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Bart Schuurman on the CPL Summer Programme “Preventing Violent Extremism”

This August, the second edition of the Advanced Summer Programme "Preventing, Detecting, and Responding to the Violent Extremist Threat" will be held. Assistant professor Bart Schuurman tells us more about his role in and experiences with the programme.

Connecting practice and research in an interactive way

On the second day of the summer programme, Schuurman will give a lecture to the participants on why and how people join terrorist groups. “I want to offer something that is based on scientific research, but use that as a starting point to show participants the value of such information in their own work. I am planning to discuss scientific theories about how and why people get involved with terrorist groups, and how terrorism develops over the decades, but in a way that will hopefully resonate with the day-to-day work of counterterrorism policymakers and practitioners.

There are several historical phases of terrorism and there might well be a new one waiting to emerge. We will discuss how to anticipate these developments and all that comes with it. The best thing for me is to get feedback from people in the audience, especially from people like in the ones participating in the summer programme, who all have their own interesting (international) backgrounds.

So, it really is a network strengthening programme as well, because it gives participants from different organisations the chance to talk and learn from each other. It’s surprising how little that happens. I believe that eventually policymakers and practitioners who deal with counterterrorism are faced with the same obstacles, whether it's the Netherlands or abroad.”

Wide range of speakers

“Looking at the programme, what stands out for me is that participants get to meet a wide range of speakers with experience in several different areas dealing with radicalisation and violent extremism. There are people involved who are excellent researchers, but also experts with a link to the field, such as the Public Prosecution Service. Especially this combination is what makes it so instructive and interesting."

The importance of primary sources

“A lot has been written, said and done when it comes to terrorism. But based on what information? What distinguishes the summer programme and also our research at Leiden University in The Hague is the emphasis on the use of primary sources. If you really want to get up close, you have to dive into the secret service's archives for example. Or start working with police files and interviews with terrorists. That type of research can take years, but is highly valuable. And this kind of material is actually what all the speakers of the summer programme find really important and because of that have made it a central part of their work. This gives you a very detailed and reliable view of how things work in real life”

The Advanced Summer Programme is organised by Leiden University’s Centre for Professional Learning, the Institute of Security and Global Affairs (ISGA), and the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT). Bart Schuurman is Assistant Professor at Leiden University and in that capacity also involved in the ICCT as a research coordinator, and as a fellow at the Centre for Professional Learning, where he gives advice on the content of the curriculum and the connection between science and practice.

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