The European Union needs to know more and better about radicalization and prevent strategies. Alexandra Antoniadis, member of the European Commission, explains the main challenges faced in this field and why MINDb4ACT is considered to be a relevant project for its contributions and innovative approaches.

Understanding radicalization processes and developing prevention strategies has gradually become a priority in the European Union agenda. Despite the current and past initiatives on this field, there is still a general need in doing more and better in terms of research and policies. During the kick off event presenting the MINDb4ACT project in Brussels, Alexandra Antoniadis, Head of Sector Anti-Terrorism and Prevention in the DG Home in the European Commission, explained the main challenges on the field of radicalization and prevention strategies. MINDb4ACT is considered to be a relevant project for its contribution in an end-user centred approach.

 

Since 2005, after the Madrid and London terrorist attacks, prevent has been one of the core element of the European Union counter terrorism strategy. Ever since, prevention was one of the key pillars of the European Union and a priority of the European Commission agenda. “A comprehensive assessment recently made by the European Commission has given us the perception that we need to do more and better”, says Mrs. Alexandra Antoniadis. From such Commission’s findings came the need to fund projects on violent radicalization such as MINDb4ACT project, a good example in the field of radicalization research.

A very first point is that MINDb4ACT brings together all the relevant stakeholders. This is a  project made of 18 partners from 10 European countries, and it aims to involve civil society, law enforcement agencies, first responders and  other stakeholders involved in prevention or de-radicalization activities. “Without security officers’ knowledge, there is no proper analysis on this phenomenon and there is also probably not sufficiently targeted response possible,” says Mrs. Antoniadis.

Second, there is a need to involve and work better with Member States as well as with relevant practitioners and decision-makers and networks the European Commission has promoted so far (e.g. the Radicalization Awareness Network, the Communication Strategy Networks, the work on the European Union Internet Forum). “We all have to work together, we don’t have to start from a stretch, but to share our knowledge and collaborate all together”, says Mrs. Antoniadis, inviting the MINDb4ACT actors to engage on this challenge.

Third, “there is a need for evidence-based analysis, a need for comparative analysis and practical solutions”, declared Mrs. Antoniadis. To this concern, MINDb4ACT uses the “Living Labs” approach, a sort of participatory innovation scheme where different stakeholders will collaborate on an equal basis to exchange ideas and first-hand experiences, joining together to find new or better solutions. On the practical perspective, the main MINDb4ACT’s output is to develop 21 pilot projects in the 10 countries represented in the Consrotium. This means that, instead of just extending the academic knowledge about radicalization by publishing new findings and evidences, MINDb4ACT aims at creating new projects able to apply lessons learnt, evidence based actions in different areas and countries, together with a set of indicators in order to develop a validation toolkit that will enable the transferability or the adaptation to other contexts.

Moreover, creating accessible findings is necessary. “Often, research findings are not understood by policy makers and people who work on the ground”, says Mrs. Antoniadis, “if practitioners are not able to understand what are the research findings and neither they are able to understand how to apply them in a real life scenario then all the work will not have the impact that we need”. The practical outcomes that MINDb4ACT aims to create, by using experiences of different actors, will help covering this gap between research and prevent practices. I will also enhance the understating of the phenomenon and best ways to tackle it, including scientifically validated training for first line practitioners (with a focus on local police, social workers, judiciary and penitentiary system) and other relevant stakeholders from civil society.

Finally, in recent years the European Commission has increased its awareness on prison radicalization, asylum centres and the issue of self-radicalization. All areas that MINDb4ACT takes into account, by investigating radicalization in: prison centres, refugee camps, schools, cities and Media and the Internet. “This project is extremely holistic, we all know something about these areas but we need to know better and I’m glad MINDb4ACT is going to focus on these topics”, concludes Mrs. Antoniadis.