Event Summary: Bridging the gap: connecting research, policy and practice on masculinities to more effectively prevent and counter terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism.

Gender Unit UNOCT
Gender Unit UNOCT • 21 August 2023
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On 21 June, during the counter-terrorism week, Canada, UNOCT, CTED and OSCE held a side event, which examined the significance of integrating masculinities in CT/PCVE work. 

In the opening remarks, Canada, UNOCT, CTED and OSCE highlighted the importance of a comprehensive approach to gender in CT/PCVE, which includes masculinities, and outlined some of their efforts in this regard.

The expert panel discussed existing research and practice on masculinities and formulated recommendations on the way forward. Mexico shared its experience of bringing the issue of masculinities both to the Security Council and the General Assembly and introducing language on masculinities into the draft review resolutions of the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy and related challenges. Mexico noted that masculinity, still largely misunderstood, continues to be a blind spot in CT discussion, but is critical to address, especially from the perspective of prevention.

CTED presented its research on masculinities and discussed how violent extremist and terrorist groups across the ideological spectrum use gender, drawing on ideas of femininity and masculinity and prevailing gender norms in different locations and gendered societal norms and expectations, for recruitment of its members. Understanding structural conditions and gender norms has implications for prevention work. Masculinities also play a critical role in keeping men in violent extremist and terrorist groups: initiation and bonding rituals provide a sense of belonging and brotherhood, pride and loyalty. However, disengagement, rehabilitation and reintegration programmes often failed to consider the need for social ties for men. Finally, CTED highlighted that counter-terrorism institutions are themselves shaped by masculinities, which often results in “hard security” taking precedence over a human security approach, which is reflected in policy priorities and budget allocations.

OSCE presented findings from the policy brief Linkages between Violent Misogyny and Violent Extremism. Notably the research found that respondents who agree with attitudes of violence against women are almost 5 times more likely to support violent extremism than people in the sample who disagree with that type of violence. The brief also highlights how gender is used in both recruitment and radicalization to violence, for both men and women, and how resistance to or backlash against gender equality and calls for a strict hierarchical and restrictive gender order form a part of a VE/T group’s ideology or mobilization strategies across the ideological spectrum. OSCE also presented a new project focusing on human rights and gender-sensitive approaches to addressing the ‘digital information disorder’, highlighting the need for a media- and information literacy in preventing and countering violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism.

ICAN provided a number of practical examples and case studies on the role of gender and identity which address the importance of engaging civil society, with emphasis on the specific and innovative work of women-led peacebuilding organizations in the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL), and addressing structural factors in shaping positive alternatives to extremism. ICAN also referenced a 10-countries-study which unpacked what masculinities meant in a particular context while evolving around four notions: provide, protect, social prestige, procreation and paternity. ICAN noted that male supremacy is prevalent across all VE groups, who subjugate women because they understand the social power women have; they tap into entitlement, thwarted ambition, grievances, aspirations and these issues change monthly in various contexts. The power of these movements is that they are locally rooted, but globally connected. For effective response, it is important to harness the power of women peacebuilders such as those in WASL, who are also locally rooted and globally connected, and recognize the early warning signs of extremisms and engage men in developing effective responses. Specifically, they (1) tailor individual responses recognizing the importance of a sense of belonging and purpose; (2) examine the role of state and political actors at enabling violent extremism and perpetrating it to transform economic and other policies; (3) promote PCVE and deradicalization work through mainstream media; (4) engage education and particularly religious education actors to develop civic education and religious literacy; and (5) promote peace, resilience, equality and pluralism instead of talking about countering violent extremism without providing positive alternatives. Sanam Naraghi Anderlini further expounded upon women’s role in preventing and countering violent extremism.

During the side event, Canada and UNOCT launched the Gender and Identity Factors Platform, a user-led digital platform solely dedicated to gender and intersectionality in counter-terrorism and preventing violent extremism. The platform includes a library of human-rights based resources dedicated to gender and intersectionality in counter-terrorism and preventing and countering violent extremism. Through communities of practice, the platform will offer a space to discuss new and emerging trends, as well as good practices and lessons learned with regards to gender and intersectionality in CT/PCVE. It will also offer training opportunities.

The broadcast of the side event is available here.