Prevention of violent radicalisation: training of local actors and European exchanges

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Numerous local authorities rely on the network to get information and to exchange knowledge and practices in order to strengthen or set up targeted local prevention policies. Indeed, even though violent radicalisation is a global phenomenon that goes beyond the jurisdiction of local authorities, local elected officials and their teams and partners on the ground have to manage the consequences of terrorist attacks. They are also well placed to strengthen the resilience of citizens. Thus, Efus develops different types of actions, all of which seek to strengthen the capacities of cities to prevent radicalisation, in particular through enhanced local social cohesion, while protecting fundamental freedoms.

Overview of activities available to Efus members for preventing and fighting against radicalisation:

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Training sessions to give local authorities tools for the prevention of radicalisation

As part of the European LIAISE (Local Institutions Against Extremism) project, Efus is organising training sessions that are tailor-made to the needs of local elected officials and their teams. The third LIAISE training session was held on 21-22 January in Brussels (BE), hosted by the cities of Brussels and Vilvoorde. Organised jointly with the Belgian Forum for Prevention and Urban Security (FBPSU according to the Belgian acronym), and the partners Institute for Strategic Dialogue (GB) and the German association, the session was focused on the role of mayors, how to draft a multi-agency strategy, and supporting families.

The two host cities made valuable contributions, as did the project partners, the representatives of the cities of Rotterdam and Antwerp, the association Women without Borders, as well as special guest Saliha Ben Ali, founder of the association Society Against Violent Extremism / S.A.V.E Belgium. The MP and Mayor of Vilvoorde, Hans Bonte, emphasised how important it is that cities take part in the fight against violent radicalisation. Apart from these interventions, the session was largely focused on the concrete tools at the disposal of municipalities to prevent radicalisation.

The fourth LIAISE training session was hosted by the city of Malmö, Sweden, on 15-16 February. The main themes were communication and counter-narrative, de-radicalisation and disengagement, and the Swedish prevention model. Based on the content of the four training sessions and on the work they carried out jointly, the project partners are now working on a practical guidebook on the prevention of radicalisation for cities and local authorities.

Apart from the training sessions imparted through LIAISE, the European and French Forums for Urban Security organised, with the support of the French Inter-Ministerial Committee for Crime Prevention (Comité interministériel de Prévention de la Délinquance, CIPD), a training session on “The role of cities and local strategies to prevent radicalisation leading to violent extremism”, on 27-28 January, in Paris. A first session had already been held in December.

About 50 representatives of some 40 local authorities and organisations from all over France, including some local elected officials, took part in this session. The guest speakers were academics, representatives of various institutions, experts and practitioners, local elected officials, and representatives of French and Belgian local authorities. The main themes of the session were a general overview of the issue of radicalisation; the role of local authorities in addressing this phenomenon, and the tools put in place in France and in Europe.

Start of the project “Local Institutions Against Extremism II” (LIAISE 2)

Another development regarding radicalisation is the start of the second phase of the LIAISE project. Titled LIAISE 2, the new project will be based on the first LIAISE and will seek to disseminate and implement the tools developed as part of this first project. Co-funded by the European Union, LIAISE 2 will foster cooperation among European cities through a thematic European network, which will embody the alliance of European cities against violent extremism initiated jointly by Efus and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

Over the course of 24 months, this network will organise five European seminars, each on a specific aspect of radicalisation. In addition, LIAISE 2 will organise training sessions hosted by the cities partner of the project, and will help them initiate pilot programmes in order to apply locally the knowledge acquired during the training sessions and develop innovative practices.

Led by Efus, LIAISE 2 gathers 29 partner organisations from 10 countries, 18 cities and three regions, as well as four national Forums for Urban Security and three thematic NGOs. Any city wishing to join this initiative can do so. The kick-off meeting will be held jointly with the first European conference, scheduled on 26-27 May 2016 in Bordeaux (France).

Follow-up on the Aarhus conference and summit of mayors in Rotterdam in November 2016

Efus is also working on the follow-up of the Aarhus (DE) conference, “Towards an alliance of European cities against violent extremism”, which it organised in November 2015 jointly with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. The conference gathered about a hundred mayors and other representatives of European local authorities. (Read the main insights of the conference).

Adopted at the end of the conference, the declaration of Aarhus expresses the commitment of local authorities to work to prevent radicalisation jointly with national and European authorities. It encourages European cities to contribute to creating an alliance of cities to prevent radicalisation leading to violent extremism. Participants in the Aarhus conference agreed to meet again on 9 November 2016, in Rotterdam, in conjunction with a European summit of mayors.

For now, the alliance of European cities against extremism is alive through the activities carried out by Efus, in particular LIAISE and LIAISE 2, the Congress and the partners of the alliance.

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