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Excursus on causes, prevention, main actions implemented by the European Union

By Carlo Caloisi – Oct 5, 2022 – Article taken from Open Minds website – link:


The adolescent period is undoubtedly the time when a young person has the existential need to define his or her identity, so much so that he or she is much more exposed and therefore extremely fragile.

social inclusion and violent extremism

This stage of life becomes even more delicate for those who feel cut off from society, whether because of their ethnic origins, social background, sexual orientation or aspects related to relationship difficulties.

The progression of this condition, without the social context being able to provide answers to stop the process, means that such individuals, feeling socially excluded, end up manifesting their frustrations in violent extremism feeling self-validated in being able to unload their anger/aggression on the very ones from whom they feel rejected, not infrequently joining subversive organizations (e.g., terrorism).

In order to foster a deeper understanding of the psychological processes that not only, but particularly in youth, lead to this, it is necessary to know the causes.

Scholars disagree in defining the concept of radicalization that results in violent extremism. Broadly speaking, it refers to the short-term or long-term process of progressive adherence to an extremist ideology to the point of legitimizing or perpetrating violent acts.

It is also generally agreed that there is no single cause that leads to violent extremism.

In recent decades, countless models have developed to define them. Among the most widely recognized are those of R. Borum (4-stage model), F. M. Moghaddam (scalar model) and in recent years that proposed by a study commissioned by the European Union (RAN-Radicalisation Awareness Network).

The first involves four successive steps:

  1. grievance of the context in which one lives;violent extremism
  2. injustice (e.g. discrimination) that is directed towards external factors (from a group of individuals to society in general);
  3. attribution, one is polarised towards an enemy;
  4. distancing/devaluation, hence contempt, demonisation and dehumanisation of the perpetrator. This is the terminal phase in which some individuals may commit violent acts.

The second consists of 6 psychological ‘steps’:

  1. Ground floor: Psychological interpretation of material conditions;
  2. First floor: Perception of unjust treatment and how to combat it;
  3. Second floor: Transition to aggression;
  4. Third floor: Moral involvement;
  5. Fourth floor: Consolidation of sectarian thinking and terrorist organisations perceived as legitimate;
  6. Fifth floor: The Terrorist act and the indifference to tout-court inhibiting mechanisms.

The RAN (Radicalisation Awareness Network), instead, refers to a ‘kaleidoscope of factors’, as Magnus Ranstorp put it, in which from a series of main factors branch off others that, interacting with each other, create infinite individual combinations.

Here are the basic factors:

  • individual socio-psychological
  • social;
  • political;
  • religious and ideological dimensions;
  • role of cultural and identity aspects;
  • trauma and other triggering mechanisms

and those leading to radicalisation:

  • group dynamics;
  • radicalisers and reference figures
  • role of social media.

Once the causes have been identified, appropriate countermeasures must be implemented through the adoption of long-term prevention policies.

Among the possible protective factors , it is necessary to focus on a number of points, such as:

  • for political aspects, dedicating oneself to active citizenship;
  • for ideologies, promoting a cultural sensitivity aimed at understanding and accepting diversity;
  • for identity crises, encouraging individual participation;
  • for defence against extremism, create the conditions, as far as possible, of an encouraging family environment;
  • with regard to influences relating to friendships, to improve self-esteem, autonomy of thought, all aimed at improving the socio-emotional sphere;
  • on the perception of exclusion, on the management of social relationships.

In order to achieve the desired result, young people must be effectively accompanied in the inclusion mechanism. Some elements that should not be overlooked are summarised below:

  • getting to know the world of young people
  • encouraging participants to express their opinions and share their experiences without them being judged irrelevant;
  • creating a culture of mutual respect and an atmosphere in which participants feel safe to express their views;
  • asking open questions encouraging participants to discuss and critically analyse the topics shared. As uncertainties are thematised and addressed, a link is made to each individual’s daily life;
  • group engagement works if it is approached seriously and if the individual can actively participate;
  • avoid rigidly following programmes, but rather take the interests of the group into account;
  • prevention requires time and continuity, not quick fixes, but constancy and patience.

So many prevention initiatives have been put in place to tackle a long-standing and delicate social problem such as this that social inclusion policies at local, regional, national, continental and trans-national levels follow one another without interruption.

Remarkable is the effort deployed since the beginning of the 2000s by the European Union, which continues with increasing strength and determination.

In order to prevent radicalisation, on 29 April 2021 it adopted a European regulation dedicated to countering the dissemination of terrorist content online, which will be applied as of 7 June 2022 and which relates to content such as texts, images, audio or video recordings, including live broadcasts, that incite or contribute to terrorist acts or provide instructions on how to commit crimes or incite participation in terrorist groups.

Furthermore, since 2015 it has set up:

  • Through Europol a specific working group to counter terrorist propaganda on the internet. The EU Internet Reporting Unit (EU IRU), tasked with identifying and investigating online content of a terrorist and violent extremist nature and supporting Member States on this issue;
  • The aforementioned RAN, established in 2016, which consists of a network of 6,000 practitioners from across Europe (teachers, police officers, prison police), and which aims, among other things, in understanding why some people are more vulnerable to radicalisation and what actions can be taken to protect them;

EU Internet Forum, which brings together EU countries, online platforms, Europol, academia and international partners, with the aim of exchanging information on the online evolution of the mentioned topics.



  1. M. Moghaddam (2005) – The Staircase to Terrorism – A Psychological Exploration: ;
  2. Borum (2011) – Radicalization into Violent Extremism I: A Review of Social Science Theories: ;
  3. Borum (2011) – Radicalization into Violent Extremism II: A Review of Conceptual Models and Empirical Research:  ;
  4. Rhizome against Polarisation (RaP) (2019) – Prevenzione della violenza; promozione della concorrenza sviluppo sociale ed emotivo dei giovani: ;
  5. Practice EU (2019) – Radicalisation prevention programme: ;
  6. RAN (Radicalisation Awareness Network) thematic paper – The root causes of violent extremism: ;
  7. RAN (Radicalisation Awareness Network) Policy Paper – Developing a local prevent framework and guiding principles, 2016:  ;
  8. RAN – Developing a local prevent framework and guiding principles – Part 2 – 2018: ;
  9. RAN factbook – Islamist extremism, 2019: ;
  10. European Union – Statistics on migration to Europe: ;
  11. EU measures to prevent radicalisation:
  12. EU Regulation 784/2021, April 29th, 2021 – Fight against terrorism – dissemination of terrorist content online: ;
  13. Eurostat (2020) – Migrant integration statistics: ;
  14. Vidino (2014) – Indigenous jihadism in Italy: birth, development and radicalisation dynamics – Ed. ISPI: ;
  15. Global cities and the challenge of integration – Ed. ISPI (2018): ;
  16. Renström et alii (2020) – Exploring a pathway to radicalization: The effects of social exclusion and rejection sensitivity: ;
  17. Pfundmair et alii (2022) – How social exclusion makes radicalism flourish: A review of empirical evidence:
  18. ISTAT (National Institute of Statistics), 2018 – Life and integration paths of immigrants in Italy:  ;



  1. Welcome Programme – educational and social Inclusion in the EU:–0&ab_channel=DGMigrationandHomeAffairs ;
  2. From Social Exclusion to Social Inclusion: Femke Hofstee van de Meulen at TEDxBreda:


IMAGES (in sequential order)

  1. Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
  2. succo from Pixabay ;
  3. ohn Hain   from  Pixabay
  4. Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
  5. Pchvector  from Freepik