Knowledge Transfer from Researchers to LEAs is a Must in Countering Radicalisation

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Participants in the conference on Terrorism Risk Assessment Instruments, hosted by Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (UCSC), believe that the utilisation of platforms is imperative for the swift transfer of knowledge from researchers to LEAs.

On 14-15 March 2024, an international conference, entitled Terrorism Risk Assessment Instruments, was conducted in Milan, Italy, in the context of the communication strategy of CounteR Project, funded through the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme.

As key organisers, Prof. Marco Lombardi, Dr. Barbara Lucini and Prof. Carlo Galimberti from UCSC delivered opening remarks.

During a round table on findings and perspectives from CounteR, Dr. Ilaria Vergine from UCSC presented conclusions from fieldwork. Dr. Vergine pointed out that the more young people attend university, the better they are prevented from potential radicalisation risks. According to her, to successfully fight radicalisation, a deep understanding of the environment, the networks, and the culture is necessary. Generalising may be a useful approach but, after all, every single case has its own specificity, the researcher concluded.

Prof. Simone Tosoni talked about media practices in the context of the radicalisation process: in his view, a non-media centric approach is necessary in three research areas: first, the effects of the exposure of research subjects to radicalisation; second, the ways in which radicalised subjects and groups use social media platforms; and third, how internet is reshaping radicalisation.

During the conference, examples were provided of five common radicalisation practices: propaganda, networking, recruitment, indoctrination and training, and organisation. According to the panellists, a key lesson is that all of these have both online and offline activities, operating in complex media landscapes.

Next, all panellists shared insights, cases and tools from their fieldwork experiences. Tools included the Belgian Common Database, which encompasses data on individuals potentially identified as home-grown terrorist fighters, and the Greek National Police (Hellenic Police) approach to addressing radical behaviour and managing street riots. Dr. Nick Petropoulos (Hellenic Police) and Dr. Sylvie Dias (Portuguese Policia Judiciaria) presented experiences from their national perspectives on risk assessment.

The second conference day offered a panel discussion. In a keynote speech, Prof. Kevin McDonald from the Middlesex University compared today’s community-centred terrorism to the one from the 1990s which, in contrast, had just national and country-level dynamics. One predominant principle in today’s terrorism can be summarised with the mind-set of “You are going to contaminate me”.

Italian subject-matter expert Dr. Alessandro Boncio stressed that all tools are used for ex-post research, since LEAs are focused on pre-empting attacks. This context requires for early warning tools to be used. The expert noted that it is important to use diverse tools, while a unified strategy is a must in the context of the transnational nature of threats. To this end, LEAs need to cooperate more effectively. In his turn, HFoED’s Dr. Tobias Mattes noted that the world faces significant challenges with retrospective narratives (ex-post) and that there exists a disparity between research efforts and the responsiveness of law enforcement authorities. According to the expert, this means that a more rapid knowledge exchange is needed. He concluded that the utilisation of platforms is imperative for the swift transfer of knowledge from researchers to LEAs, since in most cases LEAs are staying behind of events.

The other panellists included Dr. Maria Mirada from Insikt AI, Prof. Darko Trifunovic from the Serbian INIS Institute, Dr. Violet Baert from CUTA, Prof. Francesco Antonelli from the University of Rome-3, Prof. Liana Daher from the University of Catania and Dr. Massimo Cozzolino from the Italian Islamic Confederation.

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