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How Countering Violent Extremism Policy Undermines Human Rights and Instrumentalizes Civil Society

In the early 2000s, a new form of counterterrorism policy—Countering Violent Extremism—emerged, pioneered first in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom before spreading to other parts of Europe, the United States, and eventually the rest of the world. Within a decade, as policies were copied from one state to the next and taken up by the European Union, United Nations, and a host of other international fora, Countering Violent Extremism was globalized. From Finland to the Philippines, Countering Violent Extremism policies have been presented as a more liberal, more intelligent, more holistic way of dealing with terrorism than the crude and inflammatory “war on terror.”

A new report commissioned by the Transnational Institute and Societal Security Network, The Globalisation of Countering Violent Extremism Policy: Undermining Human Rights, Instrumentalising Civil Society, indicates, on the contrary, that the globalization of Countering Violent Extremism translates into the globalization of another set of alarming problems: harm to human rights and the undermining of civil society.

The report analyzes the frenzied adoption of Countering Violent Extremism by policymakers within institutions of the European Union, the United Nations, and the Global Counterterrorism Forum, while the core issues that were present at the birth of Countering Violent Extremism in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom remain unresolved.


  • Jordi Vaquer

    Jordi Vaquer Fanés


    Jordi Vaquer is regional director for Europe at the Open Society Foundations.

  • AK

    Arun Kundnani


    Arun Kundnani, co-author of the report, is a professor at New York University, and the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror.

  • BH

    Ben Hayes


    Ben Hayes, co-author of the report, is a Transnational Institute fellow and an independent researcher and consultant on security policies, counterterrorism, border control, and data protection with Transnational Institute.

  • FN

    Fionnuala Ní Aoláin


    Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin is the United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (via video).

  • FE

    Fatiha el Mouali


    Fatiha el Mouali is a civil rights and citizenship official with the Granollers City Council and a member of Unit against Fascism and Racism (Unitat contra el Feixisme i el Racisme).

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