The OSCE Guidebook on “The Role of Civil Society in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalization that Lead to Terrorism: A focus on South-Eastern Europe” is the first in a series of resources produced by the Transnational Threat Department/ Action against Terrorism Unit. This volume provides practical guidance and helpful background for both policy makers and practitioners who are working to advance civil-society-led P/CVERLT initiatives in the South-Eastern European region.
Civil society is best understood as a diverse body of civil actors, communities, and formal or informal associations with a wide range of roles, who engage in public life seeking to advance shared values and objectives. Civil society plays a crucial role in a whole-of-society approach to preventing and countering violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism (P/CVERLT). Civil society actors are often well positioned, credible and experienced in working with specific groups to help identify and address the grievances that make individuals more vulnerable to the influence of violent extremist groups.
Youth, women and community leaders are key civil society actors in P/CVERLT efforts because of their influence and ability to foster social change. Other stakeholders such as the media, law enforcement, educators, researchers and the private sector can also make significant contributions to preventing VERLT.
Civil society groups and actors, in South-Eastern Europe and elsewhere, face significant challenges in developing and implementing impactful P/CVERLT programmes to include: navigating political and legal restrictions; ensuring participation in government-level policy and strategy development; securing adequate and sustainable funding; building internal capacity; ensuring personal safety; and establishing effective partnerships with government actors.
There are a number of practical steps that can help support and advance efforts by government actors in developing productive non-instrumentalized relationships with civil society organizations (CSOs). They include establishing flexible multi-agency co-ordination mechanisms and codifying partnerships between government and non-government actors by delineating roles and responsibilities.
The capacity of CSOs can be strengthened by sharing good practices in P/CVERLT programming, identifying and supporting lesser known but credible groups, establishing regional networks and platforms for collaboration, and by linking researchers with practitioners to support evidence-based work.