The Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) – concept and reality

European NGOs should withdraw from the EU Radicalisation Awareness Network’s ‘Collection of Practices’ – and what does the planned German „Federal Agency  of Quality Control“ mean anyway?

Haral Weilnböck, cultures interactive e.V., august 2021

Abstract

The European Commission’s DG Home Affairs (Interior) is currently setting out to conduct an unwarranted selection measure among European NGOs/ approaches of PVE work, executed by the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) – without mandate nor informed consent from the NGOs and with little to no transparency about procedure and criteria. Concurrently, the German government announces its plans to install a „Federal Agency of Quality Control“ reporting to the Ministry of Interior, while first-line practitioners of the prevent program “Live Democracy!” have been working to prepare an independent and civil society based modus of quality development and evaluation since years.

Further symptoms indicate an unfortunate policy development that endangers resilience, trust and inter-agency in democracies throughout Europe; e.g. the RAN Rehabilitation Manual, stipulating “information-sharing” about exit work clients, or an EU funding call from DG Home inspiring distrust of NGOs and civil society – thus shifting us towards more Eastern European style administrations.

Thankfully, a silver lining of hope emerges, presenting the option of a truly civil society based architecture of PVE work and quality management – which is worthy of democracies. This then would enable Europe to become a prime example of “best practice in policy making” on a global scale.

In times of fake news – how do ‘critical news’ fare?
Observations about the RAN essay’s distribution paths

Harald Weilnböck, cultures interactive e.V., Jan 2019


Today I would like to share a few observations about how my essay on the RAN has fared thus far. Since September last year, when I had asked PVE networks and organizations that I am acquainted with, to forward the link to my essay and thus promote discussion via their mailing lists and newsletters,

I have realized: Almost none of my networks and organizations forwarded the link. In fact, almost none of them responded to my emails. I had addressed roughly 20 networks/ organizations; I had worked with all of them in many ways for quite a few years. Only two kindly responded and eventually shared the link, thus far. Also, the roughly 800 people who took the time to look at the essay decided to not comment – at least not officially and in writing. The consortia in the making for the upcoming tender of RAN_3 who had addressed me seem to not be interested anymore after the essay appeared.

Thinking about this for a while, I eventually concluded: I can very well understand all those who didn’t share the link and who didn’t comment. I probably would have done the same thing in their place; in fact, sometimes I even recommended to them to not comment. And I have no qualms with any of them about it whatsoever! For, there just seem to be quite good reasons for not supporting or partaking in any such critical debate in the current PVE area as it is right now. Also, the RAN itself has not yet shown an intention to work with my input. At least, I personally have not heard anything yet. Likewise, it seems that there hasn’t been any discussion in the steering committee.

Having said that, the two organizations that offered support were big statutory organizations that may thus be considered powerful. Hence, there is no conspiracy of the powerful against ‘critical news’. On the contrary, this whole issue seems to just be about how we all do normal business in the PVE area, and beyond. Therefore, all I can do about this right now is: let people know what my experiences in this are. Other than that, as said, no qualms! My organization and I will work with all these networks and the RAN in the future as we do at present.

All the more I would like to send my New Year’s wishes to all of you. May our important work and the RAN become ever more sophisticated and sustainable in 2019 and the years after. Our cause is well worth it: European democratic and liberal societies in times of violent extremism – and fake news.


Das Radicalisation Awareness Network/ RAN – Idee und Wirklichkeit. Ein Essay zur akteursübergreifenden Zusammenarbeit in der Prävention von gewaltorientiertem Extremismus und zur Unterstützung von Resilienz in den europäischen Gesellschaften.

Harald Weilnböck, cultures interactive e.V.

Abstract German

Als Harald gebeten wurde, eine "Beschreibung und kritische Bewertung des RAN" für einen großen Online-Info-Service zu schreiben, wurde ihm klar, dass er nur einen unabhängigen Essay schreiben konnte, der einige seiner persönlichen Erfahrungen, Beobachtungen und Überlegung und sowie die seiner Praxis-Kolleg*innen aufgreift, um dadurch zur Weiterentwicklung des RAN beizutragen – wo er von 2011-2015 als Mitglied der Lenkungsgruppe und Co-Leiter einer Arbeitsgruppe tätig war und seither regelmäßig mitarbeitet.

Die Beobachtungen und Themen reichen von der Sichtweise des RAN als "die beste Sache ihrer Art", dem Konzept eines Netzwerks von First-Line-Praktiker*innen, dem Abdriften des RAN von seiner ursprünglichen Mission, der überraschenden Abwesenheit von Evaluation, der ungehörten Kritik von teilnehmenden Praktiker*innen, der Simulierung eines Bottom-Up bei gleichzeitigem Top-Down Mechanismus, den Dynamiken des "it-briefs-wellism" in der Programmgestaltung, der Industrialisierung von Extremismusprävention, von professionellen "NGOKapitalisten", über einige mutmaßliche Fälle von "EU added damage"durch RAN, z.B. die "counter narrative" Strategien, die Rekrutierung von jungen Leuten in das RAN und der unausgewogene Islamismus-Schwerpunkt; sowie über einen angeblichen Staatsstreich durch die Ministerien der EU-Mitgliedstaaten.

Der Aufsatz unterstreicht schließlich die Notwendigkeit, von neuem zu beginnen, umzustrukturieren und einen behörden- und akteursübergreifenden europäischen Rahmen auf Augenhöhe aufzubauen, um gegen die gesamte Bandbreite von Phänomenen vorzubeugen, die eine Gefahr für Demokratie und Menschenrechte darstellen

The Radicalisation Awareness Network/RAN – idea and reality. A policy essay on interagency cooperation to prevent violent extremism and support resilient European societies.

Harald Weilnböck, cultures interactive e.V.

Abstract English

When asked to write a “description and critical assessment of the RAN” for a major online Info-Service, Harald realized that all he could do is write an independent essay which coveys some of his and practitioner colleagues’ personal experiences and thoughts when assisting to build up the RAN – where he served as steering group member and working group chair from 2011-2015 and cooperated ever since.

The observations and issues range from the RAN as “the best thing of its sort” to the however misunderstood concept of a network of first-line practitioners, the RAN’s surprising lack of any evaluation on itself, the un-heard grievances of practitioners throughout, the RAN’s mechanism of simulating bottom-up while functioning strictly top-down and furthering “securitisation”, a “puppet-theatre” metaphor and the mechanism of “it-briefs-wellism” in program designing, the industrialisation of PVE and professional “NPO capitalists” in and beyond the RAN, some supposable cases of “EU added damage” through (i) the RAN’s ‘counter narrative’ strategies, (ii) its recruitment of young people, and (iii) its Islamism bias esp. in Eastern Europe; and a presumable coup d’état against the RAN by ministries of Member States in 2017 which may, however, be quite understandable (cf. the High-level Commission Expert Group on Radicalisation/ HLCEG-R).

The essay finally underline the need to start afresh, restructure and build an ‘eye level’ interagency European framework of preventing phenomena which pose risks to democracy and human rights

 

Comments

All comments on the essay – or on own relevant experiences with and thoughts about the RAN and European prevention of violent extremism – are welcome to be sent to Harald, weilnboeck@cultures-interactive.de.

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