The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of research and severely hindered inter-disciplinary, cross-regional and collaborative approaches. Researchers have been faced with the challenge of mitigating health threats, social distancing requirements, and the risk of isolating the scientific community from front-line practitioners and policy makers. At the same time, the pandemic further alienated some of the most vulnerable to radicalisation and violent extremism individuals. Their available social space was confined within closed communities and within the influence field of rigorous online extremist propaganda. These trends outline newly emerging methodological and conceptual gaps in the research of radicalisation and violent extremism.
In response, the CONNEKT research partnership dedicated to mapping drivers of radicalisation among youth in MENA and Balkans, of which CSD is part, held the webinar Researching on radicalisation and violent extremism in times of COVID-19 on November 27, 2020. The seminar welcomed more than 60 participants, among which academic experts, policy makers and practitioners from Europe and MENA. They elaborated on possible research tools and perspectives intended to help researchers to approach the issue of prevention in a contextually and conceptually sensitive manner. CONNEKT’s theoretical and conceptual frameworks were discussed in three parallel sessions. Each session centered on a distinct level of analysis – micro, meso or macro. The guided discussions focused on seven relevant pre-determined drivers of radicalisation and violent extremism. The panelists paid specific attention to the interrelation between the pandemic’s particular consequences and the established drivers of radicalisation.
The seminar concluded with a joint session, which involved policy makers and institutional representatives. The participants deliberated on the ways in which research on radicalisation and violent extremism can be useful to respond to the needs and concerns of policy-makers at an EU level. The deliberation grew into a consideration of the essential components, required in the effort to build local community-based prevention initiatives to challenge the trends of social polarization.