More than 1,000 participants took part in Efus’ webconferences since the beginning of the sanitary crisis. We have decided to further these debates with weekly meetings and broaden them to all our work topics.
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How to support vulnerable groups under conditions of COVID-19 shutdown?
- 9 April 2020 – 14:00 CEST
The SARS-CoV-2 and the measures taken to control its spread affect all of us, however they hit those inhabitants of our cities who are already coping with difficult living conditions particularly hard. In the early stages of the epidemic and the shutdown, it quickly became clear that the lives of homeless persons and people who use drugs in public space are particularly affected. The services municipalities provided to these groups have difficulties adapting to the measures taken, and partly had to be limited or even suspended.
In this situation, local authorities and harm reduction workers are faced with many pressing questions: How can harm reduction services adapt and keep running? What support is needed and possible in cases of suspected or confirmed infections? How can quarantine measures be implemented in situations of homelessness and/or active drug use?
Cities and NGOs are closely cooperating to find responses to these questions – this session will enable an exchange on these responses and related issues.
How to respond to the increase of domestic violence?
- 14 April – 14:00 CEST
When isolation and quarantine strategies are used to combat COVID-19, the risk of domestic violence increases. The combination of economic and social tensions caused by the pandemic, as well as containment measures, have significantly increased the number of victims of domestic violence in almost all countries. Data from some communities in Europe equally demonstrates an increasing number of cases. In France, for example, reporting has already increased by 32%, while in the United Kingdom, calls and reporting through the Internet have increased by 25%, and in Spain by 16%. Several cities have already put in place strategies and alert systems in pharmacies and grocery stores.
What can be done about the increase in domestic violence? How can we mobilise existing services and resources? Are new tools needed? Or new methods?
Will social distancing aggravate polarisation?
- 16 April – 14:00 CEST
The current health crisis caused by the worldwide spread of the novel coronavirus is affecting all our cities and rapidly turning into a social, an economic and perhaps soon a political crisis, for the whole of Europe. The measures taken by governments across Europe to slow the spread of the epidemic – including social distancing, shutdowns on public life, severe limitations to economic activity, restrictions to freedom of movement and free speech, closing of national borders etc. – suspend fundamental functions and processes of democratic societies and reshape the relationship between political institutions and the population in unprecedented ways. Local and regional authorities and their networks are navigating this volatile development and finding new ways to protect and strengthen social cohesion in the face of these major challenges.
How is COVID-19 likely to deepen existing inequalities and polarisation, in ways that may damage community resilience and democracy? How can municipalities act in this context to prevent growing polarisation and extremism, and to foster and renew social coherence and peaceful coexistence? How to keep up with the challenges and reinforce agency and efficacy of local prevention networks in the face of social distancing? What are the existing tools and methods that local and regional authorities can use, in order prevent growing polarisation in their respective local contexts?
How to reconfigure security cooperation in a time of crisis?
- 21 April – 14:00 CEST
Faced with the COVID-19 crisis, local authorities are mobilising their stakeholders to implement crisis prevention and management measures. At this point in time, when local authorities risk seeing their resources depleted, cooperation between actors from the security, fire services and emergency medical assistance sectors is more important than ever. During this webconference we will look at the cooperation implemented in cities managing this crisis. What is the role of elected representatives in the management of staff and resources? What is the role of the police, the emergency medical and rescue services and the civil protection agents? How do they cooperate with each other? What possibilities exist for cooperation with actors across borders? What will be the long-term impact of the crisis on the partnership between security, social welfare services and municipalities?
Does the crisis change the forms of criminality in cities?
- 23 April – 14:00 CEST
The current crisis caused by the coronavirus produces direct social, economic and political effects, which are already there for all to see. Yet, the probable consequences and indirect effects of the political choices made and of those to follow must be monitored and understood.
Cities might experience a significant reduction in “traditional” forms of criminality like burglaries, pickpocketing and international drug trafficking, as police patrols force wary criminal groups to put their most visible and nefarious acts on hold. However,the pandemic has created “corona criminals” who are quickly changing the rules of the game, showing that criminality is not under shutdown or quarantined. On the contrary, criminal groups have adapted to this new configuration to exploit social, economic and political vulnerabilities and benefit from them.
Are cities seeing new forms of crime emerge during this period? How will the Covid-19 pandemic reshape criminal networks? What tools and administrative responses can local authorities put in place to halt the infiltration of criminal groups in public procurement and other important sectors of the economy? What is the toll of organised crime among the most vulnerable groups?
This webconference explores the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on criminality and how local authorities can respond to such evolving challenges.
Can we accept a lockdown on our fundamental rights?
- 28 April – 14:00 CEST
In parallel – and under the pretext – of the Covid-19 health crisis, a major risk is emerging regarding the protection of our fundamental rights in the Member States of the European Union, and also worldwive. As advocated by certain European leaders – like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – the exceptional current situation, that we are living, justifies exceptional measures taken by the executive power, which seek to do away with democratic checks and balances and have been described as power grabs. The balance is very difficult to find for the governments in the different EU member states between restricting fundamental rights ((like for example the freedom of expression, the freedom of association or the right to peaceful assembly) for the health of the citizens thus for the common good – that is to say, to slow the spread of the virus – and authoritarian measures.
To what degree can we accept limitations and suspension to fundamental rights as part of a response to the health crisis? Can these potential abuses jeopardize the powers of local authorities? If in this context the media as well as the citizens are also muzzled under the pretext of alarmism, how can the local authorities act, what are their tools that can allow them to limit our counterbalance the executive powers’ possibility to “confine the citizens’ fundamental right”? What is their room for maneuver?
What are the evolutions of crisis communication towards the population?
- 30 April – 14:00 CEST
At a time when it is more important than ever that elected officials and security professionals work closely with citizens, it is necessary to innovate and adapt to new conditions that are disrupting the daily lives of all. While we often hear talk of social distancing to avoid the spread of the virus, it might be more apt to speak of physical distancing, so as not to forget the importance of cooperation and inclusivity in these times, and to avoid isolating fragile people or worsening precarious situations, which were often precarious long before the health crisis.
In a technological age such as ours, crisis situations bring, in addition to the usual tension, an unprecedented flow of information and unfounded rumours. Citizens, in multiple networks, receive information questioning the legitimacy of the measures taken by professionals, and sometimes find themselves subscribing to conspiracy theories about the origins of the crisis they are going through.
What new tools can be used to maintain this necessary link with populations? Elected officials, municipal police, mediation – what tools for what role? And what is the role of our communities in such times: communicating to inform one another, correcting fake news or even convincing citizens of the importance of their adherence to the policies put in place?
How can displays of solidarity reinforce cities in a crisis?
- 5 May – 14:00 CEST
The Covid-19 outbreak has forced national authorities to impose widespread confinement of the population. Limiting travel to a short distance from the home has disrupted everyone’s life: stopping, reducing or transforming professional activity; changing school practices; loss of social ties; difficulties in meeting basic needs are all examples of the impact of confinement on the lives of citizens. A return to stronger community spirit has become necessary and has refocused activities at the village, neighbourhood or city level. Local authorities have been particularly highlighted by national governments, which are relying heavily on this community spirit to best manage the crisis. Confronted themselves with the difficulties of social distancing and limited travel, local authorities can count on the solidarity and altruism of citizens.
This web conference will allow us to deepen our understanding of solidarity movements – spontaneous or organised. Are they efficient? Do they strengthen the cohesion of society and the city in crisis? Is it possible, or even desirable, to institutionalise them and make them sustainable? How can they be structured effectively?
What is the impact of the crisis on unaccompanied minors, as victims and/or perpetrators of violence?
>>> How to support vulnerable groups under conditions of COVID-19 shutdown? (Session II)
- 7 May – 14:00 CEST
For several years now, European cities have been taking in large numbers of unaccompanied minors, who, according to international conventions, must be taken into care by child protection systems. Ensuring their safety is an issue for our local authorities. Some of these young people may be victims and/or perpetrators of acts of delinquency, due to their distance from mainstream society and the complexity of the problems they encounter. They are few in number but they are in great danger and sometimes have a significant impact on delinquency. As the usual systems do not seem to work with this specific group, local actors have begun to innovate. This phenomenon is eminently European: studies on the phenomenon show the movements of these young people between our cities, from one country to another.
The health crisis and containment have complicated, if not aggravated, the situation. Increased vulnerability (health, housing, etc.), discontinuity of support, new forms of delinquency, etc. What is the impact of the crisis on these minors and on the care systems? Can we anticipate the consequences of the deconfinement and adapt our responses within a local and European framework?
Is European cooperation still relevant?
- 12 May 2020 – 14:00 CEST
The cross border health threat of Covid-19 challenges not only the countries and municipalities of the European Union individually, but also the EU as a whole. While member states are trying to slow down the spread of the virus and mitigate its sanitary effects but also its potential negative economic, social and political consequences, the European Union is also trying to find a common and coordinated response. However such a global response is not always easy to elaborate, as the Member States’ visions on the extent and form of the needed coordination can differ.
As to the European Parliament, in its resolution adopted in mid-April the “MEPs […] underline[d] the need for a coordinated post-lockdown approach in the EU, in order to avoid a resurgence of the virus. They urge[d] EU countries to jointly develop criteria for lifting the quarantine and other emergency measures, […] and ask the European Commission to launch an effective exit strategy that includes large scale testing and personal protective equipment for the largest possible number of citizens.”
In this highly complex context, we will tackle the following questions:
- What could be the potential pillars of and obstacles to an EU-level response to the Covid-19 crisis?
- How could European cities be involved when looking for a global response that takes into account the local specificities?
- Do cities and the European institutions, in this case the European Parliament, have the adequate tools to discuss and coordinate their actions?
How does the extremist threat evolve in the pandemic?
- 14 May 2020 – 14:00 CEST
Radicalisation and terrorism are high on the security agendas of municipalities and regions across Europe. The threat posed by violent extremists have deeply impacted the way we think about urban security and design our local prevention strategies, and have been the topic of many initiatives, resolutions and projects initiated by Efus and its members.
The sanitary crisis caused by the novel coronavirus will change the way we think about extremism: On the one hand, it shows us once more that extremist violence is only one among a number of priority topics for urban security today. On the other hand, it necessitates that we take a very close look at how violent extremist groups are adapting to the situation and reassess the risks and necessary responses.
How does the extremist threat change and evolve in the pandemic? How do cities keep up and adapt their prevention strategies while managing the crisis? Which forms of extremist violence must we anticipate during and after the pandemic, including novel forms of bio-terrorism and new narratives, and what to do about them?
How to adapt and manage public spaces after lockdown?
- 19 May 2020 – 14:00 CEST
At a time when the coronavirus is making the urban environment hostile and it remains uncertain what urban life will look like afterwards, it is necessary to reflect on how the return of citizens to public space will take place and on the practices to be put in place to allow for better adaptation and management of these spaces, not only during the end of lockdown transition phase but also systematically in the future.
The planning of public space will be an important component of security policies during this phase: how can we avoid the feeling of insecurity that can affect citizens when they perceive public spaces as unsuitable for the current health conditions and rules of distancing? How can these spaces be equipped and organised to ensure the protection of citizens and integrate the needs of different groups, according to their uses?
Confinement also seems to have resulted in a change in terms of crime and delinquency, particularly for cases occurring in public spaces. Should we envisage a return to the usual forms of delinquency in public spaces after the end of lockdown? Are the security services ready to respond to these problems, while being required to enforce the changing lockdown rules? How can we continue to reach out to identified high-risk groups while maintaining a distance?
Using technologies to control the pandemia: Could privacy also be a victim of covid19?
- 26 May 2020 – 14:00 CEST
The current public health crisis linked to Covid-19 has engendered the development and use of a variety of technologies to support the fight against the pandemic. These technologies have different aims: informing and guiding citizens, facilitating medical follow-up of patients -during and post the lockdown-, tracking the contact chain of an individual, or even control public gatherings and monitoring physical distancing distancing. The use of such technologies would allow public authorities and health institutions to combat the threat more quickly and to inform future prevention policies. Nevertheless, the use of location data on a large scale might have consequences for data protection, privacy and informational self-determination.
Many of these technologies, especially those involving artificial intelligence, are the subject of debate in Europe, even before the pandemic, because of the entire data protection implications and threats to individual freedoms. However, the discussion accelerates and gains more arguments, by and against, due to the need to stop the exacerbation of the contagion that could lead the cities to be confined again.
How to adapt the end of lock down to the specific needs of disadvantaged neighbourhoods?
- 28 May 2020 – 14:00 CEST
The question of what the end of lockdown will entail is now being asked in all European cities, and perhaps most urgently in working-class areas.
These communities have been hit particularly hard by the crisis, with confinement made difficult by smaller accommodation, often with more residents per household, and by the fact that many residents have been forced to continue to travel to work. Will there be any ‘scars’ left by this period: at the individual level, in terms of mental health, or at the collective level, in terms of neighbourhood disputes, conflicts over use of space, and the stigmatisation of certain communities?
How are we going to manage the summer when there will be far fewer people going on holiday (mainly due to the ban on travel outside national borders)? It will be difficult to organise collective activities, or at least they will have to be rethought in view of health requirements. In addition, there are strong tensions that have been building up for months due to the confinement and, in particular, a renewed tension in police/civilian relations.
Public contestation in times of pandemic – How to give space to civic protest while safeguarding against extremist influence?
- 18 June 2020 – 14:00 CEST
The measures taken by governments across Europe to protect public health such as lockdowns, restraining orders or travel bans have not remained uncontested. Over the last weeks, many European cities have seen inhabitants mobilising online and in public space to protest restrictions and fundamental rights infringements. In many cases, these protests have also attracted extremist groups and conspiracists, who seek to seize the moment and push anti-democratic agendas. Hate messages and conspiracy narratives, often with clearly anti-semitic and racist content, have spread widely and threaten to fuel further radicalisation. These developments challenge us to step up our efforts to counter extremism while safeguarding the right to democratic debate and contestation.
How can cities manage such mobilisations in the context of the current health protection measures? What can they do to counter the spread of extremist messages and conspiracy narratives on- and offline?
Cooperations and evolutions of local police forces in times of crisis
- 25 June – 14:00 CEST
In response to the health crisis and its impact on delinquency and social cohesion, local authorities have considerably mobilised their local police forces to put in place prevention and sanction procedures. The duties of the local police forces were thus adapted to field operations related to the health crisis as a priority, in particular to keep citizens informed and ensure compliance with the confinement measures, but also to contribute to solidarity initiatives. At the same time, staff remained prepped to continue their usual duties. In many countries, new forms of cooperation have emerged, and the role of local police forces has been recognised and developed.
What can we learn from crisis management about the role of local police forces, their prerogatives and their partnerships? Are the changes observed likely to be long-term? Is this crisis an opportunity to reaffirm the role of local police and their place in the co-production of security policies?
How can local and regional authorities foster the role of youth in promoting solidarity and the fight against discrimination?
- 2 July 2020 – 14:00 CEST
In the aftermath of covid 19 pandemic, cities are experiencing renewed forms of social engagement by different segments of the population. At times where universal values and principles such as dignity, freedom, equality, solidarity etc. are essential for paving the way forward, expressions of intolerance, extremism or discrimination are likely to halt such process. Solidarity amongst the population is a key factor to build community resilience and address risks of manifestations of hatred and discriminatory violence towards vulnerable groups. The role of the youngest generations in promoting social cohesion and inclusion is crucial for achieving environments free from exclusion and marginalisation and creating a positive narrative towards a more fair and just society.
What can cities do to counter the spread of extremist messages and discriminatory narratives? How can they empower young voices in such mobilisations? Could the “build back better” principle be better implemented at the local level and in youth policies?
What is the impact of Covid19 crisis on the security and safety of senior citizens? Lessons learned from the pandemic
- 9 July 2020 – 14:00 CEST
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the global population in drastic ways. Senior citizens have been one of the most impacted during the crisis. Not only from a health perspective, due to age-related vulnerability often resulting from pre-existing health conditions, but also from a security perspective. Lockdown measures have led to increased risks for seniors in terms of being victims of crime and abuse.
Scams and fraud are the most common crimes of which seniors are victims, both online and offline. During the crisis, cyber crimes have increased due to the mandatory isolation and the necessity of using the internet to access banking, shopping and healthcare management services, as well as for social media and other communication. The growing and recent adoption of internet technology has exposed seniors to threats of online crime.
Seniors have also been at a greater risk of being victim to abuse. Growing isolation, depression and unemployment due to the global pandemic – have been identified as risk factors in cases of elder abuse.
In addition to these problems, one can observe a form of generational conflict pitting the health of the elderly and vulnerable against the well-being and economic viability of young people. These tensions could escalate to affect social cohesion and promote more polarized societies.