Preventing violent extremism and countering terrorism

Threats from violent extremism and terrorism have increased in recent years and have become more and more interlinked at local, regional, and international levels.

Violent extremism and terrorism are exacerbating existing governance and inequality challenges within countries and societies and increasing the risk of violent conflict.

Violent extremist groups exploit and reinforce divisions among social groups and undermine the social contract between citizens and their governments.

Women of all ages are increasingly becoming a target of extremist violence and terrorist acts, including the use of sexual violence and slavery to undermine their essential freedoms and rights. Terrorist groups also leverage on traditional gender norms and dynamics within certain societies to enforce violence and perpetuate extremist acts.

Our solutions

While a right in and of itself, gender equality and the empowerment of women within communities is also imperative for a more peaceful and just society.

At a regional level, UN Women works with regional entities to support the implementation of strategies to strengthen gender mainstreaming processes and interventions to prevent violent extremism.

At a country level, UN Women supports national partners in their fight against violent extremism. Focus is placed on prioritizing gender equality and women’s empowerment, promoting women’s participation in security decision-making processes in contexts affected by terrorism and in peacebuilding settings, which in turn lead to increased gender equality, social cohesion, and peaceful coexistence.

At a global level, UN Women works closely with the UN counter-terrorism entities to develop gender-sensitive and gender-responsive policies and processes. UN Women is also an integral part of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Compact led by the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, where it chairs the working group on gender-sensitive approaches (Gender Working Group).

UN Women organized a global digital consultation in 2020 seeking the views of civil society on the gendered dimensions of violent extremism and counterterrorism approaches. This was a joint project of the Gender Working Group, funded by the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre. Civil society participants summarized their recommendations in a public statement, which is being presented to Member States and members of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Compact ahead of the 7th review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in 2021.

UN Women’s approach to countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism is conceived and developed within the framework of the women, peace and security agenda (UNSCR 1325 and UNSCR 2242), and the UN Priority Agenda on Preventing and Sustaining Peace.

UN Women’s strategic plan 2018–2021 outlines our continued work and contribution to the prevention of violent extremism.

Download a two-page thematic brief on UN Women’s work on preventing violent extremism and countering terrorism.