Salzburg, Austria, March 2018 — In the framework of the PRACTICIES project (Partnership Against Violent Radicalisation in Cities), representatives of a group of cities composed of Efus members and further municipalities met with project officials and experts in Salzburg, Austria, on 1 and 2 March. The meeting was organised by Efus, leader of the work package 8 (working group of cities and dissemination) in cooperation with the University of Applied Sciences of Salzburg, which is leader of the work package 4 (early prevention and inclusive citizenship education).
The joint event provided the occasion for a first in-person meeting of the working group of cities coordinated by Efus, which supports the project consortium in better adapting and tailoring prevention strategies and tools to the needs of local and municipal security practitioners across Europe. The two-day meeting was supported by the city of Salzburg, represented by Deputy Mayor Anja Hagenauer, who opened the event and hosted a reception for the participants at the Salzburg city hall.
Working group of cities: exchange on municipal strategies to counter violent extremism
The meeting of the working group gathered representatives from Amadora (PT), Augsburg (DE), Berlin (DE), L’Hospitalet de Llobregat (ES), Madrid (ES), Riga (LV), Salzburg (AT), Solna (SE), Toulouse (FR) and Vienna (AT). They presented their cities’ strategies to prevent various phenomena of polarisation and radicalisation that challenge social cohesion at municipal level and may lead to violent extremism and terrorism, thus posing a real threat for public security.
They presented the different local contexts, the various forms of violent extremism encountered locally, the main measures to prevent and counter radicalisation processes and incidents of violent extremism, and exchanged about the challenges they faced and the lessons learnt while implementing such measures. A focus of the presentations was also future perspectives and paths of development for local prevention strategies.
The discussions between city officials and experts — among them representatives from civil society organisations from Berlin, Molenbeek, Salzburg and Vienna, researchers from Austrian and French universities and a representative of the EU Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) — showed that local contexts differ widely. Municipalities are confronted with disparate phenomena relating to right wing extremism, neonazism and hooliganism, violent Jihadism and Salafism, as well as left wing extremism. However, some challenges are common throughout Europe, such as the difficulty of finding appropriate funding for local prevention actions; the need to train large numbers of front line workers for their new tasks in the framework of prevention strategies; improving the participation of youngsters and other vulnerable groups in local initiatives or equipping local elected officials to better communicate on the topic.
Early prevention: innovative tools to foster citizen participation
A further focus of the meeting was on the prevention tools developed by the researchers contributing to the work package 4, aiming to improve civic education and foster citizen participation in municipal prevention strategies. The researchers of the contributing institutions — the University of Applied Sciences of Salzburg (AT), the research lab Gérico (Groupe d’études et de recherche interdisciplinaire en information et communication) at the University of Lille 3 (FR), and MAKS (Media Actie Kuregem Stad) from Molenbeek (BE) — presented their work on three tools:
- Citizens’ Agora, a methodology for fostering participation in public processes at municipal level;
- Serious Game, an online game for raising awareness on radicalisation among youngsters;
- Digital Me, a media education project enabling youngsters to produce video narratives on their experience with discrimination and marginalisation in the public sphere.
The city representatives shared their views on the applicability of these tools in local contexts as well as their experience with prevention measures based on similar approaches. Links were established between the cities and the researchers, so that cities can include the outcomes of the work package 4 to inform their local prevention strategies and envisage the experimentation of new methodologies.
The PRACTICIES project, funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation, is coordinated by Prof. Seraphin Alava, University of Toulouse II – Le Mirail, and will run until May 2020.
“ The city of Salzburg is very pleased to host this important meeting between researchers of the PRACTICIES project, the University of applied sciences of Salzburg and representatives of Efus member cities. Discrimination, polarisation and radicalisation call our fundamental democratic values into question and can result in the emergence of violent extremism.
It is important to counteract these phenomena with preventive, participatory and innovative methods, thereby promoting social cohesion in our cities and in Europe. Projects such as PRACTICIES make an important contribution to this endeavour.”
Anja Hagenauer, Deputy Mayor of Salzburg