Municipalities are in a strong position to initiate programs aimed at countering violent extremism (CVE). These often take the form of activities that contribute to overall community resilience, such as hate crime prevention, support for youth programming, inter-faith dialogue, and job creation.
Recognizing the importance of local efforts like these, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism awarded ICMA a grant to implement a project to leverage the potential of cities. The goal of the project, Building CVE Expertise for Municipal Authorities in the Western Balkans, is to foster partnerships between government, civil society, and the private sector to increase community engagement and resilience against violent extremism.
The potential geographic scope of the project encompasses Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, all of which have been identified by the Department of State as sources of foreign terrorist fighters.
The project seeks to network, train, and mobilize mayors and municipal leaders across the Western Balkans region to identify and address risk factors associated with violent extremism through engagement in the Strong Cities Network (SCN), a global organization managed by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), London, U.K. ISD is dedicated to building social cohesion and community resilience to prevent such extremism. Activities include
- Collecting information from targeted cities to assess violent extremism dynamics and municipal authorities’ particular needs
- Implementing a range of activities, such as bilateral and regional trainings, to help municipal authorities learn and exchange best practices on how to prevent and mitigate violent extremism.
This approach concentrates support to a group of neighboring countries to create momentum and opportunities for regional and cross-border collaboration.
The overall desired outcome of this project is for municipalities in the Western Balkans to be better prepared to prevent and mitigate violent extremism through greater engagement with one another and as members of the Strong Cities Network. These are the objectives leading to that outcome:
- Key Western Balkan cities and towns join the SCN, and consultations are conducted to include their needs and priorities in SCN-wide initiatives and activities.
- Western Balkan municipalities exchange leading practices in countering violent extremism through the SCN.
- Cities in target countries formulate proposals of the support needed to counter violent extremism at the local level in their countries.
- Western Balkans SCN member cities are assessed to identify CVE-related mechanisms, policies, or action plans that could be developed in the future.
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