Opportunities for Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) in the Western Balkans

This project combines collaborative research and dialogue initiatives on the Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia. Together with four local research partners, we explore why some communities are particularly affected by individuals joining foreign violent extremist Islamist groups, while other communities may show greater resilience to the phenomenon of violent radicalisation. Based on the research findings, we then conduct policy outreach and local dialogue initiatives, in cooperation with local stakeholders and affected communities, in order to explore and develop strategies to prevent the violent radicalisation of young Muslims in the Western Balkans. Particular focus will be placed on the role of civil society actors (especially youths and religious leaders), in close collaboration with state institutions, in tackling the drivers of vulnerability and building resilient communities. In addition, the project will conduct intra-regional comparative analysis and exchange, as well as cross-regional peer-exchange with PVE practitioners and experts from the MENA region.

Timeframe

July 2017- December 2018

The Western Balkans countries have been in the spotlight of international attention in recent years due to their position as Europe’s top exporters of volunteers fighting for radical Islamist organisations in countries such as Syria and Iraq.  Yet local and regional stakeholders and affected communities are still grappling with finding effective responses and preventive measures to tackle this phenomenon. Thus, there is a strong need for the region to develop inclusive and targeted programs which can help building resilient states and communities against violent extremism.

Approach

Through the combination of comparative research and practice-oriented local and intra-regional exchange in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia, this project  explores the respective factors influencing local communities’ vulnerability or resilience to violent Islamist extremism. Through local outreach and dialogue activities with local stakeholders and affected communities as well as public authorities, the project will also develop collaborative ways to improve PVE programming at the local, national and regional level. The project will also probe into the potential benefits of connecting PVE activities with regional peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts in order to tackle the root causes of violent radicalisation and extremism. Finally, the project will bring in comparative experiences in the prevention of violent extremism from countries in the MENA region during a dedicated peer-learning workshop, in order to inform the research, community dialogue and outreach activities.

Aims and outcomes

The main purpose of this project is to offer empirically-based policy advice to local, national and international actors on how to improve PVE programming in the Western Balkans. Furthermore, the project aims to contribute to the academic knowledge on the factors of community vulnerability or resilience to violent extremism. These overarching goals will be implemented through four specific objectives: (1) conduct in-depth field research in the four case study countries and comparative cross-case analysis on the factors of vulnerability and resilience to the phenomenon of violent Islamist extremism; (2) support cross-regional peer-advice and exchange with MENA experts on how to best address the root causes and driving factors of violent extremism in the Western Balkans; (3) formulate, present and disseminate policy recommendations for relevant local and national target groups on how to improve PVE programming in the four countries; and (4) conduct pilot dialogue activities in local communities in close coordination with youth representatives, religious authorities and local institutions, in order to explore, ‘test’ and operationalise relevant project findings and recommendations. 

Regions

The project activities will be carried out in four Western Balkan countries, namely Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia.

Project inception meeting in Berlin

On 19-21 July the project’s inception meeting was held in Berlin. It brought together an interdisciplinary Advisory Board members comprising of five experts in the field, and representatives from our four partner organisations with the aim of discussing jointly the project focus, design and methodology. News >

This project is carried out in collaboration with:

The project is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.

List of related publications:

  • Between Salvation and Terror: Radicalization and the Foreign Fighter Phenomenon in the Western Balkans. link >
  • Religious Radicalism and Violent Extremism in Albania. link >
  • Report inquiring into causes and consequences of Kosovo citizens involvement as foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq. link >
  • Citizens views against violent extremism and radicalization in Kosovo. link >
  • Women in Violent Extremism: Lessons Learned from Kosovo. link >
  • Mapping the state of play of institutional and community involvement in countering violent extremism in Kosovo. link >
  • The New Lure Of The Syrian War - The Foreign Fighters’ Bosnian Contingent. link >
  • Salafism Vs. Moderate Islam - A Rhetorical Fight for the Hearts and Minds of Bosnian Muslims. link >
  • Assessment of Macedonia’s Efforts on Countering Violent Extremism, view from civil society. link >