African man taking a walk on stony slopes and sand dunes in the Sahel

Compromising Dignity? Preventing Violent Extremism in the Sahel, Africa


British Academy (Heritage, Dignity and Violence) and Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)

Total value of project


Project team

Dr Chuck Thiessen (PI) CTPSR; Justine Coulidiati (Co-I) Thomas Sankara University, Burkina Faso/Sahel Women’s Platform (SWP); John Cuddihy (Project Partner) CTPSR; Amadou Sall (Co-I) University of Nouakchott, Mauritania/Regional cell for the prevention of radicalization and violent extremism’ (CELLRAD); Dr Patricia Sellick (Co-I) CTPSR

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Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University (Lead); Thomas Sankara University, Burkina Faso; University of Nouakchott, Mauritania


Sahel Women’s Platform (SWP), Burkina Faso; Regional cell for the prevention of radicalization and violent extremism’ (CELLRAD), Mauritania


November 2019 - September 2022

Project overview

This project responds to the experience of policy-makers and practitioners working on ‘preventing violent extremism’ (PVE) who find policies developed and implemented under the rubric of PVE to be ambiguous and vague which can lead to dignity being compromised. This mixed-methods research in the G5 Sahel region will generate tools appropriate for use at multiple levels which i) enable stakeholders to think together about violence as it manifests itself in actual events and processes ii) bring into the open diverse conceptualisations of dignity and the way it is compromised by different PVE actors and iii) explore heritage as a source of symbolic and instrumental resources for the prevention of violence. Inspired by interdisciplinarity, this research moves beyond state-centric models of engaging with ‘extremism’, recognizes that states, themselves, can be the source of insecurity, rights abuses, and indignity, and uncovers the power of individuals and communities to change society and politics.

Project objectives

This research project aims to inform understandings, shape perceptions and provide evidence on the challenges of preventing violence and the opportunities for sustainable peace in the G5 Sahel region wherethere is high unmet need and low research capacity. Specifically, this project aims to:

  1. Advance and deepen our understanding of violence as it is experienced in actual events and processes in the G5 Sahel region, a complex context where the populations have undergone rapid change as their world is reshaped by industrial capitalism, the post-colonial state has become a source of success and centralized power, migration, media and international trade have expanded horizons, and groups labelled ‘extremist’ operate.
  2. Bring into the open and shape perceptions of the challenges facing (sub-)national decision/policy makers arising from the conceptual dissonance surrounding human rights and security within the dominant discourse on the prevention of violent extremism (PVE). We will interrogate what development impact this has in terms of compromised dignity in the context of PVE interventions.
  3. Provide evidence for what kind of heritage provides symbolic resources, and how this heritage can be used to mobilise people to prevent violence and act together with dignity to reshape society in fulfilment of the UN pledge that ‘no one will be left behind’.
  4. Last, this project aims to reflect an understanding that ‘the world is not linear, advanced-versus- backwards’ (Amadou Sall (Co-investigator), Huffington Post 06 December 2017) and that UK and Sahel based researchers will learn from each other in an equitable and mutual partnership.
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