1. What is this study about?
Strengthening Youth Resilience to Radicalization: Evidence from Tajikistan is the first study in a multi-country analysis called Central Asia: Development Approaches for Preventing Violent Extremism, which looks at youth, gender, and local dimensions of radicalization and recruitment into violent extremist (VE) groups in the region of Central Asia and presents policy recommendations to address them.
This study identifies which groups of citizens and areas of Tajikistan are more vulnerable to radicalization and examines how these groups become radicalized and recruited. Through interviews and discussions with local residents, the study takes an in-depth look at the drivers behind radicalization and recruitment into VE groups. It also looks at underlying factors that can contribute to radicalization, such as grievances related to governance and socio-economic conditions.
2. Why did the World Bank Group (WBG) undertake a study on radicalization?
Violent extremism is one of the central topics in the World Bank Group’s new strategy on fragility, conflict and violence, because of its growing threat to peace and stability around the world.
By 2030, more than half of the world’s extreme poor will live in fragile and conflict-affected settings, undermining development gains. For this reason, the WBG is scaling up the volume and types of support it provides to countries to tackle the risks of fragility, including prevention of violent extremism.
In addition to lost lives, violent extremism displaces people from their homes, destroys infrastructure, exacerbates tensions in society and diverts resources from service delivery as governments are forced to invest more in security.
In order to effectively tackle these challenges, the World Bank Group, along with financing, is investing in analytical work to study the structural drives of fragility. These efforts are critical to achieving the World Bank Group’s goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.
3. Can you say a few words on the methodology?
This is a qualitative study, which is based on 34 focus group discussions with 295 participants and 35 individual in-depth interviews (a total of 330 respondents covering 14 locations across all regions of Tajikistan).
It is important to note, that the findings of the study cannot be generalized beyond the studied locations. The respondents’ views offer valuable and coherent insights that fill knowledge gaps in available data and field research. These interviews also constitute a rich consultative process that provided respondents with the opportunity to express their observations in an open but confidential forum. The respondents for this study provided important, practical, and forward-looking views that can inform policy and program interventions.
In order to ensure respondents’ confidentiality and identity protection, our research followed a rigorous procedure of protection of respondents’ identity and confidentiality.
4. Why was Tajikistan picked as the first country in Central Asia and one of the first globally for this type of research?
One of the financing tools, mobilized by the World Bank to address the risks of fragility is the Risk Mitigation Regime (RMR). Along with Guinea, Nepal, and Niger, Tajikistan is among four countries globally that has received additional resources from the International Development Association (in Tajikistan’s case, almost $100 million) to address fragility risks, including radicalization and violent extremism.
In Tajikistan, economic risks such as limited employment opportunities, coupled with security risks emanating from the 1,400 km border with Afghanistan, and social risks resulting from poor service delivery in remote areas and high rates of rural poverty, are creating risks of social and economic exclusion and vulnerability. Tajikistan is the only country in Central Asia, which has experienced several domestic attacks claimed by the Islamic State.
This study along with other research and analytical work, has helped the World Bank and the Government of Tajikistan to shape the projects funded under RMR and will further contribute to the development of programs and projects.
5. What are the key findings of the report?
Youth were the group most commonly identified as being vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment. Many survey respondents believe that recruitment of young people has increased over the last four to five years. Migrants working abroad and those returning to Tajikistan were the second group, and vulnerable women were the third most commonly cited group.
While grievances and perceptions of socio-economic exclusion may in some cases facilitate the process of radicalization of mindsets and recruitment into extremist groups, they do not necessarily lead to it, according to respondents’ narratives. Such grievances may—in combination with primary drivers such as the presence of recruiters in communities— contribute to radicalization, however, most young individuals in Tajikistan do not become radicalized despite facing similar disadvantages and challenges.
Many respondents raised concerns about the areas bordering Afghanistan. Both community leaders and focus group participants reported that recruiters from Afghanistan, where they said, “life is harder,” easily cross the border.
6. What is recommended as a solution?
The study recommends a comprehensive set of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention measures to build resilience among vulnerable population and communities.
Primary prevention refers to inclusive policies and programs that address vulnerable individuals who are not yet radicalized but who are exposed to radical influences.
Secondary prevention refers to measures targeted at individuals who are at high risk of cognitive radicalization or violent extremism due to proximity to radical and recruiting networks.
Tertiary prevention refers to measures directed at radicalized individuals who have adopted extremist ideas, although they may not have committed any violent attacks.
While primary and secondary prevention measures address risk factors through development approaches, tertiary prevention focuses on tailored security and judicial measures, such as community policing, deradicalization, and reintegration of concerned individuals. All three levels of prevention are needed to ensure a proper impact of support measures in countries affected by radicalization and violent extremism.
In order to build youth resilience on the community level, respondents suggested such measures as ensuring better access to jobs, education, and skills, engaging in dialogue with community members and youth on how to best mitigate the risks of violent extremism, involvement of parents in this dialogue, building the capacity of teachers and principals to positively influence parents and students and offer programs and extracurricular activities focused on violence prevention and development of critical thinking skills.
The study also proposes that policy makers and development partners should consider a wider range of development policies and programs for young people who have not yet been radicalized. Such an approach would also require addressing the grievances and perceptions of exclusion related to poor local governance by district and sub-district administrations, and lack of affordable access to services and economic opportunities.
7. Will the World Bank finance the recommendations of the study in Tajikistan?
This research did provide critical inputs to the design of three projects – the Socio-Economic Resilience Strengthening Project, the Rural Economy Development Project, and the Rural Electrification Project – collectively referred to as the “Tajikistan Resilience Strengthening Program” and financed under the RMR instrument. The projects focus on vulnerable communities along the border with Afghanistan. By strengthening local institutions and promoting dialogue with citizens, creating youth inclusive services and livelihood support, and creating new economic opportunities in community-based tourism and agribusiness, these projects aim to help Tajikistan mitigate the risks of fragility.
The study is intended to be a useful input to other programs, planned and ongoing, financed and implemented by various development partners working in Tajikistan.
8. Did the Government of Tajikistan support the findings of the study?
The World Bank and Government of Tajikistan have been working closely on the fragility agenda for the past several years as part of the joint efforts to design the three projects mentioned above, funded under RMR to benefit vulnerable communities. The Government has been taking active measures, in cooperation with countries in the region and organizations, such as the UN, OSCE and EU, to prevent and address radicalization and violent extremism. This study will support these ongoing efforts and will add value by offering informed concrete actions to strengthen youth and community resilience with constructive solutions.
Many partners in the Government of Tajikistan provided their support and inputs during the study preparation.