Call for Researcher to conduct "Youth Perspectives on Violent Extremism Research" in Jordan

 

ActionAid is an international organization, working with over 25 million people in more than 40 countries for a world free from poverty and injustice. ActionAid started working in Jordan- Amman since 2006. Since then, it has been focusing the work to end poverty and promote sustainable development in areas across Jordan. 

ActionAid ARI implements the United Communities Project as part of our comprehensive approach for youth empowerment, anchored in our fundamental understanding that a successful strategy to address youth vulnerability requires a preventive and long-term approach.

I. Background and Project Rationale

In recent time, the threat of violent extremism has reached new dimensions. While a global phenomenon – exhibited through the attacks in Europe, Africa and Asia - the Middle East, with its multiple devastating crises, is increasingly vulnerable to the acts and spread of extremists groups. Meanwhile, the Syria crisis is into its sixth year and has further destabilized the humanitarian, economic, social, and political situation in the Arab world.

More than 9 million Syrians have left their homes since the outbreak of the war in 2011. In neighboring countries, including Jordan and Lebanon, public services are overwhelmed, infra-structures are strained, economic growth is decelerated, and unemployment is rising. Further, increasing tensions between the local communities and refugees are creating a fertile environment for extremist narratives.

So far, the response at the state-level, as well as the local and regional/international levels, remain insufficient and misguided and do not keep pace with developments.

These developments place youth in Jordan at particular risk. Jordan’s youth unemployment stands at almost twice the global average, with up to 35.8 % of youth without work*.

Factors such as lack of opportunities, poor access to education, experiences of injustice and persistent socio-economic inequalities, lack of local ownership, and diminishing social cohesion all contribute to increasing the vulnerabilities of youth.

Remarkably, recent reports indicate that Jordan has the highest number of foreign fighters in neighboring countries per capita 2000 person*.

While the exact causes of youth vulnerability to violent extremism remain disputed, recent studies suggest that recruiters take advantage of the vulnerable situation of youth, their perceptions of social and political grievances, and feelings of injustice and exclusion**. Networks, social activities, and peer-to-peer interactions are used to incrementally introduce youth to fundamentalist ideas.

This systematic approach is complemented by powerful social media machinery focused on winning hearts and minds. Given the complexity of the youth radicalization challenge, prevention efforts must focus on taking a comprehensive and context-specific approach to the problem.

Preventive interventions should be centered on providing community-based alternatives to radicalization, including involving youth in civic and community groups, mentorship, and creating other avenues for youth to build individual identities and self-realization, as well as communal dependability.

II. About the Study:

ARI’s recent review of the community centers program generated evidence around social tension and lack of co-existance between various community groups. This has shown to be another core motive for the vulnerability of youth to extremism.

ActionAid implements the United Communities Project as part of ARI’s comprehsive approach for youth empowerment.

This approach is anchored in ARI’s fundamental understanding that a successful strategy to address youth vulnerability to extremism requires a preventive and long-term approach tackling the root-causes of vulnerability that cannot be based primarily on law-enforcement and security measures.

This includes addressing challenges such as social exclusion and marginalization, the experience of economic and social injustice, lack of faith in public institutions, and lack of engagement in mainstream political channels as well as eroded social cohesion.

In line with this, ActionAid ARI seeks to conduct a contextual study in four areas in Jordan using mixed methods approach to identify root-causes for youth vulnerability to extremism in four targeted areas in Jordan (Mafraq, Madaba , Russaifa and Zarqa) to generate primary qualitative data.

This study should unpack the complexity around youth vulnerability to extremism based on each community settings.

A. Complexity of factors relating to Youth and Violent Extremism

It is imperative to consider the factors relating to youth and violent extremism in the most holistic way possible. The following diagram details the various facets of these complexities – the study of which is central to the success of this study.

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Existing evidence on these factors can be directly related to areas to explore within the study. The following are the most relevant points of reference from three sources: our engagement with an expert-level meeting with UNICEF, an initial document developed with UNDP, and a UN Women report on the violent radicalization of women.

1) Communities affected by conflict are less resilient:

a. Increased radicalization can exacerbate limitations on women’s freedoms and further restrict their rights.

b. Those who are radicalized are often isolated from the broader community and those who hold a dissenting opinion often feel pressured to keep silent about their opinions – further marginalizing them.

c. The Syria+ conflict shows that kin connections and social networks are acting as both enablers and constraints on engagement with violent extremism.

2) Poor livelihood conditions of young people:

a. According to a UN Women Study, 82% of those interviewed believe that social and economic pressures encourage young men and women in Jordan to join radical groups or engage in radical ideologies.

b. Triggers for women and girls’ radicalization include economic and financial pressures.

3) Culture of violent extremism flourishes with a lack of coexistence:

a. Women are seen as primary pillars and influencers of their families, making them a target for violent groups to impact their ideology as a first step to influencing the family.

4) Political frustration and low civic engagement of youth:

a. Engagement with violent extremism often offer a sense of identity and purpose, as well as community – this can be highly appealing to those subjected to injustice.

b. There is a need to engage youth when planning interventions.

c. State-citizen distrust and limited political participation position youth as the major demographic at risk of joining violent extremist groups.

5) Counter-radicalization policies are not informed:

a. According to a UN Women Study, participants expressed skepticism towards he ability of state security institutions to respond to risks of radicalization – only 7% communicated that they would report suspicious behavior to state security as a first choice.

b. Communities show a willingness to participate in government or local de-radicalization efforts, as well as programs led by international organizations, as long as these programs do not challenge religious norms.

c. Restrictive terminology is considered a limitation, while alternate language broadens the scope of inquiry.

d. The role of families has been emphasized as needing to become more central to programming – in particular the role of mothers influencing the behavior and decisions of their children.

III. Study Objective

This study aims at informing ARI programming under the United Communities Project to understand root-causes of youth susceptibility to extreme violence in Jordan - with specific contextual analysis for the four areas of interventions, respectively.

IV. Research Questions:

As a basis, the definition of violent extremism for the purpose of this study will be the following:

“Illegitimate engagement in violent activities in order to achieve ideological, political, or religious goals.”

Within the study, parallels should be drawn between the following focal questions and the aforementioned factors related to Youth perspectives on violent extremism:

1) What are the specific drivers for the appeal of young people to extreme violence at local level?

2) What role can community institutions play to address youth vulnerability to violence? And what can be the community-based strategy to foster cohesiveness and reduce youth vulnerability to extremisms?

3) What can be the major awareness and conscientisation messages that the UC project can deliver at the local level?

4) What role can women play in their communities to enable them to understand and address radicalization for men or women? Can the potentiality for women to influence be capitalized on?

5) How to influence national youth and CVE strategies to adapt community-based strategies to prevent violent extremism? How can we influence the national youth strategy in relation to this issue?

V. Research Methodology

The study will use the mixed method approach using both semi structured interviews as well as FGD.

The study will be based on 2 levels of research:

1) National level phase

2) Community level Phase

Proposed Interviews:

The national level and community level phases will be based on snowballing technique. The below list can be expanded based on the findings and reflections from those interviews:

National Level:

- MOPPA Combating Violent Extremism Unit in Amman

- Mercy Corps Amman

- UNICEF

- ACTED

- Other actors

Community level:

- Municipal councils

- Youth centers administration

- Government Cultural centers

- Key informants interviews with community leaders

- FGD with women at community centers

- FGD with young people

VI. Desired Researcher Competencies:

The contracted party should have familiarity in the following:

- Youth centered programming

- Youth issues in Jordan

- National relevant policies on CVE, civic engagement, decentralization and youth.

- Preventative and remedial strategies for youth vulnerability to violent extremism.

- Ability to sensitize sensitive issues to local communities.

- Ability to engage with government stakeholders at both local and national level.

- Data collection and analysis

VII. Resource to be provided by ActionAid ARI:

- Final social cohesion papers.

- Access to target youth at community centers level

- Technical support on research signature by PSU team

- Desk spaces at ARI office in Amman for the desk review days.

- Interview reporters.

VIII. Research Timeline

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The above timeline is tentative; consultants are encouraged to propose a clear time line based on availability in the technical and financial offer. However, ActionAid prefers to concluded those activities by Thursday 22nd June 2017. The conference will come later in mid of August.

IX. Application Process

Interested candidate please send your technical and financial offer along with your updated resume to ruba.ahmad@actionaid.org by May 15th 2017. Please include YPVE research in the subject line. The position may be filled before the end of the deadline so early applications are encouraged.