Thomas Renard successfully defends PhD thesis

We are pleased to announce that on 25 March 2021, Thomas Renard, Adjunct Professor at the Brussels School of Governance, successfully defended his PhD thesis. His PhD dissertation was entitled: “20 Years of Counter-Terrorism in Belgium: Explaining Change in CT Policy-Making through the Evolution of the Belgian CT Doctrine and Practice since 2001” and was submitted to Ghent University in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Political Sciences. Dr Renard defended his PhD dissertation in front of his supervisor, Prof. Dr Sven Biscop (Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, Ghent University) and the following jury members: Prof. Dr Ferdi De Ville (Chair), Prof. Dr Thijs Van de Graaf (Secretary), Prof. Dr Em. Rik Coolsaet (Advisory Committee), Prof. Dr Dirk Debeaussaert (Advisory Committee), Prof. Dr Wim Hardyns, Prof. Dr Fabienne Brion, Mrs Jessika Soors and Mr Gilles de Kerchove. Our warmest congratulations to Dr Renard!  
Below you can read more about the PhD thesis of Thomas Renard.





Counter-terrorism policy has expanded significantly over the past two decades, since 2001. Belgium makes no exception, with the strengthening and broadening of its counter-terrorism agenda, particularly in the aftermath of the unprecedented mobilization for the jihad in Syria and Iraq and the terrorist attacks of 2014-16. But what explains this evolution, and why is it that counter-terrorism responses take different forms in different countries? This dissertation offers a unique analysis of counter-terrorism policy-making in liberal democracies, with a focus on Belgium. 

The key question that this dissertation seeks to address is: To what extent has Belgian counter-terrorism policy-making evolved since 2001, and what factors drove or influenced this evolution? The hypothesis underlying this dissertation is that the evolution of Belgium’s counter-terrorism is largely influenced by two sets of variables: the global and domestic security contexts (to which extent did the evolution of the terrorist threat internationally and domestically shape the Belgian response?), and the politico-institutional context (to what extent did the Belgian institutional actors constrained or shaped this evolution?). 

At the conceptual level, this dissertation distinguishes the so-called “hardening” of CT policies after 9/11, with more CT laws voted and more resources allocated to security services, notably, and the so-called “softening” of CT policies, with the development of new programmes aiming to preventing or countering violent extremism and radicalisation (P/CVE). As a result of these two trends, CT policies have become more “comprehensive” and “coordinated” between different institutions, which is another significant development discussed extensively in this dissertation.

Following the conceptualization of this overall evolution, this dissertation critically assesses the development of a more “integral” and “integrated” counter-terrorism policy in Belgium, based on the review of doctrine documents and concrete policy measures, as well as numerous interviews with CT practitioners and policy-makers. Finally, going back to the research question, this dissertation makes use of public policy theory as a lens to identify key drivers of change in counter-terrorism policies, treating counter-terrorism as an “ordinary” form of public policy. As a result, an embryo of theory on counter-terrorism policy-making emerges from the conclusion.