New report recommends collective response in fight against jihadist radicalism

Written by Valentina Colombo on 5 October 2016 in Opinion Plus
Opinion Plus

European governments must share their experience and create a common agenda against radicalisation, argues Valentina Colombo.

New report calls for European governments to share their experience and create a common agenda against radicalisation | Photo credit: Fotolia


In a recent report, the European Foundation for Democracy and the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) analysed some of the key hotbeds of jihadist radicalisation, in a bid to better understand the root-causes, triggers and dynamics of the phenomenon, and to suggest strategies to counter it.

The study considers eight areas across Europe, the US, North Africa and the Caucasus, that have proven to be main incubators of violent extremism.

Although the report confirms the findings of previous analyses in acknowledging the absence of generalisable predictors, it does find some patterns and commonalities that may constitute the basis for an effective counter-radicalisation strategy.


RELATED CONTENT


The report shows that hotbeds are always focused and localised within specific social and geographical contexts. The Molenbeek commune in Brussels is a notorious example but the same paradigm applies to other areas under consideration.

Three factors contribute to the root-causes of individual radicalisation: grievances related to the local environment, purely personal issues and an extremist ideology fostered by charismatic and popular preachers. The mix of these factors creates a fertile recruitment ground as the sociological and psychological issues create an identity vacuum that is filled by, powerful and radical ideologies.

The strength of ISIS is in its capacity to frame local and personal triggers - thanks to a powerful media structure - within a simple, universal and international narrative. This creates a sense of identity, belonging and brotherhood, and of a life mission.

A crucial aspect of the recruitment process highlighted in the study is that peer-to-peer interaction is much more effective than generic propaganda - as high-quality as the latter may well be, as in the case of ISIS. This is because radical messages are tailored to the specific individual and context. Such direct interaction may take place online or in person, but the latter seems to be a more frequent and effective way to recruit where family links are more common than in Al Qaeda.

A series of recommendations for policymakers emerges from the report. Primarily, that terrorism will not be defeated purely by military means. Policymakers must look at the root-causes. Radicalisation should be considered as a comprehensive, multi-factorial occurrence, to be addressed in both its structural and temporary factors. Focusing only on contingent aspects and single issues related to individual, social or economic situations does not draw a complete picture.

An effective counter-terrorism strategy should be based on three main pillars (two preventive and one remedial). Inclusion policies that are based on development, education, equality measures and urban regeneration, to minimise political and socio-economic triggers, an effective counter-narrative strategy, including education to tolerance, diversity and liberal-democratic values and de-radicalisation programmes aimed at disengaging committed militants.

None of this can be achieved by single states - let alone local communities - in splendid isolation, for the threat is a global one and knows no borders, as tragically shown by the recent wave of attacks in France and Belgium.

Therefore, European governments should share their experience and create a common agenda against radicalisation. The EU could help member states in overcoming the challenges related to high costs, trouble in determining the effectiveness of counter-radicalisation programmes and lack of collaboration between intelligence services.

In this way the EU could at last, help create, a comprehensive and coherent collective response to a global threat that affects us all.

About the author

Valentina Colombo is a senior fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy

Share this page

Tags

Categories

Partner content

This content is published by the Parliament Magazine on behalf of our partners.

Related Articles

Tajani: May must use Florence speech to present concrete proposals
18 September 2017

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani has urged UK Prime Minister Theresa May to use her major Brexit speech in Florence on Friday to “come clean” with the British public about how much...

Manfred Weber: UK still thinks it can cherry pick in Brexit talks
14 September 2017

Parliament's EPP group leader, Manfred Weber, has again accused the UK of cherry picking in the current Brexit talks.

Theresa May to meet with MEPs
12 September 2017

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has agreed to discuss Brexit directly with MEPs, it has emerged.

Related Partner Content

Peregrine falcon down-listing an opportune time to reflect on CITES convention
23 September 2016

The Peregrine falcon's down-listing is an opportune time to reflect on the CITES convention, writes Adrian Lombard.

Is Ukraine still capable of being a bridge between the west and the east?
12 April 2017

Following the European Parliament’s vote on visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens, there is renewed hope for Ukraine’s European future, writes Eli Hadzhieva.

Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: The EU must act now
7 April 2016

The EU must apply pressure on Armenia to respect the ceasefire and abandon the illegal occupation of occupied regions of Azerbaijan, says Azay Guliyev.