The Year in Review
What We’ve Accomplished
The highlight of the year was the 2018 RESOLVE Network Global Forum, RESOLVE’s annual signature event held at the U.S. Institute of Peace. The conference pushed the boundaries of how practitioners understand and address violent extremism, investigating key concepts that have been absent from the discussion to date, underdeveloped, or misunderstood in the P/CVE field. Bringing together policymakers, academics, researchers, and programming practitioners, the Forum serves as a hub of expertise and the entry point of multidisciplinary innovation into mainstream P/CVE discourse. The Forum elevated the importance of rigorous, empirical research, expanded the knowledge base of practice, and advanced the necessity of locally-informed policymaking. Thanks to USIP, RESOLVE has held three Forums in Washington D.C. to date, and we look forward to welcoming peers, colleagues, and stakeholders to the fourth conference in September 2019.
2018 also saw the conclusion for RESOLVE’s first major mixed methods research initiative in Bangladesh, launched in 2016. In October, we published the Bangladesh Research Initiative Compendium, a collection of all the publications and associated research products resulting from the project. RESOLVE’s work in Bangladesh paired a national survey with qualitative case studies to analyze issues associated with political legitimacy, religious identity, and support for extremist organizations and ideologies. RESOLVE researchers found that violent extremism is often difficult to distinguish from political violence in Bangladesh. Relatedly, parts of the population continue to feel weak institutional governance and service provision disparities that drive a want for alternative systems of governance. The research found sharia law cited as a potential better option. Additionally, this search for better options allowed for easy alignment with the espoused objectives of radical groups engaged in violent and non-violent activities. The Bangladesh Research Initiative also served as a pilot for our research training and capacity building approach and fellowship model. Four early career researchers paired with senior subject matter experts to produce four papers and associated research products.
In September of 2018, RESOLVE also finished a second major research initiative focusing on religious narratives and violent extremism on higher education campuses in the Lake Chad Basin. The research teams, comprised of senior subject matter experts paired with locally-based scholars, studied campus dynamics in Chad, Nigeria, and Cameroon. While the research found no evidence of violent extremist ideologies or recruitment in the higher education system across all three countries, the research did find significant intra- and interreligious competition over influence, social capital, and resources. This competition could be a source of grievances and presents a potential vulnerability that violent extremist actors could exploit. RESOLVE research teams presented their findings to a group of over 150 researchers, policymakers, and practitioners at the 2018 RESOLVE Network Global Forum. RESOLVE will be publishing in-depth case studies about the role of religion on university campuses and intersections with violence and violent extremism in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad.
The three components of RESOLVE’s core efforts—partnering, convening, facilitating development of new research and capacity building—are reflective of our foundational scoping project, the 2016 Consensus-based Research Agenda. This project started to analyze the breadth and depth of the P/CVE knowledgebase and triangulate thematic areas for future investigation of the drivers of violent extremism and sources of vulnerability and resilience to extremist narratives and organizations. RESOLVE collaborated with Network partners, hosted international focus groups, and used case study analyses of governance in Bangladesh, Kosovo, and Afghanistan to populate these efforts, together with a machine learning-assisted, text mining-based meta-analysis of 3200 P/CVE relevant journal articles. Findings from this project highlighted gaps in research and practice that we explored in subsequent research initiatives.
The Path Ahead: 2018-2020
In October 2018, RESOLVE launched a research project on Community-Based Armed Groups (CBAGs) in Sub-Saharan Africa. CBAGs present a complex and dynamic security challenge to states, communities, local civil society, and international actors. As international development organizations mobilize resources directed at these groups and impacted communities, careful study, caution, and the appreciation of a whole-of-community analytical approach are necessary to achieve programmatic success. Through mapping papers, case studies, policy notes, and roundtable discussions, RESOLVE will provide key stakeholders at the local and international level with contextual understanding on the dynamics and drivers of CBAGs, and potential approaches to engage, manage, and transform them.
In November 2018, RESOLVE launched a new research and convening project to identify dynamics of violent extremism and resiliency in the Western Balkans. Through regional capacity building activities, the project aims to increase collaboration and elevate regional understandings of violent extremist threats and vulnerabilities, building upon existing networks and initiatives already active in the region.
Our upcoming Research Capacity Building Training and Curriculum project will develop standardized, ethical processes for conducting research on violent extremism, and specifically address how to conceptualize, conduct, analyze, and present research to inform and assess P/CVE policymaking and practice, both broadly and in specific geographic regions. The project includes the development and implementation of a curriculum and training-of-trainers module and the construction of an edited volume distilling methodological principles and ethical best practices for research specifically informing P/CVE policy and practice.
Finally, in early 2019, RESOLVE will be launching the Research Advisory Council, directed by Dr. Alastair Reed. Council members, global and thematic experts in the field, will provide advice and contribute to RESOLVE Network research and projects, ensure research and publication rigor and quality, and synthesize analytical insights for policymakers, practitioners, and academics around the world.
RESOLVE continues to partner with the Bureau for Conflict and Stabilization Operations of the U.S. Department of State and the Africa Bureau of the U.S. Agency for International Development, thankful for their generous support for our efforts. RESOLVE also continues to be housed by and benefit from the support and guidance of the U.S. Institute of Peace, building upon the Institute’s decades-long legacy of deep engagement in conflict-affected communities.
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