Offline and online Radicalisation Prevention Holding back Extremism and Upholding Security
Priority AxisTechnological and Social Innovation
Lead partnerCity of Mechelen
Project budget4 427 671 €
ERDF amount2 656 603 €
In European cities, the threat of radicalisation towards all types of political violence, such as jihadi, extreme right, hate crime, is a significant and rising societal concern. Since 2014, more than 30 fatal attacks have been carried out in Europe. Over 50.000 Islamist violent extremists were counted in 2017, while the number of extreme-right arrests increased. Counterterrorism experts describe the youth at risk as solitary adolescents estranged from family, friends and social institutions, with a lack of positive prospects, both real and perceived, and in search of belonging. This social alienation makes them receptive to a groomer’s attention. Both policymakers and field workers acknowledge the need to engage with young people more effectively to reduce the risk of radicalisation.
ORPHEUS will develop new integrated and aligned services for online and offline prevention of political violence by extending the prevention service together with private and social institutions, and with young people and their educators as central actors.
- offline safe spaces for vulnerable young people to express their grievances,
- online safety for young people to protect them from online grooming,
- guidance and policy recommendations for adoption of an integrated prevention method in the 2Seas area.
Cross border approach
No single Member State is able to fully respond to the current threats of political violence on its own. European countries and regions have developed their own approaches in reaction to the acute threats of political violence: local programmes have been developed on prevention, early detection, online recruitment, counter discourses and different collaboration structures subsist across Europe. However, the expertise on these topics remains limited and fragmented, and is not easily transferred to other countries and regions. Whilst extremism groups and narratives operate across national boundaries, it is crucial that our response is transnational. In order to fill the knowledge gap on prevention, local practices need to be researched, tested and adapted on a cross-border level.
In 2018, we wrote in the AF: "The threat of radicalisation and political violence is a significant and rising societal concern.The social alienation of vulnerable young people, makes them receptive to grooming. Policymakers and field workers acknowledge the need to engage with young people more effectively. Whilst extremism groups and narratives operate across national borders, it is crucial that our response is transnational. In order to fill the knowledge gap on prevention, local practices need to be researched, tested and adapted on a cross-border level." In 2020, more than ever, the project objective is relevant and becoming one of the central questions of our time.
In the second year of the project, the plan was to start implementing the prepared pilots and to engage with young people, professionals and policy makers. Beginning of March 2020, our partner meeting in Mechelen focused on these upcoming activities. However, 2020 did not go as expected. The global pandemic altered in almost every way our plans. The unpredictable and consecutive lockdowns, different in each country, made it very difficult the allign activities. As much as possible, pilot partners focused on keeping in touch with our target groups. On the other hand, the consortium decided to focus also on the online development of trainings, communication and tools. Last but not least, we experimented with more online communication, not only between partners and professionals, but also with young people. The importance of meeting vulnerable young people online cannot be stressed enough. Partners with a lot of expertise in this area (PP1, PP6 and PP8) developed and tested methods.
Concerning project management, it became clear that the lockdowns would delay activities that needed face-to-face contact. The partnership decided to develop a major modification and an extension of the deadline. However, the budgettary margin seems to be to tight, and we are still searching for a solution. The major modification will be submitted beginning of March 21. Discussing and preparing the major modification took a lot of our time. Together with the unpredictable situation, the experiments on online activities, led to a postponement of the finalisation of the registration system. The registration system will be active in February 2021. The follow-up on the project was done during partner meetings, working group meeetings, the cloud solution with shared documents, and individual online meetings.