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Radicalisation Awareness Network

28 January 2013
by eub2 -- last modified 28 January 2013

How to sharpen Europe's tools to prevent violent extremism? A High Level Conference in Brussels on 29 January 2013 aims to give the answers to these questions, based on the work carried out by experts and practitioners in the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN), launched by EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström in 2011. Policy proposals include training local police to detect signs of radicalisation into violent extremism, and providing de-radicalisation or exit programs for members of extremist groups. By bringing together field workers with ministers, academia and local authorities, the conference aims to take the EU's work against extremism to a new level.


What is the RAN?

The Radicalisation Awareness Network, launched in September 2011, is an umbrella network connecting people involved in preventing radicalisation and violent extremism throughout Europe.

First liner practitioners from different Member States and Norway, such as social workers, religious leaders, youth leaders, policemen, researchers and others who work on the ground in vulnerable communities can meet, each in their area of expertise, in order to exchange ideas, knowledge and experiences.

EU-wide conferences like the one organised in Brussels on 29 January provide opportunities for the practitioners to make recommendations and interact with policy makers ('empowering local actors to prevent violent extremism').

How can a network help to counter violent extremism?

Fighting terrorism and violent extremism is not only a question of security measures, says the European Commission. The best prevention, it says, is to stop people from getting involved in violent extremist activities in the first place, or to convince them to turn away from violence promoting ideologies. Prevention, especially at an early stage, cannot be left to a small number of authorities and actors to deal with. The nature of the phenomenon requires a wide-ranging cooperation and multitude of expertise.

As a 'network of networks' the RAN includes eight working groups consisting of practitioners and researchers with concrete and practical involvement in preventing radicalisation issues.

    It helps practitioners in identifying good practices and promoting the exchange of experience in different fields, such as how to provide support to, very often young, individuals who want to stay out or break with violent extremist groups.

    It provides an opportunity to share experiences between countries, and raise awareness and knowledge within new groups of practitioners.

    It provides feedback from practitioners to policy makers and contributes to policy processes at national and European level.

How is the RAN structured?

The activities of the RAN are organised in working groups that are focusing on priority areas relevant for radicalisation: - the possible role of local and community police in preventing radicalisation leading to terrorism or violent extremism; - the use of voices of victims of terrorism in addressing radicalisation; - the role of the Internet and social media communication as a counter-messaging vector; - the prevention of radicalisation among the youth; - the way deradicalisation efforts can be supported;- the possible role of prison administration and other actors working in prisons and during probation in the fight against radicalisation; - the role of the healthcare sector in raising awareness of radicalisation; - the role of the diaspora groups in countering radicalisation and on the issue of 'foreign fighters'.

What do practitioners recommend to policy makers?

In the preparation of the High Level Conference, the different RAN working groups have produced recommendations to policy makers on three main topics:

    1. The role of local actors in preventing violent extremism

    2. The role of Diasporas in the process of violent extremism and their engagement in its prevention

    3. Communication on violent extremism, and counter-messaging via Internet.

Such policy recommendations include:

    At local level, develop frameworks for multi-actor cooperation and information sharing between first line practitioners from schools, police, health, municipalities, youth workers, and other partners. Such across-the-board cooperation could be done on a regular basis, or it could be activated on demand, depending on evolving needs. It would be important for awareness raising, detection, and to find appropriate and tailored solutions. Within these frameworks, procedures could then be developed to raise and follow up concerns about individuals or groups.

    At local and/or national level, help individuals and vulnerable groups to leave violent extremism, be it by proposing exit strategies or de-radicalisation programmes. This type of work is often best done in cooperation between several actors. For instance, closer cooperation between authorities and first liners who are able to establish a trustful work relation with the subject should be sought.

    At local, national and EU level, ensure better support to victims of terrorism. Victims' voices are a powerful tool for prevention and de-radicalisation, but only if victims feel comfortable with sharing their story and have the necessary support available.

    This requires in particular facilitating the development of associations of victims of terrorism as such and supporting their communication projects and activities.

    For instance the use of Internet can make the general public aware of the risks or consequences of radicalisation.

    Spreading stories about victims on the Internet, for example on discussion sites, social media, blogs, etc. can be useful, but it remains difficult for the victims themselves to ensure such online presence. Their efforts could best be carried out with the help of professionals and social awareness communication companies.

    At local or national level, establish support networks for families of prospective and departed 'foreign fighters'. Successful programmes have been carried out in a few EU countries, targeting women, families, and community members close to violent extremists.

    At local, national, EU and international level, engage former extremists to deconstruct violent extremist narratives. Former foreign fighters or former violent extremists in general can carry a strong message as they have their own personal experiences to share. For instance, a former fighter may explain about the realities of war and terrorist training camps, which are not as romantic as envisaged by those dreaming about going there. The message will come across more strongly when delivered by someone culturally close to the audience.

    At national and/or EU level, set up a group of resources from public relations companies, film industry and other relevant partners to support local actors in developing counter-narratives. By using their expertise in how to get a message across to a specific audience, this group could, for instance, use the narratives of victims and former extremists, and help promote effective alternative messages online.

How does the Commission support the RAN?

The Commission plays a key role in the coordination and the facilitation of the work of all actors involved in the network.

The Commission provides the means necessary to set up the RAN platform and its Technical Assistance and Support ('RAN Secretariat') as well as the functioning of the network with a maximum financing of € 8 million until 2015. The RAN Secretariat takes care of logistic, technical and administrative support.

What else is being done to prevent radicalisation?

Apart from funding the set up and functioning of the RAN the Commission is financially supporting a number of projects aiming to tackle radicalisation leading to violent extremism.

In 2013, prevention of terrorism and countering radicalisation remains one of the priority subjects of the programme on Crime Prevention - ISEC. A total amount of € 53 million is available to support projects in this field. Examples of supported projects are amongst others:

One of the many anti radicalisation projects co-funded through ISEC in the past was the 'COPPRA' project implemented by the Belgian Federal Police. The project developed tools and training needed for early detection of signs of radicalisation by front line police officers.

With an ISEC grant, the Danish Ministry of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs ran a 3-year pilot project on deradicalisation. The project 'Deradicalisation - targeted intervention and mentoring' started in 2009. It developed tools for providing long term support and advice to young people in order to break with (and stay out of) extremism.

A series of handbooks have been produced to help municipalities, institutions, housing associations, police, etc. in their efforts against various forms of extremism, especially in youth environments.

Source: European Commission