2018;Bellasio et al., 2018;Christmann, 2012;Feddes & Gallucci, 2015;Gielen, 2019;Hassan et al., 2021;Hirschi & Widmer, 2012;Romaniuk, 2015). Cela signifie que des milliards de dollars sont présentement investis dans des programmes dont on ignore l'efficacité et les effets secondaires potentiels, et ce, à l'échelle mondiale. ...
... Plusieurs facteurs sont susceptibles d'expliquer l'absence d'études évaluatives rigoureuses de programmes de prévention tertiaire dans le domaine de la radicalisation violente. Zeuthen (2021) attribue ce manque de données empiriques à la nature relativement récente du domaine -une opinion partagée par Madriaza et al. (2021). Au-delà du manque généralisé de données de haute qualité dans le domaine de la prévention de la radicalisation violente (Hassan et al., 2021), évaluer les retombées des programmes de prévention tertiaire s'avère particulièrement difficile en raison de nombreux obstacles, notamment : a) lorsque les chercheurs n'ont pas accès à des données primaires que les gouvernements jugent trop sensibles; b) lorsque les chercheurs souhaitant effectuer des revues de littérature/systématiques n'ont pas accès aux rapports publiés à l'interne; et c) lorsque les chercheurs n'ont accès qu'aux dossiers de recherche et non aux participants (p. ...
... Zeuthen (2021) attribue ce manque de données empiriques à la nature relativement récente du domaine -une opinion partagée par Madriaza et al. (2021). Au-delà du manque généralisé de données de haute qualité dans le domaine de la prévention de la radicalisation violente (Hassan et al., 2021), évaluer les retombées des programmes de prévention tertiaire s'avère particulièrement difficile en raison de nombreux obstacles, notamment : a) lorsque les chercheurs n'ont pas accès à des données primaires que les gouvernements jugent trop sensibles; b) lorsque les chercheurs souhaitant effectuer des revues de littérature/systématiques n'ont pas accès aux rapports publiés à l'interne; et c) lorsque les chercheurs n'ont accès qu'aux dossiers de recherche et non aux participants (p. ex., Madriaza et al., 2018;Schuurman & Bakker, 2016). ...
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Au cours de la dernière décennie, l’inquiétude suscitée par les violences extrémistes a poussé les gouvernements à déployer des efforts importants et investir des sommes considérables dans le développement de programmes de prévention et de lutte contre la radicalisation et l’extrémisme violents. Malgré ces efforts et ces investissements, les connaissances actuelles sur les meilleures pratiques en matière de prévention restent disparates et l’efficacité des pratiques présentement utilisées n’a pas encore été clairement démontrée. Ce constat s’applique particulièrement aux programmes de prévention tertiaire, soit les programmes qui visent à « déradicaliser » et/ou à désengager les individus impliqués dans des groupes extrémistes et à les réintégrer dans la société. De plus, les revues systématiques de programmes de prévention tertiaire actuellement disponibles sont limitées sur le plan méthodologique ou ont une portée restreinte. Pour remédier à ces lacunes, le RPC-PREV a réalisé une revue systématique de la littérature sur l’efficacité des programmes de prévention tertiaire dans le domaine de la radicalisation violente.
... One of the first systematic reviews in the field of prevention looked at about 20,000 records and found very few evaluative studies of counterterrorism measures and little evidence regarding the effectiveness of these actions (Lum et al., 2006). In recent years, new literature reviews of the available evidence directly linked to the prevention of violent radicalization and extremism have reached similar conclusions (Baruch et al., 2018;Bellasio et al., 2018;Christmann, 2012;Feddes & Gallucci, 2015;Gielen, 2019;Hassan et al., 2021;Hirschi & Widmer, 2012;Romaniuk, 2015). This means 1 For example, it is estimated that the United States allocated 16% of its entire discretionary budget (i.e., 2.8 trillion dollars) to fund counter-terrorism measures between 2002 and 2017 (Zucchi, 2018). 2 The distinction between preventing violent extremism (PVE) and countering violent extremism (CVE) is not always obvious. ...
... The causes for the lack of robust evaluative studies are many and varied. Zeuthen (2021), for example, explains the lack of empirical data by the relatively recent nature of the field-an opinion echoed by Madriaza et al. (2021). In addition to the relative lack of highquality data in the field of PVE (Hassan et al., 2021), evaluating the outcomes of tertiary prevention programs is especially challenging in light of numerous hurdles, namely: a) researchers not having access to primary data deemed too sensitive by governments; b) researchers wishing to do literature/ systematic reviews not having access to reports published internally; and c) researchers only having access to records, not participants (e.g., Madriaza et al., 2018;Schuurman & Bakker, 2016). ...
... Zeuthen (2021), for example, explains the lack of empirical data by the relatively recent nature of the field-an opinion echoed by Madriaza et al. (2021). In addition to the relative lack of highquality data in the field of PVE (Hassan et al., 2021), evaluating the outcomes of tertiary prevention programs is especially challenging in light of numerous hurdles, namely: a) researchers not having access to primary data deemed too sensitive by governments; b) researchers wishing to do literature/ systematic reviews not having access to reports published internally; and c) researchers only having access to records, not participants (e.g., Madriaza et al., 2018;Schuurman & Bakker, 2016). Furthermore, as mentioned by Horgan and Braddock (2010), the definition of success in tertiary prevention programs is an additional difficulty. ...
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In the last decade, growing concerns about extremist violence have led governments to make important efforts and invest significant sums of money in developing programs to prevent and counter violent radicalization and extremism. Despite these efforts and investments, current knowledge regarding best practices in prevention remains disparate, and the effectiveness of practices used at present has not yet been clearly established. This is especially true for tertiary prevention programs, i.e., those that aim to “deradicalize” and/or disengage individuals from extremist groups and reintegrate them into society. Moreover, the currently available systematic reviews of tertiary prevention programs have methodological limitations or are restricted in scope. To address this knowledge gap, CPN-PREV conducted a systematic review of the literature on the effectiveness of tertiary prevention programs in the field of violent radicalization. The goals of our systematic review were as follows: 1) To describe the outcomes of tertiary PVE programs in terms of reducing the risk of violent radicalization; 2) To identify specific program modalities associated with a higher chance of success or failure for the targeted populations; 3) To assess the quality of the literature in order to identify knowledge gaps and studies that should be given more (or less) weight in the interpretation of results; and 4) To formulate preliminary recommendations for program providers, policymakers, practitioners, and researchers working in the field of PVE.
... However, as reported in the systematic review conducted by Hassan et al. (2018Hassan et al. ( , 2021, empirical research on the link between extremist content online and violent radicalization attitudes and behaviors is scarce and mostly based on basic methodological designs with very small sample sizes. Following Hassan et al.'s recommendation to integrate baseline measures and/or control variables to study the link between extremist content online and violent radicalization, the aim of the present study was to study the relationship between social media and attitudes toward terrorism while controlling for gender, emotional intelligence, loneliness, and level of education. ...
... Since 2015, universities in the UK have been placed under a legal duty to prevent students from being drawn into terrorism (Homeland Security, 2015). However, few tools are offered to the universities and many problems have occurred since they have this legal obligation; actual actions taken by universities are actually generating the radicalization that they are supposed to help prevent (Hassan et al., 2021;Thornton, 2011). ...
... There is a lag regarding social media and current policies put in place. Moving forward, an important step in the fight against self-radicalized individuals carrying out terrorist attacks is increased education throughout prevention (Hassan et al., 2021). By providing an effective mentoring programme to individuals who recognize they are becoming selfradicalized, it offers the suggestion that the rate of self-radicalization will decrease. ...
Article
September 11th was a turning point in the understanding of terrorism and radicalization. The Internet has provided an instrumental change regarding how terrorists communicate and spread their propaganda, proving a cause of concern for counterterrorism units. The increased use of social networking platforms has provided a significant change in the process of self-radicalization, with younger generations at greater risk. The aim of the project was to study the relationship between social media and self-radicalization among college and university students. A sample of 499 participants was recruited throughout Amazon Mechanical Turk and social media platforms. Measures on emotional intelligence, psychological involvement on social media, attitudes toward terrorism, and political violence, and loneliness were gathered. Results showed that individuals holding a university degree—especially young men—were more at risk of endorzing positive attitudes toward political violence and terrorism, and, therefore, more at risk of being radicalized.
... 3 In order to identify individual interventions, we first reviewed the EU's Radicalization Awareness Network (RAN) database of 200 strategies. We also followed the approach of Hassan et al. (2021) by scouring the ITTI database. We subsequently identified databases from the NSW, Australia, government. ...
... . Interventions that are currently employed as of 2021.Exclusion criteriaIn line with the above, we excluded interventions that were explicitly secondary level, in which they focus on radicalized individuals, and tertiary level interventions in which they focus on current or former offenders, or interventions carried out within the prison system and post-release system. While these are important components of countering violent extremism (CVE), in line with the public-health model, we view them as separate from counter-radicalization (seeHassan et al., 2021). ...
... None of these studies examined recruitment to terrorism (Jugl et al., 2020). A recent qualitative synthesis of evidence on risk of radicalization also examined diversionary programs, including employment programs, and concluded that such programs demonstrated mostly positive outcomes, including reducing vulnerability to recruitment (Hassan et al., 2021). ...
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Research Summary This study uses agent-based models (ABMs) to compare the impacts of three different types of interventions targeting recruitment to terrorism—community workers at community centers; community-oriented policing; and an employment program for high-risk agents. The first two programs are social interventions that focus on de-radicalization and changing the dispositions of agents in the model, whereas the employment program focuses on “deflection” and represents a situational/opportunity reducing approach to prevention. The results show significant impacts of the community worker and community policing interventions on radicalization but no significant impact on recruitment. In contrast, the employment intervention had a strong and significant impact on recruitment, but little impact on radicalization. Policy Implications Our ABM simulations challenge the reliance of existing programs to reduce recruitment to terrorism on counter and de-radicalization approaches. Instead they suggest that policy makers should focus more attention on deflection and opportunity reduction. At the same time, our ABMs point to the salience of social interventions focusing on risk and protective factors for reducing radicalization in society.
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Since 2001, attacks attributed to extremist movements or “lone actors” have intensified and spread around the world, prompting governments to invest significant sums of money into preventing violent radicalization. Nonetheless, knowledge regarding best practices for prevention remains disparate, and the effectiveness of current practices is not clearly established. Consequently, we conducted a systematic review on the outcomes of primary and secondary prevention programs in the field of violent radicalization. Of the 11,836 documents generated, 33 studies published between 2009 and 2019 were eligible for inclusion as they comprised an empirical (quantitative or qualitative) evaluation of a prevention initiative using primary data. The majority of these studies evaluated programs targeting violent Islamist or “general” radicalization. Negative or iatrogenic effects mostly stemmed from programs aimed at specific ethnic or religious groups or focusing on surveillance and monitoring. Positive effects were noted in programs aimed at improving potential protective factors against violent radicalization. However, the reviewed studies had numerous limitations (i.e., weak experimental designs, small/biased samples, unclear definitions, incomplete methodological sections, and conflicts of interests) that hinder one’s confidence in their conclusions. Also, many studies lacked a logic model, failed to differentiate between intermediate and final outcomes, and often did not assess for negative outcomes. Encouragingly, however, some of the most methodologically sound studies contained results attesting to the effectiveness of improving protective factors against violent radicalization.
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This article introduces a thematic issue of Transcultural Psychiatry with selected papers from the McGill Advanced Study Institute in Cultural Psychiatry on "Pluralism and Polarization: Cultural Contexts and Dynamics of Radicalization," which took place June 20-22, 2017. The ASI brought together an interdisciplinary group scholars to consider the role of social dynamics, cultural contexts and psychopathology in radicalization to violent extremism. Papers addressed four broad topics: (1) current meanings and uses of the term radicalization; (2) personal and social determinants of violent radicalization, including individual psychology, interpersonal dynamics, and wider social-historical, community and network processes; (3) social and cultural contexts and trajectories of radicalization including the impact of structural and historical forces associated with colonization and globalization as well as contemporary political, economic and security issues faced by youth and disaffected groups; and (4) approaches to community prevention and clinical intervention to reduce the risk of violent radicalization. In this introductory essay, we revisit these themes, define key terms, and outline some of the theoretical and empirical insights in the contributions to this issue. Efforts to prevent violent radicalization face challenges because social media and the Internet allow the rapid spread of polarizing images and ideas. The escalation of security measures and policies also serves to confirm the worldview of conspiracy theory adherents. In addition to addressing the structural inequities that fuel feelings of anger and resentment, we need to promote solidarity among diverse communities by building a pluralistic civil society that offers a meaningful alternative to the violent rhetorics of us and them.
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The main objective of this systematic review is to synthesize the empirical evidence on how the Internet and social media may, or may not, constitute spaces for exchange that can be favorable to violent extremism. Of the 5,182 studies generated from the searches, 11 studies were eligible for inclusion in this review. We considered empirical studies with qualitative, quantitative, and mixed designs, but did not conduct meta-analysis due to the heterogeneous and at times incomparable nature of the data. The reviewed studies provide tentative evidence that exposure to radical violent online material is associated with extremist online and offline attitudes, as well as the risk of committing political violence among white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and radical Islamist groups. Active seekers of violent radical material also seem to be at higher risk of engaging in political violence as compared to passive seekers. The Internet's role thus seems to be one of decision-shaping, which, in association with offline factors, can be associated to decision-making. The methodological limitations of the reviewed studies are discussed, and recommendations are made for future research.
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Radicalization of youth leading to violent extremism in the form of terrorism is an urgent problem considering the rise of young people joining extremist groups of different ideologies. Previous research on the impact of counter-terrorism polices has highlighted negative outcomes such as stigmatizing minority groups. Drawing on qualitative research conducted under the PROTON project (2016–2019) by CREA-UB on the social and ethical impact of counter-terrorism policies in six EU countries, the present article presents and discusses the ways in which actions characterized by creating spaces for dialogue at the grassroots level are contributing to prevent youth violent radicalization. The results highlight four core elements underlying these spaces for dialogue: providing guidance to be safe in the exploration of extremist messages and violent radicalization; the rejection of violence; that dialogue is egalitarian; and that relationships are built on trust so that adolescents and young adults feel confident to raise their doubts. If taken into account, these elements can serve to elaborate dialogic evidence-based policies. The policies which include a dialogue between the scientific evidence and the people affected by them once implemented, achieve positive social impact.
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Does social media lead vulnerable individuals to resort to violence? Many people believe it does. And they respond with online censorship, surveillance and counter-speech. But what do we really know about the Internet as a cause, and what do we know about the impact of these reactions? All over the world, governments and Internet companies are making decisions on the basis of assumptions about the causes and remedies to violent attacks. The challenge is to have analysis and responses firmly grounded. The need is for a policy that is constructed on the basis of facts and evidence, and not founded on hunches – or driven by panic and fearmongering. It is in this context that UNESCO has commissioned the study titled Youth and Violent Extremism on Social Media – Mapping the Research. This work provides a global mapping of research (mainly during 2012-16) about the assumed roles played by social media in violent radicalization processes, especially when they affect youth and women. The research responds to the belief that the Internet at large is an active vector for violent radicalization that facilitates the proliferation of violent extremist ideologies. Indeed, much research shows that protagonists are indeed heavily spread throughout the Internet. There is a growing body of knowledge about how terrorists use cyberspace. Less clear, however, is the impact of this use, and even more opaque is the extent to which counter measures are helping to promote peaceful alternatives. While Internet may play a facilitating role, it is not established that there is a causative link between it and radicalization towards extremism, violent radicalization, or the commission of actual acts of extremist violence.
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School responses to the Prevent agenda have tended to focus primarily on ‘safeguarding’ approaches, which essentially perceive some young people as being ‘at risk’ and potentially as presenting a risk to others. In this article, we consider evidence from secondary school students who experienced a curriculum project on terrorism, extremism and radicalisation. We argue that a curriculum response which addresses the acquisition of knowledge can build students’ critical capacity for engagement with radicalisation through enhanced political literacy and media literacy. We further argue this represents a genuinely educational response to Prevent, as opposed to a more restrictive securitised approach.
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The following outlines the emergence of countering violent extremism (CVE) policy and practice in a Western context, before examining how evaluation has (or has not) thus far assisted in the development of CVE initiatives. A subsequent analysis finds that to date, many Australian CVE programs have struggled to clearly articulate what they specifically aim to achieve, contributing to the development of a number of extremely broad and ultimately unfocused programs. The study then outlines the emergence of the Australian Countering Violent Extremism Early Intervention Program (CVE EIP), before engaging with key policymakers and practitioners to identify and articulate what success should look like for the program. A thematic analysis of 18 semi-structured interviews with policymakers and practitioners involved in the program finds the overarching goal to be articulated quite differently by stakeholders implementing the initiative, compared to those responsible for national policy formulation. By providing the first open source analysis of the CVE EIP, this applied research aims to make a modest contribution towards the effective implementation of the Australian CVE strategy.
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Since the introduction of the Prevent duty across the UK, schools have had to balance the need to fulfil their responsibilities under the duty – often understood to include monitoring and surveillance – with their ultimate purpose to educate their students. This positions teachers within a particular set of tensions about their own beliefs about education, their values, and their roles and relationships with young people and communities. This article draws on interviews with classroom teachers and members of school leadership teams from 10 schools, in order to compare how teachers have understood and responded to those tensions. The article will focus on the various ways in which teachers frame the policy, and the ways in which they exercise agency in their responses. Drawing on an ecological approach to theorising teacher agency our data reveals how teachers develop different responses to anti-extremism policy depending on their role; their school contexts; and their own beliefs. Whilst in some important regards the statutory Prevent duty has ‘closed down’ some options, nevertheless teachers exercise agency to interpret and enact policy and, when translating the policy into a curriculum context, also make ‘leaps’ of interpretation as concepts such as fundamental British values are turned into lessons.
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When Britain imposed the “Prevent duty”, a legal duty on education, health and social welfare organisations to report concerns about individuals identified as at-risk of radicalisation, critics argued it would accentuate the stigmatisation of Muslim communities, “chill” free speech, and exacerbate societal securitisation. Based on 70 interviews with educational professionals and a national online survey (n = 225), this article examines their perceptions of how the duty has played out in practice. It then provides an explanation for why, contrary to expectations, not only has overt professional opposition been limited, but there has been some evidence of positive acceptance. It is argued that these findings neither simply reflect reluctant policy accommodation nor do they simply reflect straightforward policy acceptance, but rather they comprise the outcome of multi-level processes of policy narration, enactment and adaptation. Three processes are identified as being of particular importance in shaping education professionals’ engagement with the duty: the construction of radicalisation as a significant societal, institutional and personal risk; the construction of continuity between the Prevent duty and existing professional practices; and the responsibilisation of first-line professionals. The conclusion reflects on the wider public and policy implications of these findings.