A European project will examine what leads youngsters into violent extremism in order to improve measures against it

The UNESCO Chair for Intercultural Dialogue in the Mediterranean participates in the CONNEKT project to study the factors that can influence the radicalization of young people in 8 countries in the Balkans and Mediterranean

The project members met for the first time in Barcelona.

CONNEKT (Contexts of Violent Extremism in the MENA and Balkan Societies) is an European research project led by the European Institute of the Mediterranean with the participation of the URV’s UNESCO Chair for Intercultural Dialogue in the Mediterranean. The aim is to study what it is that can lead young people between the ages of 12 and 30 to become radicalized into violent extremism. The study will investigate young people from Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Bulgaria.

Representatives from the 14 organizations that make up the consortium which will carry out the project over the next three and a half years (until August 2023) have already met in Barcelona to begin the research.

CONNEKT focuses on the importance of socioeconomic and socio-political inequalities in processes of radicalization. The project will analyse seven factors: religion, digitalization, economic deprivation, territorial inequalities, transnational dynamics, socio-political demands and educational, cultural and leisure opportunities. And these factors will be evaluated at three levels: the transnational / national, the community and the individual. The idea is to determine how these factors are interrelated and what significance they might have in the process of radicalization.

The ultimate objective is to use the research results to recommend tools and measures for the prevention of violent extremism. In this regard, the project differs from earlier approaches that have looked at prevention which often is taken in the ambit of security and which blurs the limits between detection (understood as the identification of an imminent threat) and prevention. Through the research, CONNEKT aims to recommend prevention strategies in the social ambit based on the views of young people and, in particular, aimed at local and authorities and social stakeholders, which will provide the societies under study and the European Union with tools to deal with a phenomenon as multidimensional as violent extremism.

The project will be developed by an interdisciplinary team made up of 14 members from 12 countries, including universities and think tanks as well as local authorities and stakeholders from civil society.

The study will consist of interviews, surveys, focus groups, seminars and rounds tables in each of the countries studied and transnationally, as well participatory activities during the Skopje Youth Forum (North Macedonia) and Tarragona Women’s Forum, which will be held towards the end of the project to collect ideas and suggestions to strengthen the role of women in the prevention of violent extremism.

It is calculated that the project will generate more than 60 publications, including reports for each country on approaches to violent extremism and possible factors in radicalization according to the three levels of analysis, and maps of factors that lead to extremism. All of this will lead to policy documents so that the conclusions can be transferred to the political and institutional ambits. Increasing awareness in Europe of the factors leading to radicalization will be the second phase of the research with studies relating to prevention and the creation of tailor-made tools to prevent violent extremism. Finally, the results will be used to formulate recommendations in a final document on prevention strategies for the European Union.

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