Florence, Italy, October 2020 – Three European projects on polarisation – the Efus-led BRIDGE (“Building resilience to reduce polarisation and growing extremism”), BRaVE (“Building resilience against violent extremism and polarisation”), led by the European University Institute, and GREASE (“Radicalisation, Secularism and the Governance of Religion: Bringing together European and Asian Perspectives”), an EU-funded global research, organised jointly a seminar on indicators that measure the impact and effectiveness of public policies and practices against polarisation, on 23 September. Hosted by the European University Institute, which is based in Florence (Italy), the event was held online.
Three separate and complementary sets of indicators
The three separate projects have produced different but complementary sets of indicators that can help monitor and assess how well different types of policies and practices are performing.
- The BRIDGE indicators support local authorities in assessing and mitigating polarisation processes at the municipal level. Combining insights from democracy theory, social psychology and conflict studies, they aim to improve capacities to monitor and prevent.
- The BRaVE indicators help in assessing how polarised or how resilient a given country is. Using data already available in different surveys and statistical sources, they reflect both realities and perceptions.
- Based on expert qualitative assessments, the GREASE indicators focus on governance of religious diversity and the prevention of religiously inspired radicalisation. They are derived from original research conducted in Europe, the MENA region, South and Southeast Asia and Australia.
The key role of local authorities
Efus BRIDGE project managers Eszter Karácsony and Moritz Konradi stressed that even though polarisation is a global phenomenon, its impacts play out mainly locally. On the other hand, local authorities have extensive competencies in preventing violence and fostering social cohesion, which they can use to prevent or counter polarisation. Indeed, their crime prevention networks are best placed to diagnose and monitor polarisation, raise awareness, mitigate polarisation both in the short and long term, and empower local actors to prevent and act as bridge builders. However, they need appropriate and efficient tools to do so.
The BRIDGE tools to monitor local polarisation processes
BRIDGE has collected and designed a kit of tools that can help detect and analyse polarisation processes at the local level, taking into account a wide range of indicators. Based on this toolkit and related methodology, a comprehensive polarisation audit shall: 1) compile data on demographics, socio-structural inequalities and civic participation, 2) identify protective and risk factors as well as the presence of polarising agents in the local community, 3) detect presence of zero-sum mindsets and us-and-them thinking and, 4) assess the existing networks and partnerships, including their resources and capabilities, that can help counter polarisation.
What local authorities can do
The participants from the three EU-funded projects discussed what local authorities can do even if they observe a difference of views among the relevant stakeholders as to the degree of necessity to mitigate or prevent polarisation. The general consensus was that they can still raise awareness among local stakeholders – whether public officials or local NGOs – on the threats posed by polarisation and engage with them to assess it and eventually take action.