Beyond counter and alternative narratives to tackle extremism: the new Format model

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Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) as a concept was introduced in Europe in 2004-2005, following the devastating terrorist attacks against the Cercanías commuter train system of Madrid and the metropolitan infrastructure of London, and since then has appeared in innumerable strategic documents2 . The introduction of CVE was sparked by the threat of religious extremism, although it is a framework that could also be easily extended to other types of extremism (political, single-issue, etc.). In view of the fact that no internationally accepted definitions currently exist for either “terrorism” or “violent extremism”, just as there is a lack of consensus over the precise meaning of CVE and what forms it should take. As reported in the website of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), CVE tends to comprise the “use of non-coercive means to dissuade individuals or groups from mobilizing towards violence and to mitigate recruitment, support, facilitation or engagement in ideologically motivated terrorism by non-state actors in furtherance of political objectives (Khan, 2015)”3 . Moreover, CVE is understood to cover a wide range of activities which are undertaken at many different levels by, for instance, States, supranational entities, international organisations, academia, the private sector and civil society, revealing a significant issue of coordination to exist. Within the framework of Countering Violent Extremism, and although controversial, combating extremist communication with the potential to incite violence has had an important role to play since the beginning and, apart from merely disrupting it, counter- and alternative narratives have been widely developed and implemented, showing some potential as well as significant limitations. In this paper, counter- and alternative narratives in CVE are the subject of a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis which is presented methodologically and developed in the following pages. The analysis underlines the need to renew the strategic communication effort, to increase its ability to adapt to the evolving scenario and its effectiveness in countering extremist communication. The format model is proposed in view of these purposes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-44
Number of pages38
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Comunicazione
  • Narratives
  • Radicalization
  • Radicalizzazione
  • Security
  • Sicurezza
  • Terrorism
  • Terrorismo


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