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CSD joins research partnership in the Balkans and MENA region to examine what drives youths towards violent extremism to improve prevention

Radicalisation is a controversial social issue given that it manifests itself in various ways and has multiple origins. Radicalisation is understood as “the process of developing extremist ideologies and beliefs” and violent extremism as “ideologies that oppose a society’s core values and principles”. Radicalisation and violent extremism cannot be explained outside a given social context, as their transformations move individuals to strengthen their ideological beliefs, to develop a polarized positioning towards those considered as antagonistic and to reinterpret the interactions that are mutually shared.

At a policy-making level, radicalisation has been assumed in a reactive manner due to the strong impact of terrorist attacks. Religion and identity have been at the core of the approach, and although other driving factors such as poverty, education, and social marginalisation have been added to the radicalisation equation, socio-political grievances, transnational dynamics, social perceptions and expectations, among others, have been neglected or not sufficiently explored in-depth. Concerning prevention, traditional approaches have been more focused on detection or identification than to preventive long-term measures per se. Therefore, prevention is sometimes addressed more as a firewall against potential violent actions than as a long-term social investment.

The Center for the Study of Democracy is part of a consortium of 14 organisations from 12 countries implementing the CONNEKT (Contexts of Violent Extremism in the MENA and Balkan Societies) initiative: a European research project that investigates what can drive youths aged between 12 and 30 from 8 countries – Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Bulgaria – into setting out on a process of radicalisation towards violent extremism. The initiative was launched with a public event on 10 February 2020 in Barcelona.

CONNEKT focusses on the relevance of socioeconomic and socio-political inequalities in radicalisation processes. Seven factors are in the focus of the analysis: religion, digitalisation, economic deprivation, territorial inequalities, transnational dynamics, socio-political demands, and educational, cultural and leisure opportunities. And these factors will be evaluated on three levels: transnational/state, community and individual. The idea is to determine their interrelationships and specific significance in the process that can lead to radicalisation.

The ultimate goal is, based on empirical research findings, to recommend tools and measures for the prevention of violent extremism. In this respect, the project moves away from the approach to prevention that is often taken in the field of security and that blurs the boundaries between detection (understood as identification of a possible impending threat) and prevention. Through research, CONNEKT aims to recommend prevention strategies from the social field designed based on the voices of young people ‒ and, in particular, aimed at local authorities and social actors ‒ that enable tools to be provided to societies of the study countries and the European Union to tackle a phenomenon as multidimensional as violent extremism.

You can find out more about CONNEKT in the official press release.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020

Research and Innovation Programme

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