Processes of polarisation have become increasingly present in Europe. Among the factors of such trends have been: financial crises and political instability; identity and cultural politics; the misuse of crises by political actors; the rise of irregular forms of media and social media. Such polarisation has occurred alongside austerity policies and the rise of international terrorism related to religion and ideology (e.g., Islamic fundamentalism, white supremacism). In response, policy actors from various sectors (including security, welfare, education, media) have made efforts to address the causes of polarisation, prevent violent radicalisation and extremism and better manage cultural and religious diversity.
On September 23, 2020 the webinar “Preventing Violent Extremism and Radicalisation: Indicators for Good Governance” welcomed leading international experts who attempted to tackle the complex questions associated with such issues. An innovative toolkit on State-Religion Governance Indicators (SRGI) developed by CSD was presented by Dr. Liliya Yakova, Director of CSD’s Sociological Program, and Rositsa Dzhekova, Director of CSD’s Security Program. The SRGI aim to transform intricate academic knowledge into a simplified scheme that allows for identifying trends and monitoring developments in state-religion relations, governance of religious diversity, violent radicalisation and efforts to address it. Comparative insights from the implementation of the indicators with respect to more than 20 countries were also discussed.
The webinar was moderated by Prof. Anna Triandafyllidou, Professor & Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration, Ryerson University. The panel included representatives of the EU policy-making community, academia and civil society: Prof. Paul Taylor and Senior Research Associate Dr. Sheryl Prentice, both from Lancaster University, Moritz Konradi and Eszter Karácsony, Programme Managers at the European Forum for Urban Security (Efus), Rik Coolsaet, Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Ghent University, Matthieu Orsi from the European Commission DG Home, and Maarten van de Donk, Account Manager at the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN).
Two other recently-developed instruments were also presented at the event- a set of indicators crafted by the University of Lancaster measuring societal polarisation and a toolkit by Efus designed to help local authorities address polarisation and enhance social cohesion. The discussion explored the strengths and added value of the three sets of indicators as well as their limitations and potential caveats. The panelists agreed that it is challenging to transform complex societal contexts into simplified models that allow for quantification. The question of how these instruments could inform policy-making, particularly at the EU-level, was also discussed.