Alexander Ritzmann Brandenburgisches Institut für Gesellschaft und Sicherheit (BIGS)
Moderation: Prof. Dr. Hans-Jürgen Kerner Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Millions of Europeans have engaged with extremist propaganda, thousands are joining extremist causes. Why so many? That is an important question. But the equally important question is: Why so few? What are key resilience factors that prevent individuals from becoming radicalized?
The target audiences of political extremists in the EU are the undecided (grey zone), the groups between active democratic citizens and extremists. The undecided might share some grievances and narratives that drive an extremist ideology and they might not trust government driven PVE-initiatives. Local informal-actors (family members, friends, neighbours, sports coaches, teachers), who have a natural peer credibility, do already constantly promote alternative or counter narratives and alternative courses of action (in relation to the extremist’s narratives and calls to action) and therefore limit the space for extremists to recruit.
Questions to be discussed are: What kind of environment fosters interventions by informal actors? How can informal actors in the PVE-field be empowered? What kind of government or CSO support would not jeopardize the credibility of informal actors? (How) can effective alternative/counter narratives by informal actors be upscaled?
Alexander Ritzmann focuses on issues related to democracy promotion and the prevention of extremism and terrorism. He is a Senior Research Fellow at the Brandenburg Institute for Society and Security (BIGS) in Potsdam, Germany and an Advisor to the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) in New York, USA. At BIGS, Alexander directs a project, funded by the German federal government, which highlights the role of value discourses in the integration of refugees in Germany. He is also co-chair of the European Commission’s Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) Communication and Narratives (C&N) Working Group.
From September 2012 – December 2015, Alexander worked as Senior Advisor MENA Region and Project Manager for GIZ, the German Development Cooperation, based in Cairo, Egypt. He has also lived and worked in Berlin, Brussels, Beirut, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Washington D.C. In 2007 he was a DAAD-Fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS), Johns Hopkins University, in Washington, DC.
From 2001 – 2006 Alexander was a member of the Berlin State Parliament, overseeing the state police and intelligence agency, focusing on homeland security and data protection issues. He received his Master’s degree in Political Science from the Free University Berlin in 2000.