PVE, Development and Gender
What does the increasing influence of preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) frameworks and tools mean for development workers? Earlier this year, the Research Department of the Humanitarian Academy for Development (HAD) co-organised a workshop at The Annual Conference of the Conflict Research Society (CRS). The event brought together academics and practitioners from Europe, Africa and Australia to explore the crossover between PVE, Development and Gender.
Why PVE, Development and Gender?
In recent years, there has been increasing interest in P/CVE approaches by development practitioners, funding bodies and policy-makers. Several major development organisations have started adopting PVE frameworks, and funding streams have emerged for work in this area. However, little is known about the effects that this recent turn towards PVE concepts and tools has on the development sector, implementing organisations and beneficiaries. Moreover, gendered approaches to the topic are often missing. This is the case despite PVE, development and gender intersecting in multiple ways:
- The turn towards PVE in development is often an extension of the securitisation and racialisation of development – which both already affect the development sector significantly.
- PVE and PVE-development programmes often operate using gender stereotypes, seeing women as victims or peacemakers and men as perpetrators. The complexity of participation in violent extremism is not captured by these gender stereotypes, with perpetrators, victims and perpetrators who do not fit these moulds shaded from view.
- The dominant framework on women’s rights in peace and conflict, the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, has called for ‘the greater integration by [UN] Member States and the United Nations of their agendas on women, peace and security, counter terrorism and countering violent extremism’ in UN Security Council Resolution 2242.
HAD Workshop Brings Together Academics and Practitioners
Researchers and practitioners often do not work together as much as they could, including on topics such as the PVE, development and gender nexus. It is one of the dedicated aims of the Research Department at HAD to change this, as opportunities for knowledge production and exchange are often lost by a lack of cross-sector engagement. This is why the Department organised a research/practice workshop on PVE, development and gender, as part of the Conflict Research Society’s Annual Conference at the University of Sussex, in cooperation with Dr Juanita Elias and Dr Nicola Pratt from the University of Warwick. The workshop was attended by eleven practitioners and academics, with representation from Australia, Germany, Kenya, Somalia and the UK.
Key Ideas Emerging from the Group Discussions
The workshop divided into two groups to explore the relationships between PVE, development and gender, with one focusing on PVE and development and the other on PVE and gender. After in-depth discussions, the groups came together to present the outcome of their dialogues to each other.
One of the main takeaways from the PVE/development group was that the increasing shifts towards PVE tools and concepts affects different actors in different ways. One first step for any work on the topic would thus be a mapping of actors on the group, which include organisations as varied as private security contractors, INGOs and local women’s organisations. From this, the complex reasons for engagement with or rejection of PVE in development work can begin to be understood.
For the PVE/gender group, one of the main takeaways was the tension between the risks and opportunities of aligning the WPS and PVE agendas. Some viewed these as risks alone, whereas others could imagine them simultaneously as an opportunity for change. This highlighted further tensions between engagement and non-engagement with WPS/PVE structures and the complexity of decision-making according to profession, positionality and experience.
What next for HAD’s PVE, Development and Gender Project?
The workshop organised by HAD and its academic partners was successful in mapping the fields of PVE, development and gender and existing debates, plotting potential future research questions, and considering problems from both academic and practitioner points of view. Moreover, the group of academics and practitioners agreed on a set of concrete actions and steps forward. Firstly, the group decided to maintain contact and to form an informal network of professionals working PVE, Development and Gender. The aim of this group is to collaborate on research projects and outputs such as blogs, journals or special issues, and to open up a space for continued discussion and development on this topic by inviting a wider audience. Activities could take place physically or online, with webinars or web-conferences used to ensure international engagement. Additionally, the group agreed that a follow-up conference should be organised, to build upon the first levels of discussion that emerged from the day, and to provide a space to plan and decide further activities.