First-Ever Global Summit Of Cities Reinforces Powerful Message For Countering Extremism at the Local Level

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More than 200 representatives from 50 global cities met last week in Antalya, Turkey last week for the premiere Strong Cities Network Global Summit to explore the role of municipalities in countering violent extremism.

In unprecedented solidarity, representatives from across the Strong Cities Network agreed cities are the only antidote in the fight against violent extremism. Terrorist narratives act local, our response must be too.

More than 200 representatives from 50 global cities met in Antalya, Turkey last week for the premiere Strong Cities Network Global Summit to explore the role of municipalities in countering violent extremism. The Strong Cities Network (SCN), run by the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), brought together key stakeholders for two days of training and capacity-building sessions, fostering collaboration and sharing valuable lessons and practice from around the world.

Cities and local authorities around the world need to be at the forefront of preventative and safeguarding measures to counter violent extremism in all its forms. Now more than ever, mayors, governors, frontline practitioners and local communities must play a key role in building social cohesion and resilience, promoting inclusion, and mitigating vulnerability to extremism and radicalisation. This is the rationale behind the unprecedented efforts of the SCN – with a goal of connecting local partners on a global scale.

The summit opened with a welcome from Menderes Türel, Mayor of Antalya, followed by a keynote from Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, lending his country’s full support to SCN and highlighting the importance of increased cooperation not just between countries but between cities in countering extremism. He was joined by the Mayor of Istanbul, Kadir Topbaş and then a message of support from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was delivered to a room packed with delegates representing more than 40 countries.

The gathering also served to highlight the important role former extremists and survivors of extremism can play, both in informing the approach individual cities take in engaging with those at risk and in directly influencing communities and countering extremism narratives and messaging. Speakers included:

  • Dr Seiny Boukar Lamine, Mayor of Kolofata, Cameroon, who told of his city’s everyday efforts to counter the immediate threat from Boko Haram, and gave testimony of his own abduction and imprisonment by Islamist militants
  • Bjørn Ihler, a survivor of the brutal 2011 attack by Anders Behring Breivik on Utøya Island in Norway, brought silence to the plenary session, recounting his story, his survival, and the impact the attacks have had on his life.
  • Christian Picciolini, who spoke of his own journey as a member of an extreme neo-Nazi gang in the United States who turned away from a path of violence, racism, and hate, and now leads interventions across the U.S. as a mentor to help others at risk of extremism.

The network also launched its new ‘SCN Online Hub’ -- a new web portal for member cities to connect practitioners from Kenya and Kosovo to Denmark and Pakistan. Building on developed best-practice in cities around the world, the Online Hub will house a central repository of latest research and local strategy, deliver core training modules on areas of work, including multi-agency collaboration, counter-narrative support, and community engagement. All stand to make a practical difference to cities across the globe which face similar threats, similar social drivers of extremism, and can gain from sharing ideas and approaches directly with other cities.

Directed by the 25 members of the SCN Steering Committee, over the coming year the SCN will continue its three global working groups, hold a further three regional training workshops in key areas, develop its program of direct city-to-city exchanges and partnerships, and deliver a suite of tools and training resources to cities, demonstrating the potential of increasing local, sub-national collaboration on a truly global scale.

Speaking immediately after the event, Strong Cities Network Manager Rebecca Skellett, said: “In unprecedented solidarity, representatives from across the Strong Cities Network agreed cities are the only antidote in the fight against violent extremism. Terrorist narratives act local, our response must be too.”

“This is a platform to gain a deeper understanding about each other in a bid to tackle extremism in our city and in the world. H.E Governor Mombasa, Hassan Ali Joho. He noted that it is of great importance to create a global strategy to prevent young people from joining radicalized movements, illegal gangs or others. “This is the most important thing. If we do not tell a good story to them, someone else will tell another story to them, which could be lies, which could be distorted things or something else. We created this platform and opportunities to tell them the right stories as we want to go back to being a peaceful world again,” added Joho.

About Strong Cities Network

Launched at the United Nations in September 2015, the Strong Cities Network (SCN) is the first ever global network of mayors, municipal-level policy makers and practitioners united in building social cohesion and community resilience to counter violent extremism in all its forms.

The Strong Cities Network is uniquely placed to empower and connect those who can do most, not just to reduce direct extremist threats in towns and cities around the world, but to prevent and pre-empt these threats in the first place, by helping to build stronger and more resilient communities at the local level.

Led by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, the SCN strengthens strategic planning and practices among municipal-level policy makers and builds the capacity of local practitioners to prevent the spread of violent extremism in all its forms. The network catalyses, inspires and multiplies community-centric approaches and action to counter violent extremism while respecting the fundamental rights of citizens.

For more information or to schedule an interview with a representative from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue or one of the participants from the Summit contact the Strong Cities Team on scnmedia@strategicdialogue.org or telephone +44 207 493 9333

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Meryl Cooper / Caitlin McDonald
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