Although it represents perhaps the most important part of CVE, most governments and NGOs have been leery of trying to turn around young men and women who have expressed support for terrorist organizations -- and are thus in prime positions to be recruited -- but have not broken any laws. This is because they worry about violating laws against support for designated terrorist organizations. For example, a government development agency or an NGO will not want to put an al-Shabab fanboy -- even a law-abiding one -- in their programs for fear of being seen as aiding a terrorist group. And, even they decide it's acceptable to try and reform the al-Shabab fanboy, they risk huge political backlash if he later engages in terrorism.
Reorienting even one of such individual in a more positive direction through a CVE program could tangibly reduce the number of potential violent actors in the world, which is the whole point of counter-radicalization. Yet governments usually prefer to either turn these would-be terrorists into intelligence assets or, if they are uncooperative, to build cases against them.
Governments and NGOs also expend their energies on reintegrating former, known terrorists into society and on reducing mass public sympathy for terrorist organizations. The latter, it seems, is meant to do the work of more politically sensitive, turn-around programs that don't typically receive funding. Decreasing mass sympathy, the argument goes, will eventually decrease active support. But this does not appear to be the case. To be sure, a well-orchestrated media campaign can drive down public sympathy for a terrorist organization like al Qaeda. But, while this has occurred in the years since September 11, the level of active support for the organization has remained small but constant -- suggesting that there is no correlation between sympathy and support, at least in the short term.
Ideally, both kinds of programs would get funded: those that aim to decrease mass sympathy and those that seek to reform law-abiding supporters of terrorist groups. A single government, however, is unlikely to fund the latter programs because of the political risks involved. A collection of governments, like the one that will oversee the new global CVE fund, is even less likely to do so.
Despite this probable flaw, the fund is a major improvement over the status quo. It will be easier to finance and implement certain small, locally designed CVE initiatives. The real test of the fund's impact, however, will be whether the work of programs receiving money leads to fewer terrorist attacks. At the end of the day, that is the only measurement that matters when human lives and $200 million are on the line.