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A message from Rebecca Skellett, Head of Strong Cities Network3rd, April 2019
Beirut Mayoral Assembly, March 20193rd, April 2019
Launch of South Asia Regional Hub Page3rd, April 2019
The Strong Cities Network is the first ever global network of mayors, policymakers and practitioners united in building social cohesion and resilience to counter violent extremism in all its forms.
We connect cities, towns and regions around the world to share their local best practice on an international scale and collaborate at the subnational level to prevent violent extremism and the conditions in which extremism and radicalisation can take hold in communities.
The Strong Cities Network is made up of member cities in every major global region, each with specific lessons, practice or challenges surrounding violent extremism. We work with mayors and local political leaders and frontline practitioners spanning multiple sectors in each member city. We also work closely with civil society groups and partner organisations in many areas.
We believe that local communities are uniquely placed to counter violent extremism and create stronger and safer cities. We serve as a platform for communities, CVE professionals and local political leaders to connect with their counterparts around the world and learn from the breadth one another’s experience. Our programming spans training, research, project implementation and capacity-building, and learning resources aimed at enriching understanding of – and enabling more effective local responses to – the challenge of violent extremism.
In sourcing and sharing best practice in local CVE, the Strong Cities Network does not aim to create a ‘blueprint’ for local strategies. We are characterised by the diversity of our membership and the various forms of violent extremism present in each city. Our priority is to help cities identify where there is leading local practice, assess what factors can support good practice in a given context, and adapt and improve upon their own strategy design and implementation with a full appreciation of the specificity of one context to another.
ISD is a global counter-extremism organisation dedicated to powering solutions to extremism and polarisation in ways that are practical, affordable, effective, and scalable. For 10 years, ISD has responded to the rising challenge of extremist movements and the ideologies that underpin them, delivering cutting-edge programmes built from world-leading expertise in communications and technology, grassroots networks, knowledge and research, and policy advice.
Alongside its flagship programmes across education, research and communications and grassroots networks, ISD provides strategic advice to over 15 governments and 100 cities worldwide, allowing the facilitation and exchange of best practice between policymakers and practitioners to coordinate counter-extremism programmes. ISD also provides high-level strategic advice to the tech sector to harmonise efforts with governments and civil society.
As an independent organisation, ISD is able to coordinate government, private, academic, and civil society sectors that are often at odds with each other. Instead, we help synergise their efforts and ensure each of them plays an appropriate and effective role in fighting extremism.
The short and long-term strategic objectives of the Strong Cities Network are developed in close collaboration with the Strong Cities Network International Steering Committee, made up of member cities and strategic partners. Setting an annual course for the network’s activities, engagement and objectives, the SCN International Steering Committee ensures that city leaderships and the needs of members are at the core of what we do.
Countering Violent Extremism. Terminology in this field can be understandably problematic, but we use this term to refer to the broad field of work engaged in research, programme design and constructive action to counter the narrative and threat of violent extremism and the conditions which can support the growth of extremist ideas within and between our communities.
We recognise that the terminology of CVE and PVE (Preventing Violent Extremism) can be contentious and has sometimes been seen as representative of the policies and approaches of particular governments. The Strong Cities Network does not use this term as in any way representative of any one set of policies or approaches, nor do we use the term without a distinct awareness of its contextual sensitivity, potential political or ideological connotations, or lexical semantics.
If you work for your municipality in an official capacity, either as a practitioner in a frontline agency or as a member of the governing political or policy team, we welcome your application to join the Strong Cities Network. You can submit our online membership enquiry form here.
We aim to respond to all membership enquiries within 2-3 working days. Our team will then send you a short application form, requesting the details of 2-3 key points of contact and some brief background to the CVE issues or approaches in your city. Ideally, one of these points of contact will be somebody either in the mayor’s office or in the relevant policy team or department, who can act as a relationship manager with the official mandate of the mayor, governor, or relevant authority to be part of the network. We also prefer if another of the nominated points of contact is a practitioner working on CVE or in a CVE-relevant field.
On receipt of your completed application form, we aim to respond to you within a further 2-3 working days and confirm your membership, providing you with full details of upcoming activities, collaborative research, new members’ resources, and access to the Strong Cities Network Online Hub, our specialist web portal developed exclusively for members.
When we confirm a new member of the Strong Cities Network, we share our full Strong Cities Network Terms of Reference document with the nominated points of contact. As well as setting out the background, aims and strategic objectives of the Strong Cities Network, the Terms of Reference outlines the key principles which guide our work and engagement around the world.
Members of the Strong Cities Network must be committed to the following principles:
- Protection of human rights in efforts to address violent extremism in all of its forms and manifestations;
- Recognition that violent extremism and prevention efforts should not be associated with any particular religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group;
- Commitment to stand against any manifestation of religious-based or other related kinds of discrimination;
- Commitment to policies and programs that address guilt-by-association, backlash, bigotry or hate crimes that may co-occur with incidents of violent extremism;
- Partnership with local communities, including youth, women and religious leaders, on an inclusive, collaborative, non-discriminatory and rights-respecting basis;
- Monitoring and evaluation of activities and initiatives aimed at building social cohesion and resilience against violent extremism, and sharing non-sensitive information across the Strong Cities Network;
- Commitment to complete transparency of funding sources for the Strong Cities Network operation and activities.
These principles were defined and agreed upon at the inaugural meeting of the Strong Cities Network International Steering Committee. The Strong Cities Network governing principles – as with the entire Terms of Reference – are consistently reviewed at all meetings of the International Steering Committee.
We are absolutely committed to transparency of our sources of funding for the Strong Cities Network.
The Strong Cities Network was launched and developed with seed funding provided by the U.S. Department of State, designed to support the growth and expansion of the network, encourage meaningful engagement with cities and subnational entities around the world, and deliver on a programme of activities and resources for members.
The Strong Cities Network seeks to diversify its funding sources wherever possible, broadening the scope of our activities and engagement and demonstrating that responsibility for countering violent extremism does not rest solely with governments, but with multiple sectors and with all communities.
Broadening our governmental support, we have developed and implemented a unique intensive learning and capacity-building partnership between municipalities in Denmark and those in Jordan and Lebanon, supported by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We have also launched a specific programme of work focusing on youth engagement in Jordan and Tunisia, supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Governmental funding across our three current donor governments has been supplemented by one-off or in-kind support from partners and member cities, for example for the delivery of specific workshops and training activities.
We consistently argue for the merits of diverse stakeholders and funding in CVE programming, whether on a large or small scale. Having developed a city working group throughout 2016-17 on public-private partnerships, the SCN International Steering Committee now works to collaborate on donor engagement and increase private sector support for city-led CVE initiatives.
We refuse to receive funds from governments or other organisations who we feel advocate or implement approaches that are contrary to the principles of the Strong Cities Network.
We recognise that the recent history of counterterrorism and CVE work has been – and continues to be – extremely contentious in some contexts.
Unfortunately there has been some negative and misleading reporting around the Strong Cities Network and its aims, activities and supporters. Thankfully, these remain relatively isolated and the majority of mainstream press around the network has been very positive. Nonetheless, if you have read or heard something about us which causes you to doubt our intentions or activities, please do read our ‘Myth-busting’ document, which we hope provides important clarifications in a clear and transparent way.
The Strong Cities Network is committed to working with communities and for communities to make stronger, safer, more united cities, towns and regions. We do so in good faith, with complete openness and in the firm belief that countering violent extremism and the issues and conditions which drive it are the responsibility of all of us, in every community and of both political leaders and the people they serve.