Behavioural insights

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The Approach

Behavioural insights, through a combination of diverse disciplines such as psychology, behavioural economics, cognitive science and social science, examines how people think, behave and make decisions. This approach focuses on understanding what actually influences the decisions and behaviours of people, rather than relying on assumptions of how they should act based on traditional models. In doing so, it ensures policies and programmes reflect actual needs and motivators for greater impact and effectiveness. 

Insights from behavioural science help us gain a better understanding of the threat of terrorism and violent extremism, which require evidence-based research and analysis of individual, contextual and structural factors affecting human motivations, actions, interactions and responses. There is no single set of drivers that push or pull an individual into violent extremist action. Research shows the presence of certain recurrent drivers, which either in isolation or in combination with other factors, lead to radicalization and violent extremism conducive to terrorism. Many of these drivers have behavioural roots and require behavioural tools such as education, strategic messaging, rehabilitation, youth empowerment, employment facilitation, skills development, community engagement, gender equality, inclusion and conflict resolution. 

A behavioural insights approach enables the identification of risk and resilience factors and the development of empirically validated interventions for policymakers and practitioners to effectively prevent and counter violent extremism. 


International Hub on Behavioural Insights to Counter Terrorism

The ‘International Hub on Behavioural Insights to Counter Terrorism’ has been established as a UNOCT Programme Office in Doha, the State of Qatar, through an Agreement signed between UNOCT and the State of Qatar on 15 December 2019 to perform three core functions: 

  • conduct and advance research in behavioral sciences to better understand the drivers and factors contributing to radicalization leading to violent extremism and terrorism; 
  • provide capacity-building assistance to Member States, regional organizations and civil society partners to develop and implement programmes, projects and initiatives that integrate behavioral insights to counter terrorism; and 
  • promote communication, outreach and partnerships to share knowledge, expertise, experiences and lessons learned on behaviorally informed counter-terrorism interventions. 


On 8 September 2020, UNOCT signed a Contribution Agreement with the Government of the State of Qatar regarding the latter’s financial contribution of US $5 million to be used over a period of three years for the establishment of the International Hub and the implementation of its programme of work. 

The International Hub will leverage the expertise of local, regional and international counter- terrorism actors, and enhance programming cooperation and coordination with the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact entities operating in the field for impactful and “all-of-UN” programme delivery on behavioural insights to counter terrorism. 


Soft Launch of International Hub on Behavioural Insights to Counter Terrorism

The United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), in partnership with the State of Qatar, held the Soft Launch of the International Hub on Behavioural Insights to Counter Terrorism, established as a UNOCT Programme Office in Doha, on Monday, 7 December 2020, from 9:00am to 10:30am, New York time. The launch was attended by Member States, including representatives of Diplomatic Missions in Doha, international and regional organizations, civil society organizations, and the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact entities. 
The soft launch provided an opportunity to discuss the concept and application of behavioural insights in the counter-terrorism context, including how research-based and empirically validated behavioural interventions can help support the development and delivery of counter-terrorism policy and programming. The launch event featured remarks from the Heads of the Counter-Terrorism Compact partners, who provided their respective perspectives, experiences and good practices on the integration of behavioural insights to prevent and counter terrorism. It also included a presentation by UNOCT on the Doha Hub, including its programme of work on integrating behavioural insights into counter-terrorism through research, capacity-building, and the promotion of information sharing and partnerships, as well as other programmatic presentations by the State of Qatar and subject matter experts. 

Event information

Soft Launch of the International Hub on Behavioural Insights to Counter Terrorism was streamed live on UN WebTV, Monday 7 December 2020, from 9:00am to 10:30am, New York time, and 5:00pm to 6:30pm, Doha, Qatar time.

Watch the full recording of the event on UN WebTV


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