Drivers to violent extremism refer to all the push and pull factors that can cause an individual to join an extremist group. Push factors are structured within a society while pull factors are individual motivations and processes. Some of these factors are discussed below;
Lack of social economic opportunities such as unemployment and limited opportunities may lead to frustration which can result in radicalization, therefore, leading to violent extremism. Unemployment provides a fertile ground for recruitment by violent extremist organizations since they can provide a route out of poverty with economic opportunities that are not readily available through more legitimate means. When youths can no longer cope with their lack of basic needs, they display a higher tendency to react by engaging in violent extremist behavior.
Gender inequality, marginalization, alienation and discrimination are primary drivers of violent extremism. When one group has exclusive control of political and economic sectors at the expense of other groups, this may result in increased inter-communal tensions, gender inequality, marginalization, alienation and discrimination. This may take different forms, such as restricted access to public services, job opportunities, obstructions to regional development and freedom of religion, which may further fuel resentment on top of any existing frustrations attributable to other drivers such as socio-economic inequalities and deprivations.
Issues of poor governance, together with violations of human rights and the rule of law, are important in counter-terrorism efforts whether at the national, regional or global levels. Poor governance structures can be a significant source of frustration, democracy deficits, corruption and a culture of impunity. For instance, weak development outcomes may fuel citizens’ mistrust of the legitimacy of their government; in turn, this may further weaken the effectiveness of State institutions in responding to violent extremism when it does occur. As long as political elites and the wealthy can do as they please without fear of legal sanctions, the huge and growing gap between the have and have-nots will grow. States should ensure any measures taken in the fight against terrorism do not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, descent, national, or ethnic origin and non-citizens are not subjected to racial, ethnic profiling, or stereotyping.
Prolonged and unresolved conflicts within a county or between countries are drivers of violent extremism. This driver is of broader significance in that these forms of conflicts can be the cause of not only human suffering and poor governance, but also facilitate the agendas of violent extremist organizations. For instance, in conflicts whereby the machinery of the State has been weakened, the void of effective State control can provide the space for violent extremist organizations to function, enabling them to promote their extremist narratives and activities in a largely unchecked fashion. Such situations can also be exploited by these groups to further their agendas, commonly through such activities as taking over of territory, resources and control. It should also be recognized that armed conflicts can act as a motivational factor, inspiring others to follow a violent extremist path
Radicalization in prisons is one of the drivers furthering violent extremist agendas. Prisons provide a unique environment within which individuals can spread extreme and violent ideologies. The conditions inside prisons can create or fuel already present animosity. Harsh treatment in detention facilities can play an upsettingly powerful role in the recruitment of a large number of individuals to violent extremist groups and terrorist organizations. For instance, poor prison conditions, ill-treatment of prisoners, institutional corruption and criminal activity can all serve as motivators for detained persons to seek assistance and protection of violent extremist groups.
Building peace has a critical role to play in terms of mitigating drivers of violent extremism since it is a foundation from which a just and inclusive society can be built.