The Swiss platform for peacebuilding (KOFF)

Parallel Session 9

Opportunity or Pitfall? Connecting the Prevention of Violent Extremism and Women, Peace and Security


Switzerland is currently drafting its fourth National Action Plan (NAP) on UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325. Swiss civil society has successfully advocated for the inclusion of key issues. The recommendations are based on a collection of experiences from partners in the field, which were brought into a policy dialogue.

The Swiss Platform for Peacebuilding (KOFF), Peace Women Across the Globe (PWAG) and cfd- the feminist Peace Organization are now conducting a project aimed at increasing the relevance of the Swiss NAP on 1325 by reducing the gap between policy and practice through civil society contributions. In the first phase of the joint project on the fourth NAP 1325, the focus is on the implications of linking the agendas of Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and Countering/ Preventing Violent Extremism (C/PVE). Flurina Derungs, PWAG, explained, that the second phase will focus on what fosters and hinders the participation of women in peace and decision making processes.

Elizabeth Mesok, swisspeace, gave a brief overview of the recent attempts to integrate the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the Preventing Violent Extremism agenda. To illustrate the potential challenges and even dangers of linking these two agendas, she then reviewed the existing literature on the topic, focusing on the following four areas:

  • women’s diverse roles in preventing, countering, and perpetrating violent extremism;

  • the relationship of gender equality and women’s empowerment to C/PVE;

  • the adverse effects of counterterrorism policy on women and women’s groups;

  • and overall critiques of linking the WPS and C/PVE agendas.

Key Takeaways

Participants discussed the following five questions:

  1. In what ways have civil society organizations already been doing the work that is now being named “preventing violent extremism”? Should we safeguard against the securitization of civil society space, and if so, how?

  2. What is the role of engaging men and boys in violence prevention? Relatedly, what is the role of masculinity in violent extremism and what work is already being done in disrupting violent masculinities, regardless of whether it is labeled “preventing violent extremism”?

  3. Is the WPS agenda compatible with the C/PVE agenda? What do you understand to be the risks of integrating these agendas? Conversely, how might this be an opportunity for women’s civil society organizations to positively intervene in security policies and agendas?

  4. How do you understand C/PVE as distinct from CT (counterterrorism)? In what ways are these agendas blurred in practice? Additionally, in what ways might the focus on “violent extremism” neglect occurrences of state violence?

  5. What kind of research might help to address the lack of evidence-based understanding between gender, violent extremism and its prevention? How is developing gendered analyses of conflict crucial to this work?

During the discussion, participants noted following points:

  • The need to re-think “security” and be critical of how women’s rights are being embedded in a security agenda.

  • PVE as part of broader peacebuilding strategies is already in place.

  • The issue of being careful about terms such as “violent extremism” or “terrorism”.

  • Women’s roles don’t exist in a vacuum – the need to include men.

  • Linking of the agendas: rather not!

  • Shifting the attention from a peacebuilding to a security focus – problem of framing and supporting a donor/state-centric agenda.

  • Funding opportunities:

    • Influence C/PVE agenda from a peacebuilding perspective;

    • C/PVE as analytical and political tool to address state failure.

  • Analyse root causes of violent extremism (e.g. structural, cultural, gender…).

  • Relationship-building, economic empowerment, sense & meaning.

  • Gendered conflict analysis that considers men as gendered subjects, considers roles of masculinity in gender-based violence (GBV) and violent extremism (VE).

  • Cultural de-coding of terminology/qualitative research of language/discourse around VE and gender.

  • Role of religion and ideology that work both for and against women’s empowerment, assessed through participatory research.

Conclusion and Next Steps

This session highlighted the inherent tensions in linking the WPS and PVE agenda. The participants’ responses made clear that the work of violence prevention is already being done in the peacebuilding community, even when it is not labelled “preventing violent extremism,” and that there are good reasons to be critical of this agenda. In particular, the PVE agenda must be understood as having emerged from the global war on terror and the counterterrorism agenda, and thus is not always (if ever) conducted in the interest of human rights and women’s rights in particular. The next steps for this project include research, which exposes these tensions more clearly, and examines the impact that PVE has on women’s civil society organizations and human rights more broadly.


Elizabeth Mesok
The Swiss Platform for Peacebuilding (KOFF)
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Anna Leissing
The Swiss Platform for Peacebuilding (KOFF)
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Flurina Derungs
Peace Women Across the Globe (PWAG), Switzerland
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The FriEnt Peacebuilding Forum is a series of events on current and overarching challenges and trends in peacebuilding. With the Peacebuilding Forum, we want to provide future-oriented impulses for the development of peacebuilding and strengthen the visibility and importance of the policy field in its entirety.


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