Given the increase of violent extremism across Europe, training first-line professionals and generally including civil society has been considered crucial to early detection, prevention, and counter the phenomenon. While (local) governments and international institutions have decided to increase their investment in educating and training practitioners, it is difficult to have a clear picture of the set of practices and tools currently in use, define what’s effective as well as which results may be transferable to other training settings.
At national level, the available CVE training material varies extremely from a country to another, not only in terms of content offered, typology (online or offline) and providers, but also for quality (i.e. evaluation, trainers’ professionalism, valuable sources used, etc.) and quantity (i.e. variety of training material or number of trainings’ providers). This lack of linearity among countries and the variety of scenarios might be explained by three factors. Firstly, some European countries have more experience in dealing with such phenomena as they have been facing terrorist threats for a longer time and have, therefore, developed counter strategy way before others. Moreover, violent extremism varies from a country to another (e.g. right-wing, left-wing extremism, anarchism, Islamism) and, lastly, the adoption of different tools and approaches are explained by the variance of legislation and criminal law.
According to a research funded by the MINDb4ACT project on the training content available at EU level, some general trends can be identified. First of all, the majority of trainings target Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) only and they mostly focus on prison and educational contexts. As a consequence, there is scarce access to the material and there is a risk to do not take enough in account other identified vulnerable contexts for radicalisation such as the Internet and media or the local level. Moreover, while the training provider might change from country to country (i.e. Public Institutions, Universities and/or NGOs), little material is available and general information regarding the trainings are usually not directly accessible or public. Most interestingly, not all courses are evaluated and those evaluated tend to limit to methods such as participants satisfaction surveys. Without a proper evaluation, it is difficult to define effective practices and actually determine their impact.
At European level, the situation is slightly different. Several European and international entities developed their own training and programmes on prevention of radicalisation, that might be used and adapted by national institutions. Training activities are organised by EU agencies (e.g. CEPOL), EU networks (e.g. RAN, CEP, EPTA, Efus), or international organisations such as OSCE whose trainings in the Balkans were used to edit the toolkit titled Preventing Terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalisation that Leads to Terrorism: A Community Policing Approach.
Also, EU-funded projects facilitate training materials through manuals or by creating online platforms able to collect useful information on the trainings, teaching materials and to evaluate results. This is the case for the DERAD and TRAINING AID projects and the training platform, called HERMES– recognised as good practice by the Council of the European Union in May, 2019– a valuable platform for training professionals in prisons. HERMES hosts, by now, 26 national courses with more than 50 national contact points. It is a closed virtual campus accessible only by username and password, containing material used for training the trainers and content of each national course all over Europe.
While the latter is mostly focused on training of prison radicalisation, other platforms recently developed adopt a broader perspective. This is the case of First Line Practitioners platform (TAKEDOWN project), which provides training knowledge on the nexus between radicalisation, terrorism and organised crime, and Mindb4act Platform Counter Radicalisation, targeting P/CVE first-line practitioners, professionals and LEAs interested in four domains: prisons, schools, local initiatives and the Internet and media.
Overall, it is generally agreed that training professionals and sensitizing civil society can help prevent and counter violent extremism, therefore, efforts have been made at national and international level to provide training material in this field. However, the overview made in this article shows a general dispersion of the content that might drive to confusion and difficulty in identifying the material and practices that have real (positive) effects. In light of this, part of the MINDb4ACT aim is to make order in this field by: firstly, mapping the available P/CVE trainings; secondly, analyse and select the most relevant content; thirdly, create material for four main identified areas: prisons, local initiatives, schools and the Internet and media.