The Counter-Terrorism Module of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) provided several working definitions for the term Violent Extremism (VE). In Australia, VE is defined as “the beliefs and actions of people who support or use violence to achieve ideological, religious or political goals. This includes terrorism and other forms of politically motivated and communal violence.” In the USA, the FBI defines VE as the “encouraging, condoning, justifying, or supporting the commission of a violent act to achieve political, ideological, religious, social, or economic goals”. Meantime, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) defines violent extremist activities as the “advocating, engaging in, preparing, or otherwise supporting ideologically motivated or justified violence to further social, economic or political objectives”. In Canada, VE is where an offence is “primarily motivated by extreme political, religious or ideological views”. Some definitions explicitly note that radical views are by no means a problem in themselves, but that they become a threat to national security when such views are put into violent action.


In tackling VE, Southeast Asia proves to be the most experienced and in a much better position compared to most countries. As defined in the Philippines’ National Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (NAP P/CVE), VE is a belief system that drives individuals or groups to commit violent acts. This belief stems out of a context of repression, poverty and other so-called “push factors” made attractive by “pull factors” such as money, power, sense of purpose desired by the recruits, and charismatic VE leaders. The aim of VE is the furtherance of causes that are ideological, religious, political, social and/or economic in nature. It fosters hatred that may lead to intercommunity violence. According to the document published by the United Nations Development Plan (UNDP) in 2020 titled “State of Violence: Government Responses to Violent Extremism in South-East Asia”, VE occurs when a tightly defined group feels threatened by the world outside and decides to use violence against members of an out-group. These groups may be defined by political views, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or a combination of these characteristics. Groups are driven primarily by their own political experiences even if they are inspired by global movements or outside leaders. The UNDP states that South-East Asia has seen various violent groups wax and wane over the years. 


Other references:

  • Parliament of Australia (2015). ” Australian Government measures to counter violent extremism: a quick guide.” 
  • Public Safety Canada (2009). ” Assessing the Risk of Violent Extremists.” Research Summary, vol. 14, no. 4.
  • USAID (2011). ” The Development Response to Violent Extremism and Insurgency: Putting Principles Into Practice.” USAID Policy, September 2011. P. 2.