From 2017 to 2019 the British Council carried out a first Western Balkans-wide field research into violent extremism as part of the UK government funded Extremism Research Forum.
Six country level reports, as well as the regional Western Balkans report, identified, that in addition to Islamist extremism, there was an overall threat of radicalisation, principally from far-right nationalism and other groups that are instrumentalizing tensions in the region.
Several drivers for different forms of violent extremism of in the region were identified:
- citizen grievances
- identity problems
- systemic factors such as economic deprivation, corruption, and political and institutional dysfunction
- influence of close-knit family/relative networks.
While research into the drivers of religious extremism and the development of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) policies in the Western Balkans has proliferated, other types of violent behaviours have remained less studied. For that reason, the British Council supported a pioneering effort to map what triggers an individual’s engagement in different types of violent behaviour in Kosovo. In particular:
- participation in foreign wars
- nationalist-based riots and
- social-based violent protests.
The analysis was based on an experimental and innovative survey conducted in Kosovo in 2020 with a sample of 3,005 respondents. The survey looked at what were perceived to be the key drivers towards the different violent behaviours. It presented respondents with stories of violence and explored three factors commonly associated with individuals’ engagement in violence:
- frustrated ambitions – conceived as a mismatch between education achievement and involvement in the workforce
- alienation – conceived as one’s detachment from the community/society and
- peer-influence – conceived as the influence that a close relative has on an individual’s decision to engage in violence.
The report’s unique finding is that there is a common factor – an individual’s frustration – that the community perceives to cause them to engage in all three types of violence. The analysis shows that these societal perceptions about violence suggest some important immediate and long-term policy implications and recommendations.