Laying the foundations

Understanding and planning for risk

Risk is an inevitable part of any programme operating in a conflict-affected setting. PVE is often perceived as being more ‘risky’ than other areas of programming due to the fact that it is a relatively new area of work. Working in such a politically charged arena can often mean that programmes that seek to address violent extremism can themselves be highly sensitive – with implications for UNDP’s ability to deliver, its reputation, and the safety and security of its staff, partners and beneficiaries.

Risk management is an ‘enabling process’. Rather than seeking to prevent programmes from being implemented, risk management is about understanding risk, working with acceptable levels of risk and knowing when and how to mitigate against risk where possible to avoid doing harm and to maximise the positive effects. Most importantly, it concerns identifying risks that may emerge as a result of the context; the programme; and/or the institution.

Risk management should be considered from the outset as part of the core approach to working in fragile and conflictaffected settings, rather than a separate element or project ‘add-on’.

UNDP has developed a Risk management for preventing violent extremism programmes, Guidance note for practitioners, which can assist you with: understanding risk management; undertaking a risk assessment; and familiarising yourself with common risks and opportunities associated with PVE programmes.

Placing partners on the front line. Local and national partners are commonly engaged for delivering different elements of a PVE project. This often transfers the risk from UNDP to the local partner, in turn potentially heightening the risk to the safety and reputation of the partner. This needs to be carefully considered and discussed with the partner, and risk management processes designed jointly.

Working with youth. Young people have received disproportionate attention in policy and programming as ‘at risk’ populations, and members and recruits of violent extremist groups, yet it is only a very small proportion of young people who join. The design of PVE programmes should take care to avoid positioning young people simply as risk factors and further stigmatising them. Focusing on ways of promoting trust and agency among young people is an important consideration for programming frameworks oriented around resilience.

Fluid and dynamic conflict-affected environments resulting in rapid changes to what a programme can and can’t do and who they can and can’t access as well as the safety of staff, partners and beneficiaries. Regular context monitoring together with partners is key to being able to react quickly and safely to changing dynamics.

State responses can exacerbate violent extremism. Whilst governments are an essential partner in PVE, the way in which the state addresses violent extremism can exacerbate the problem. Research indicates that ‘triggers’ for individuals to enact violence or join violent extremist groups are often tied to actions taken by the government or security forces that are deemed abusive. While security actors have an important and constructive role to play, treatment which is considered harsh or unlawful (such as prolonged detention) can create resentment – especially when certain communities perceive they are being targeted unfairly.

Resources are co-opted by individuals or groups that support violent extremism. In today’s transnational and highly interconnected world, tight financial controls are required to ensure that funds are not diverted by governments, individuals or groups involved in violent and/or criminal activities. The possibility of funds being diverted or co-opted by such governments, individuals or groups are often increased in fragile and/ or conflict-affected contexts where formal and informal institutions are weaker, and competition over scarce resources intensified by conflict dynamics.