Identifying key knowledge gaps in the area of preventing violent extremism was the main focus of a recent EU Radicalisation Awareness Network Centre of Excellence (RAN CoE) research seminar in Vienna (12-13 April 2016). The seminar brought together the RAN editorial board, leading researchers, and practitioners to discuss and debate the latest radicalisation research findings and consider how these findings are relevant for practitioners. Participants, having reviewed research papers that had been prepared for each RAN CoE working group, were tasked with critiquing the latest findings, providing additional insight and, in particular, identifying what research is required to best serve the needs of practice in the area of preventing violent extremism.
Ms. Orla Lehane, from VOX-Pol Coordinator institution Dublin City University, contributed to break out sessions focussed on Communication and Narratives (C&N) chaired by Dr. Akil Awan (RHUL); Youth, Families and Communities (Y, F&C) chaired by Dr. Daniela Pisoiu (OIIP, IFSH, and VOX-Pol); and a session on Victims and Narratives of Victimhood, chaired by Dr. Orla Lynch (UCC). The contributions made by Ms. Lehane were based on insights from the large number of interviews she has conducted with PVE/CVE practitioners in the EU and the USA.
Presentations made at the seminar included ‘Prospects and Limits of Research into Radicalisation,’ by Prof. Kevin McDonald from Middlesex University. Here he drew upon work in the area of school shootings and the idea of the gamification of jihad. The Syria Strategic Communications Advisory Team offered an insight into the work in which they are involved with regard to the creation of ‘counter-narratives,’ and the EU Commission’s Alberto Contaretti outlined projects, including VOX-Pol, PRIME and IMPACT, that are currently in receipt of EU funding. Mr Contaretti noted that the RAN objectives are considered important for anyone applying for funding through these schemes and should be integrated into proposals.
Panel discussions included ‘Bridging Academic Research and Practice – Where Should Research Focus to be Relevant for Practice?’ on the first day and ‘Next Wave of Research Topics and Themes’ on the final day, building on the discussions carried out over the two days.
The RAN CoE research seminar was hosted by the Austrian Institute for International Affairs (OIIA). Dr. Daniela Pisoiu, of the institute, organised an additional panel discussion on the evening of 12 April on the issue of Foreign Fighters. Ms. Lehane also participated in this discussion along with Dr. Lasse Lindekilde of Aarhus University; Anita Peresin, Senior Adviser for the Office of the National Security Council in Croatia; Dr. Bart Schuurman from the University of Leiden; and Dr. Magnus Ranstorp of the Centre for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defence College and Quality Manager for RAN CoE. Ms. Lehane spoke of the challenges facing PVE/CVE practitioners in light of the UK’s PREVENT policy. Dr. Lindekilde presented research into the radicalisation of Danish foreign fights and spoke about the ‘Aarhus Model’, while Dr. Shuurman spoke to the situation in the Netherlands and efforts to reintegrate foreign fighters there. Dr. Peresin offered some insights into ISIS’ western female foreign fighters and the discussion was closed with an overview from Dr. Ranstorp.