First Steps Towards Hearts and Minds? USAID's Countering Violent Extremism Policies in Africa

  • Aldrich D
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The United States government has adopted new approaches to counter violent extremist organizations around the world. "Soft security" and development programs include focused educational training for groups vulnerable to terrorist recruitment, norm messaging through local radio programming, and job creation in rural communities. This article evaluates the effectiveness of one set of these multivectored, community-level programs through data from 200 respondents in two similar, neighboring towns in northern Mali, Africa. The data show that residents in Timbuktu who were exposed to the programming for up to five years displayed measurably altered civic behavior and listening patterns in comparison with their counterparts in the control town of Diré , which had no programming (controlling for potential covariates including age, ethnicity, and political and socioeconomic conditions). However, there was little measurable difference between the groups in terms of their cultural identities and attitudes towards the West. While this study is unable to definitively prove a causal connection between programming and behavioral outcomes, it nonetheless strongly suggests that the process of "winning hearts and minds" can be effective at certain levels but may require extended time and dedicated resources to generate higher-level results. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved). (journal abstract)

Author-supplied keywords

  • Mali
  • U.S. government
  • countering violent extremism
  • radio programming
  • terrorism

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