Authored by The Combined Threat Assessment Group (CTAG)
Published in National Security Journal, 03 July 2022
Download full PDF version – The Violent Extremism Ideological Framework Explained (748 kb)
Following the lead of Canadian counterparts and working with representatives from a number of agencies involved in Aotearoa New Zealand’s counter-terrorism efforts, the Combined Threat Assessment Group (CTAG) led the development of a uniquely New Zealand framework intended to be a specific, objective and accurate representation of the threat from all forms of violent extremism relevant to New Zealand. This was a deliberate effort to seek a set of accurate terms that avoided unduly securitising legitimate, non-violent political, ethnic and religious communities and beliefs, while simultaneously not adding unwarranted legitimacy to violent extremist ideologies. This article outlines and explains the Violent Extremism Ideological Framework increasingly in use across security sector agencies – and is written by those whose created it.
Language is important. The words that we use do more than communicate; they implicitly set out our values and frame how we think about issues. This is true in the terrorist and violent extremist language space, and how we describe those who would do us harm.
The Combined Threat Assessment Group has undertaken an extensive review of our language relating to violent extremist and terrorist ideologies, on behalf of Aotearoa New Zealand’s counter-terrorism agencies.
The updated language, which has been used by many government agencies for the past year, seeks to describe the broad ideology types that violent extremists subscribe to, without linking them to any particular national or ethnic background, religion, or legitimate political behaviour. In doing so, we are mindful of the unfair burden placed on peaceful people that was inherent in earlier language.
The new terms improve the way in which we talk about violent extremism. We acknowledge they will not be universally agreeable and will require regular consideration and updating as our thinking – and the violent extremism landscape – evolves.
Violent extremist and terrorist ideologies are complicated, with significant overlaps across them. The terms used are therefore broad, and intended for use in describing the wide landscape, rather than being specific enough to describe an ideology relating to a particular individual or attack.
Finally, we hope by circulating these terms more widely, people will understand what we mean when we use them, bringing us closer to a common understanding of the problems that face us; and, in turn, making us more able to have conversations about solutions. My thanks to the Combined Threat Assessment Group for their work in developing these terms.
1 The Combined Threat Assessment Group are a combined agency unit within the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service. The identities of the authors are therefore unable to be published. The Foreward has been penned by Andy George, Counter-Terrorism Strategic Coordinator, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.