11 July 2018, Melbourne: Uniting communities and preventing terrorism can be done better through local governments cooperating around the world. This is the message from around 250 local leaders from over 30 countries gathering in Melbourne this week for the annual Global Summit of the Strong Cities Network (SCN).
Over the next three days, mayors, governors, NGOs and local community workers will discuss the evolving threat of ISIS in South East Asia and shifting ideological trends worldwide. Looking at efforts to counter community divisions and prevent extremism, they will share learning on programmes for local youth engagement and tech innovation, as well as city action plans and new models for working together across different local services.
Opening this year’s forum, mayors representing the United States, Kenya, Lebanon, Australia, and the Philippines will analyse the top challenges facing cities, towns and regions, sharing global lessons to adapt and implement locally across diverse contexts and threat profiles.
In a major step towards building local policies and programmes led and supported by mayors and grassroots communities, more than 12 national governments will meet with local leaders to look at how local and national governments can better cooperate, empowering those who know their communities best to craft global approaches to preventing extremism at its source.
Underlining a new chapter for localism and demonstrating the unique role of city mayors to address a full range of interlinked issues, SCN mayors today released the Melbourne Declaration calling for global cooperation to combat extremism, social polarisation and community cohesion. Setting out recommendations for counterparts around the world, the mayoral communiqué states: “this challenge is one that impacts not only those directly affected by violence, but the wider community fabric and civic culture upon which our societies depend.”
Launching this year’s SCN Global Summit, ISD Head of Strategy and former U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities, Farah Pandith, said:
“In just 3 years, the Strong Cities Network is rewriting the rulebook on how policymakers at all levels think about the most difficult issues of our time. This is the most exciting opportunity yet to shake up the old protocols and invest in 21st century power. Top-down, siloed and often reactive approaches by governments can not create the nimble, locally poignant and community driven approaches we need. International conversations too often confine answers to security alone.
Mayors, governors and local leaders the world over have unparalleled local knowledge and they understand the ways hate, polarisation and violence play out locally and reverberate globally in today’s interconnected world. The Strong Cities Network is their forum to come together and prove that no community facing any form of extremism or polarisation is alone, and that no matter their context, they can confront these challenges with tried and tested know-how from peers around the world.”