|Violent Extremism

Country Papers on Prevention of Extremism

04 March 2024

INTRODUCTION by Tasnim Chirchi

This publication aims to share the findings of the second phase of WP5 research within the CONNEKT project. While the first phase of WP5 examined the drivers and social contexts of radicalization and violent extremism (VE) in the MENA region and the Balkans, this phase is focused on the factors of prevention. Both phases take place at the meso-level involving communities and local stakeholders and realities, in line with the project’s methodology. This work package is the backbone of the project methodology as the meso-level connects both the micro-level and the macro-level findings for a more refined understanding of the social contexts that can have a pivotal role in both radicalization and its prevention. This is also a level enabling a dynamic understanding of social phenomena being studied within CONNEKT.

The findings shared within this publication have been collected through 16 case studies, as two case studies were implemented in each of the 8 participating countries: Jordan, Morocco, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Bosnia Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Egypt and Tunisia. The research activities included 17 focus groups involving 147 youth between 18 and 30. As to the interviews, they have engaged 42 varied profiles from civil society activists to practitioners, experts and academics. The 16 case studies build on the multi-level previous findings on the drivers and contexts of radicalization and VE in both region to interrogate the factors of prevention as they are manifest on the meso-level, within community dynamics since the project considers communities as a central actor in the analyzed social dynamics. The conceptual framework guiding this second part of the research on communities is based on some fundamental methodological principles and theoretical considerations.

As WP5 emphasizes the role of communities in the examined social contexts, assessing community resilience as a central concept in the project’s theoretical framework at this level was crucial. The project addresses the challenge of assessing community resilience through a three-dimensional approach: awareness (recognizing radicalization as a problem), attitude (willingness to take action), and action (plans to address the challenge) (CONNEKT, 2021, p.9). These dimensions are pivotal in understanding factors contributing to community resilience. CONNEKT’s concept of community resilience emphasizes several key aspects:

  1. Emphasis on Community Resilience

    CONNEKT prioritizes community resilience over individualresilience, recognizing the historical oversight of the community’s role. It views resilience as acommunity attribute rather than an individual mindset (Torrekens and De Le Vingne, 2020). Thisemphasis aligns with the need to involve local and civil society actors in preventing violentextremism (PVE) to ensure effectiveness, ownership, and sustainability of prevention efforts.

  2. Departure from Passive Connotations

    CONNEKT’s view of resilience surpasses passiveconnotations linked with acceptance of the status quo. It rejects notions of resignation or uncriticalacceptance, advocating instead for societies capable of understanding and responding to complex events by utilizing or developing systems and practices to manage and mitigate shocks (Torrekens and De Le Vingne, 2020).

  3. Responsibility of State Actors

    CONNEKT adopts a critical stance on resilience that challenges undue pressure on communities, potentially absolving state actors of their responsibility to ensure broader human security. While community resilience is crucial, it should not shift all responsibility from those spreading extremist ideologies or from governments accountable for addressing the issue. The focus should be on building community agency without stigmatization (CONNEKT, 2021).

  4. Replicability of Positive Practices

    CONNEKT emphasizes identifying positive practices that can be replicated across countries and regions. This approach seeks to move beyond securitization-focused research and institutional approaches, enabling a more comprehensive investigation at macro, meso, and micro levels. Country research teams should explore practices offering learning opportunities for other actors, countries, or institutions, fostering new knowledge and understanding in preventing violent extremism (CONNEKT, 2021).

    These conceptual and practical considerations have guided the selection of the case studies. Within CONNEKT, combining prevention and intervention tools and adapting them to specific contexts is deemed crucial for effective prevention, reducing commitment and recidivism, and increasing resilience. Prevention is seen as a long-term social investment in building resilient communities. CONNEKT emphasizes a community-level approach, aligning with the need for context-specific and tailored prevention programs that consider subcultural dynamics, codes, and symbols of collective identity within social environments.

    CONNEKT adopts the classification of these factors within the methodological guidelines proposed in CONNEKT for researching and understanding prevention factors. The theoretical framework within the project categorizes prevention factors based on their nature or function, suggesting a classification into protective, resilience, and resistance factors.

    Protective factors are inherent to the community and naturally shield it from harm, such as demographic composition, geographical features, and economic conditions. While these factors can be bolstered or encouraged, they originate from within the community itself.

    Resilience factors encompass the practices, habits, rituals, laws, policies, and other tools developed by the community or institutions to adapt to change and counter negative influences that threaten the community’s well-being or cohesion.

    CONNEKT recognizes that some factors driving radicalization can also be turned into elements of prevention, either as protective or resilience factors. Although these factors have not been fully analyzed, previous research has hinted at their potential. For instance, while religion has historically been viewed as a primary driver of radicalization, religious education and literacy may serve as protective and resilience factors. Traditional religious figures and institutions respected by the community can promote resilience by establishing boundaries on the legitimacy of violence. Countries like Morocco and Jordan include religious leaders in their PVE strategies, indicating their potential impact. Interventions to enhance resilience in this area might involve providing PVE training for religious leaders, educating young people about religious principles, designing campaigns to reclaim religious narratives, and promoting interfaith dialogues.

    Education is another factor that can foster resilience. Youth representatives at the Cross-Regional Youth Forum in Skopje emphasized education as crucial for building community resilience, particularly education that encourages critical thinking and facilitates interactions between diverse communities. Exposure to different perspectives and openness are seen as key resilience factors. Potential interventions in the field of PVE might involve educating youth about their rights to empower them, promoting critical thinking and civics education in schools or alternative educational settings, and training teachers or youth workers.

    Identifying resistance factors is also important. These are defined as purposeful nonviolent actions against the root causes, drivers, and manifestations of violent extremism.

    On the basis of these conceptual considerations, the research teams engaged with various local communities and local stakeholders who helped them better gauge the various potentials of prevention in the studied contexts and formulate recommendations in this sense at the end of each report. Following the cumulative methodology of the project, the reports start by summarizing the previous findings on the factors and contexts of radicalization and then address the potential prevention factors revealed through the analysis of fieldwork findings.

    Related Publications

    04/2024 |
    Tackling Radicalisation Risks in the Balkans: Multi-level Complexities and Policy Solutions [+]
    04/2024 |
    Addressing Violent Extremism in the MENA Region [+]
    04/2024 |
    Cross-regional study on radicalisation in MENA and Balkans [+]