Western Balkans: How to strengthen communities’ resilience to violent extremism?

11/08/2018

Countries in the Western Balkans have gained much international attention in recent years as exporters of foreign fighters. Since 2012, an estimated 900 people from the region have joined ISIS or similar organisations. Yet this phenomenon varies considerably from community to community.

Why are some communities particularly affected by extremism, yet others in similar socioeconomic settings remain almost untouched? We looked into this question together with local partners.

Based on interviews and observations in communities throughout Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia, four country case studies aim to find effective strategies to prevent and address violent extremism at the local level.

Currently, there is a lack of awareness regarding violent extremism in many local communities in the region. Also, negative attitudes towards the prioritisation of preventing violent extremism can be observed.

The country studies identify that main factors that contribute to community resilience include

  • Access to religious education, a strong sense of belonging to social communities, and a high degree of cross-community organisation
  • Coherence and leadership within the official Islamic Community
  • Educators and parents as positive role models.

Our initial recommendations for further action:

  • Institutional cooperation, both on the policy-making as well as on the community level, needs strengthening in all four countries to enable tailored programmes by and for the respective communities
  • A locally-led threat and needs assessment must inform programming by both international and national donors and policy-makers
  • Sustainable investment in and funding of the education and social work sectors are needed to ensure their effectiveness
  • More research needs to be devoted to the multiple, reciprocal extremisms in the region in order to avoid singular stigmatisation of the Islamic communities.

The four case studies will be discussed at the expertconference Community Perspectives on Preventing Violent Extremism from the Western Balkansat the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin on 20 November 2018 (for further information, please contact c.huch[at]berghof-foundation[dot]org).

A detailed comparative study that will identify similarities and differences between the respective country contexts and make recommendations for future prevention strategies will be published in December 2018.

Report Albania Download (pdf) >

Report Bosnia and Herzegovina Download (pdf) >

Report Kosovo Download (pdf) >

Report Macedonia Download (pdf) >