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    • PREVEX: A New Chapter in BCSP’s Research of Violent Extremism

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    • Date: 04 February 2020

      photo: PREVEX
      photo: PREVEX
      Why are some communities more likely to experience violent extremism than others is one of the core questions of the PREVEX project, in which the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) is one of the partners. Participants gathered for the project kick-off at Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels, on 3-4 February 2020.

      Researchers from all over the world taking part in the project met in Brussels to discuss how PREVEX can improve the understanding of violent extremism. BCSP Program Director Predrag Petrovic is one of the project researchers, who are coming from different disciplinary backgrounds, with competences and extensive experience in the regions and on the topics examined.

      “BCSP team has researched drivers of radicalisation and violent extremism in Serbia. Through this project, we will focus more on the side of prevention - how to strengthen resilience in local communities,” Petrovic explained.

      Engaging policy-makers, academics and citizens

      Besides the discussions about the project, a public event titled “Preventing Violent Extremism in the Balkans and the MENA” was held. It was an important step in engaging both policy-makers, academics and the general public from the very beginning of the project, providing the researchers with a unique opportunity to receive input and feedback.

      Kari M. Osland from NUPI presented the PREVEX core questions.

      “How come two boys who grew up in the same neighbourhood in difficult living conditions, went to the same school, experienced a similar upbringing ended up with one being radicalised and becoming a foreign fighter, while the other ended up working in the same factory as his father? This question is at the very core of the PREVEX project - why people living in enabling environments choose not to get involved in violence,” Osland highlighted at the event.

      A current weakness of the research on violent extremism is that it is easier to explain why people turn to violence and take up arms than why they do not. Morten Boas from NUPI explained that PREVEX partially turns this around by investigating why some communities display much greater resilience to violent extremism ideologies than others.

      photo: PREVEX
      photo: PREVEX

      Comparative mapping of the preventive strategies adopted by the EU and other key actors, as well as identifying lessons learned and suggest how to upscale best practice, is one of the project's main objectives. Djallil Lounnas from Al Akhawayn University explained that some North African countries have chosen a pathway of repression, while others are based on the idea that repression does not work.

      "The latter are the ones we can learn lessons from," argued Lounnas.

      Niagalé Bagayoko from the African Security Sector Network and Edina Becirevic from Atlantic Initiative both pointed to the importance of investigating different forms of extremism. Bagayoko highlighted that while Jihadi groups are an integral part of violent discourses and conflict dynamics, it is important for PREVEX to look at how other non-state actors such as self-defence groups, communal militias, and criminal networks contribute to violent extremism.

      „We also need to look at ethno-nationalist driven violent extremism in the case of the Balkans,“ Becirevic warned.

      Andréas Hatzidiakos from the European External Action Service - EEAS provided interesting insights from the EU’s perspective, giving the attendees a sense of what sort of knowledge policy-makers already have, need and want. He pointed to the fact that the EU is a new actor in the field of counter-terrorism, which traditionally has been in the hands of member states.

      “There is currently a strong focus on dialogue and exchange of best practices with partner countries to help each other. This is also to ensure ownership by local authorities - while the EU is facing many of the same problems as its partner countries, this does not mean that the EU has all the answers,” Hatzidiakos concluded.

      What's next?

      In the next 3 years, PREVEX will investigate cases of occurrence and non-occurrence of violent extremism in a comparative perspective by carrying out context-sensitive and in-depth case studies in the Balkans and the broader MENA region, including the Sahel.

      Follow PREVEX via the website, Twitter and Facebook

      This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870724. The content reflects only the authors’ views, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
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