Rule of Law Approaches to Countering Violent Extremism (ABA Rule of Law Initiative Issue Paper)
This paper reviews the current social science and policy research on the drivers of violent extremism, describes the types of ABA ROLI rule of law oriented programs that have the potential to counter extremism, and lays out recommendations and guidelines for the implementation and measurement of rule of law programs in this context. It argues that the rule of law-CVE nexus deserves greater attention and that rule of law interventions should be a fundamental component of any effort seeking to address violent extremism in ways that are effective, sustainable, and respectful of fundamental freedoms, civil liberties, and human rights. First, the analysis shows that violent extremism usually has multiple causes, many of which are local and vary considerably by context. Second, it makes the case that several of the most potent drivers of violent extremism – including government repression, the curtailment of civil liberties, and state illegitimacy or collapse – are essentially rule of law issues. As such, rule of law interventions can potentially help address these drivers. Finally, it underscores that some CVE focused programs can have unintended negative consequences, for example by endangering the civil liberties of the people CVE programming is meant to support, or by alienating the target communities and diverting resources from other needed rule of law programs.

These findings support the conclusion that a rule of law framework should be used to define the broader goals that CVE-relevant initiatives are designed to achieve. In general, rule of law interventions should not be subsumed by CVE efforts. Frequently the most successful way to address drivers of violent extremism will be to frame CVE interventions through a rule of law rubric, encompassing goals such as promoting justice, respect for rights, and inclusiveness. Thinking more holistically about CVE-relevant programming will also give rule of law practitioners opportunities to strengthen CVE-relevant interventions by learning how they interact with other types of programming and by monitoring and mitigating adverse consequences quickly and effectively.