Polarisation – a complex challenge for local authorities
European societies are at risk of increasing polarisation: in the political systems of many countries, extremist and populist currents are gaining ground, reaching far into the political centre and occupying governmental functions. In public debate, a number of topics – for example how to manage migration flows, how to deal with climate change, or how to tackle drug use in public spaces – spark increasingly controversial discussions, with sometimes very little middle ground between opposing opinions.
Many local governments throughout Europe lack a deep and detailed knowledge of the processes of polarisation, a complex, multifaceted and rapidly growing phenomenon. Research on polarisation and policy strategies to address it are developing at an equally high pace, yet remain at an early stage.
The resulting lack of clarity on definitions and concepts as well as the prevalence, dynamics, impacts and spatial and temporal distribution of such phenomena within a municipality’s or region’s territory is problematic because such information would ensure adequate allocation of resources as well as the development of effective prevention measures. Increasing knowledge and evidence on the topic of polarisation is thus of paramount importance.