Reports

Cross-regional study on radicalisation in MENA and Balkans

17 April 2024

The Contexts of Violent Extremism in MENA and Balkans Societies (CONNEKT) project started in 2020 with the aim of exploring the drivers of radicalisation and violent extremism (VE) among young people in four countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region (Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, and Morocco) and in four countries in the Balkans (Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, and Kosovo). The framework of the project included seven drivers at the outset: religion, digitalisation, economic deprivation, territorial inequalities, political grievances, transnational dynamics, and education, cultural and leisure opportunities. This list of drivers, which is not exhaustive, was analysed at three levels, namely at the macro level, which involved the institutional approaches and top-down perspectives on radicalisation and VE; the meso level, which involved the community level engagement by exploring specific case studies; and the micro level, which explored the perceptions of young people as the primary target group of the project.

This report seeks to share the breadth of knowledge gained over the past three and a half years of the project across the levels, drivers and the regions under analysis. We also reflect on the shortcomings and challenges of researching this topic across two regions, eight countries and the various lenses of the diverse partners involved in the project. As a result, the report compares and summarises the findings in order to advance the understanding of radicalisation and VE in the two regions and beyond. As such, the report focuses on five comparative aspects, which combine the drivers of radicalisation that have been identified in the project; namely: models of governance, nexus of alienation, alternative spaces, interconnectedness, and gender and youth.

The last aspect of gender and youth, particularly as a context rather than a filter of analysis, highlights the main lens through which this report is developed. Considering that youth is the main target of the project, the report highlights the experiences of young people across the eight countries in order to elucidate the contexts in which they live, work, and dream. Throughout the implementation of the project, the context of radicalisation itself became a driver; namely, it was increasingly clear that young people often felt stuck within their context, unheard or uncared for. Whether this context leads to alienation, radicalisation or apathy, the patterns that emerged should ring an alarm for political actors and policy-makers. The last part of the report focuses on recommendations for policy-makers in order to encourage a closer engagement with youth and a more thoughtful approach towards addressing their needs.  

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