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How violent extremism links to violence against women

Alys Willman's picture
16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence
(This is part of the #16Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign. Look here for a new blog post on this topic over the next two weeks.)

The events of the past two weeks -- the high-profile extremist violence in Beirut, Paris and Mali –challenge us to  think about what it means to be female in groups that endorse or endure these appalling atrocities.   As a social scientist who has spent decades studying gender-based violence, I am reminded of a recent discussion at the United Nations General Assembly in September, where a panel of experts looked at “Integrating a Gender Dimension in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism: Policy and Practice.” 

Violent extremist groups “have attacked women and imposed limits on their dress, mobility, and freedom of expression for a long time. We know women’s full participation in society is good for everyone. We cannot let the lack of a gender focus be a barrier to progress anymore,” said Ingvild Stub, State Secretary in the Norwegian Prime Minister’s Office.   

Democracy and Crime: An Old Question Awaiting New Answers

José Cuesta's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية | Español

The recent political unrest and violence occurring across the world have revived an old question, one that is so straightforward that it rarely gets a straightforward and convincing answer: Does democracy fuel or quench violence? For decades, sociologists, historians, political scientists, criminologists, and economists have hypothesized numerous associations, predicting just about any result.

Let’s focus on democracy’s relationship with crime. Democracies have been predicted to fuel crime (conflict theory); decrease crime (civilization theory); initially raise and then decrease crime (modernization perspective); have no impact at all (null hypothesis); or have an unpredictable impact depending on the development of their political institutions (comparative advantage theory).

In a recently published paper, I argue that the many existing explanations relating crime and democracy suffer from what I describe as an “identification” problem. The different explanations are not necessarily exclusionary in terms of their determinants, mechanisms, and predictions, which makes testing those explanations a rather difficult business. Furthermore, predictions are imprecise. This is unsurprising when dealing with concepts as fluid as democratization, political transitions, and democratic maturity. Arguments talk vaguely of early and late stages and of short or medium terms to describe the processes’ dynamics. The result is a broad range of predictions consistent with various hypotheses simultaneously.