Policy-Papers
|Micro-level drivers

Policy Paper on Countering and Preventing Micro-Level Drivers of Radicalisation and Violent Extremism in MENA and Balkans

27 March 2024

Preventing violent extremism (PVE) requires a nuanced understanding of how micro-level drivers of violent extremism (VE) unfold in local community contexts and within the general PVE frameworks of national institutions. This policy paper recommends specific PVE policies and measures that can tackle drivers of VE that are examined within the CONNEKT project.

The recommendations are based on the micro-level analysis of the drivers of VE that are identified in the project through non-representative national surveys of youth between 15-30 years old in seven of the countries examined in the CONNEKT project in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) (Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco), and the Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Bulgaria, Kosovo, and North Macedonia).

The surveys were conducted in person in the period March-April 2023, except for Egypt, where surveys were conducted online. In total, 1,244 young people participated in the survey from the MENA region (including 561 females and 577 males, 2 others, and 104 who did not provide their gender) and 1,604 participated from the Balkans. The data shows minor gender variation on institutional trust and leisure activities in the MENA region.

The policy paper discusses how youth experience the seven drivers of VE that are identified in the CONNEKT project (religion, economic deprivation, political grievances, social digitalisation, transnational dynamics, territorial inequality, and cultural opportunities) in their daily lives (Annex I offers a glossary explaining each of these drivers). These drivers are examined through their intersections with seven social contexts, also identified within the CONNEKT framework. These are: socialisation/education, economic and labour relations, urban and per-urban spaces, artistic and cultural creation, punitive justice system, ethnic community, and political and social participation (Anzil et al., 2022).

The analysis of individual drivers is based on the results of micro-level drivers at the country level, and the two regional reports for MENA and the Balkans. However, the analysis of micro-drivers of VE has highlighted the importance of local communities and, therefore, this analysis refers to specific examples from meso-level drivers in local communities, which have been analysed in CONNEKT case studies (Chirchi, 2022).
Since individual drivers of VE are experienced within local communities, the policy recommendations are mainly addressed to civil society organizations (CSOs) to reflect the centrality of local community PVE efforts. As the main organic actors in local communities, CSOs can harness local ownership of PVE national and local efforts. The recommendations also address national authorities, as well as EU policy-makers, albeit in a limited way, to signal the required multi-stakeholder engagement in national, regional, and cross-regional PVE efforts. This paper can be read in conjunction with the policy paper on macro-level drivers of VE (Anzil et al., 2022).

The findings reveal a prominence of political grievances as a diver of VE due to intersections with ethnic relations and institutional trust, as well as interactions with other drivers like transnational dynamics and social digitalisation. Another prominent driver is economic deprivation and lacking social mobility. The analysis demonstrates the complex interactions between drivers in both regions, and points to local, national and regional PVE priorities.

This report is written during the assault on Gaza in October-November 2023. The results discussed here refer to research data collected prior to this. The regional perceptions in MENA region have significantly changed during this assault with a sense of betrayal and shock at the dysfunctionality of United Nations (UN) bodies and international actors, including the European Union (EU), in enforcing a long-term ceasefire or truce on Israel. The double standards of European countries on the protection of Israeli civilians compared to Palestinians will translate in the dismissal of the EU as a respected actor and supporter of CSOs working to advance human rights, political participation, and PVE efforts in the MENA region (O’Callaghan et al., 2023). The analysis in this paper is constrained by two factors. First, due to the political situation in both Egypt and Tunisia that placed limits on some research activities, comparative data is curtailed. Unfortunately, quantitative analysis was not possible in Tunisia in early 2023, and the case studies on meso-level drivers have not been published. In Egypt, the quantitative survey was conducted online. Second, the quantitative data on individual drivers was not segregated by gender in the Balkans, and thus the paper does not include a gendered understanding of individual drivers in the Balkans. However, it does include references to the minor gender variations in the MENA region.

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