Jun 20, 2019 | Updated: 09:31 AM EDT

Inadequate Evaluation to Counter Violent Extremism May Increase Terror Threat

May 22, 2019 02:27 PM EDT

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Inadequate Evaluation to Counter Violent Extremism May Increase Terror Threat
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A new study published in the journal Aggression and Violent Behaviour has pointed out that a lack of evaluation of the impact of countering violent extremism (CVE) and counter-Terrorism (CT) efforts may indeed increase the threat and risk of terrorism. According to the researchers, efforts of the national and international agencies to counter terrorism and violent extremism have lacked two key ingredients, which are a clear and coherent theory of how individuals change and consistent evaluation of evidence of their changing attitudes.

Currently, University of Birmingham's experts are proposing a new evaluation methodology, the Innovative Moments Coding System (IMCS), to be explored as a more reliable way of tracking changes in violent extremist's historical accounts and life stories.

The experts worked with partners at the Universities of Minho and Aveiro, in Portugal. From the International Development Department at the University of Birmingham, Dr. Raquel Da Silva commented that they believe that using the IMCS could provide an in-depth view of how an individual has changed; a useful and reliable indicator in tracking how former militants' life stories change as they leave their radical and extremist views behind.

Dr. Da Silva explained further that there is currently no clarity regarding what change looks like in deradicalization and risk reduction interventions. Indeed, the lack of evaluation of these interventions might be increasing the threat and risk of terrorism, instead of doing the opposite.

The team analyzed two life story interviews of former politically violent militants, Julia and Jaime, with different experiences. They employed IMCS to interpret their subjects' degree of change and established the system's reliability and usefulness in tracking such people's life stories.

The researchers noted that while radicalized views may open a path to politically motivated violence, these opinions are not criminal or harmful in themselves and do not always lead to certain engagement with a violent organization.

Furthermore, the researchers explored studies that show how unrealistic and counterproductive it is to expect offenders to renounce their commitment to certain political and religious beliefs to prove they are no longer radicalized.

Dr. Da Silva explained further that it is more accurate to expect individuals to stop committing political violence and reject violence as a legitimate personal tactic than to expect a full make-over of their belief systems. Adding that they believe that 'self-narrative change' in this context is embodied by thoughts, emotions, actions, and experiences that distance the individual from the commission of politically violent acts, demonstrating continued and committed disengagement.

The team believes that applying IMCS could help to provide an in-depth view of how certain individuals have changed and why other individuals did not showcase such levels of change. IMCS could be as an assessment tool to describe whether a particular individual benefited from an intervention.

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