Empowering Pakistan's Civil Society to Counter Violent Extremism
Pakistan is one of the most strategically important countries for the United States and the Muslim world. Since 9/11, the United States has focused on securing a more stable and democratic Pakistan that is capable of countering violent extremism (CVE); however, despite investing over $30 billion, Pakistan remains a base for numerous U.S.-designated terrorist groups. In lieu of a robust government-led strategy, Pakistan’s civil society has had to take the lead in CVE. Although civil society organizations (CSOs) have developed innovative peacebuilding initiatives at the grassroots level to counter violent extremism, they must overcome numerous obstacles in creating a nationwide movement. With this challenge in mind, how can the United States and the international community adopt a more systematic approach to strengthen Pakistan’s civil society? This working group will address this question by assessing the capacity of existing CVE programs in Pakistan, determining good practices in engaging local actors and identifying regional challenges to implementing programs. This working group will also consider how lessons learned in Pakistan can be applied in other countries that are at risk of violent extremism. Finally, the working group will develop recommendations for national and provincial strategies to empower civil society as a bulwark against extremism.