Drugs, Violence, and Extremism: The Unexplored Connection

#Journey2Extremism Podcast

September 21, 2022

Today, marks the launch of the second episode of the spin-off podcast series, #ExploringExtremism, which examines the unexplored connection between drugs and violent extremism, looking into the subregion of Lake Chad specially.

The underpinning evidence emanates from the second iteration of the ”Journey to Extremism” research and signature dataset, ahead of the launch of the global report at the end of this year. It reflects key areas and perspectives that were underexplored in the first report, which has been captured in separate thematic briefs, supplementing the findings of the global report. In this way, the podcast seeks to offer an opportunity to tease out and reflect upon some of these complimentary emerging findings that derive from this research with other experts in the field.

Today, drug abuse has become a threat that poses a significant challenge to the physical and mental well-being of societies. Territories with a history of state neglect, low service delivery, cross-border management and control, and different sources of tensions represent havens for drug traffickers; facilitating transnational activities across borders, while providing financial havens for radical groups, critical to finance their insurgent activities. In addition, despite the ideal of purity promoted within many violent extremist groups, drugs have also been used as a powerful device for increasing performances within their ranks and social control. Yet, notwithstanding the severity of this multifaceted issue, the relation between drug use and violent extremism in West Africa and in the Lake Chad subregion particularly, has not been well established and there is very little evidential data on the implications for preventing and countering violent extremism, although we do know that there is a link between them.



Today’s episode will zoom in on and explore the broader connections and junctures between drugs and violent extremism. In the quest of understanding this phenomenon, it will look into the emergence and evolution of drug use within violent extremist groups, while also unpacking the gendered often underexplored aspects of drug abuse within violent extremism groups, further challenging the notion of women as passive actors in settings of violent extremism through the anecdotal, diverse and personalized accounts of women abductees and ex-wives to recruits in Boko Haram.

It will also look into drugs as a pathway for financing insurgent activities, exploring the possible intersections between illicit crime, drug abuse and violent extremist groups in highly ungoverned territories, on one hand, and as a possible source of revenue in contexts of corruption, on the other.

This podcast will convene three leading experts in the field, namely Mr. Tom Parker, an experienced counter-terrorism practitioner with UNODC in Nigeria and the author of "Avoiding the Terrorist Trap: Why Respect for Human Rights is the Key to Defeating Terrorism”, Ms Hauwa Shaffi Nuhu, a lawyer, essayist and a specialized reporter at HumAngle, covering under-reported layers of terrorism in north-central Nigeria with expertise in documenting the life stories of abductees in Boko Haram, and finally Mr Mustapha Alhassan, Programme Manager in Global Conflict Response and Prevention with the NEEM Foundation a leading crisis response organization in West Africa and key partner in the Journey to Extremism research process.

On the basis of their various expertise and complementarities, they will unpack and contextualize the complex factors around drug abuse and violent extremism and share their reflections and recommendations for holistically addressing this phenomenon through a PVE-lens.

The podcast was developed by the UNDP Regional PVE Project for Africa under the leadership of the Bureau for Africa and the Bureau for Arab States, in collaboration with the Oslo Governance Centre as a spin-off series ahead of the launch of the global UNDP flagship report  Journey to Extremism by the end of this year. The report reflects the perspectives of more than 2000 interviews across eight countries heavily impacted by this occurrence and its spillover effects, namely Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan. In the pursuit of unravelling why some individuals join violent extremist groups when others do not, and why some leave, when others stay in such groups, it seeks to unpack individual’s journey into violent extremist movements within Africa as well as their path and trajectories influencing their decision to leave such groups.

In this second season of the spin-off podcast series, we will focus on a separate topic each time, teasing out emerging, cross-cutting thematic findings from the emerging Journey to Extremism database - from distinct patters in child and forced recruitment to the broader intersections between violent extremism and drug abuse, with leading experts in the field.

Listen to the podcast on the PVE Portal with other research available, or tune in on Spotify.