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The intersection between socioeconomic conditions and youth radicalisation: implications for programming in the G5 Sahel countries


Written by Leigh Mayhew, Aoife McCullough, Sherine El Taraboulsi-McCarthy, Simon Levine

Image credit:Landscape of Sahel. Daniel Tiveau/CIFOR Image license:CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This FAO-ODI study provides an evidence-based analysis of the drivers of youth radicalisation in the Sahel and distils what this means for programming which aims to address that concern.

Resources have been invested into trying to address the underlying drivers of youth radicalisation, often through programming under the labels of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) or Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE). Such approaches tend to categorise ‘at risk’ individuals based on certain socio-economic profiles. In particular, connecting both poverty and unemployment to radicalisation has been a popular assumption among policy-makers, based on arguments that poverty and unemployment both generate grievance-based motivations and lower the opportunity cost for engaging in political violence. In response, P/CVE programming often includes the provision of economic alternatives and skills-based training in a bid to dissuade young people from joining armed groups.

The findings of this study challenge this framing. Based on a review of over 50 studies on radicalisation in the Sahel and the evidence from P/CVE programming implemented in the region, it has been assessed that the drivers of radicalisation in the region are geographically specific and therefore need to be considered spatially, rather than aiming to produce a ‘typical’ profile of youth that are vulnerable to radicalisation.

This report aims not only to uncover how socio-economic conditions interact with political dynamics to produce environments conducive to youth radicalisation, but also to provide recommendations on how regional employment programmes can be tailored so that they contribute towards reducing radicalisation.

Authors: Leigh Mayhew, Aoife McCullough, Sherine El Taraboulsi-McCarthy, Mary Allen and Simon Levine