Authors: Rubina Abu Zeinab, National Coordinator for Preventing Violent Extremism; Merete Juhl, H.E. Ambassador of Denmark to Lebanon; Khadije Nasser, Senior Regional Manager, SCN.
Last week Lebanon conducted its third iteration of the national consultative workshop on Preventing Violent Extremism with special focus on urban/rural development and engaging local communities. Representatives of governmental entities, municipalities, civil society, private sector, universities and international organizations collaborated over two days to develop concrete ideas for the implementation of Lebanon’s national strategy for PVE. The workshop’s topic represents one of the areas of mutual interest and partnership between Lebanon, Denmark and the Strong Cities Network. Lebanon has worked extensively for the last two years on installing the necessary human and institutional infrastructures for building a national consensus around PVE.
Lebanon is being recognized for making the first known attempt in the Middle East to create a locally owned model for coordinating local, development-driven efforts to prevent violent extremism a Lebanese model. Through a tripartite partnership between Lebanon, Denmark and the Strong Cities Network – a global network of cities coming together to exchange best practices and promote local solutions to prevention of violent extremism Lebanon is developing the necessary platforms for localizing its national PVE strategy.
This strategic and holistic approach to preventing violent extremism has made Lebanon a regional and global pioneer. It is a leader in connecting national policy formulation and local-level implementation that mutually reinforces the understanding of local needs and nationwide priorities.
Early prevention is the most effective long-term approach to reduce the threat from violent extremism, together with efficient security responses to counter it when materializes. In that regard, local stakeholders are among the key actors for the implementation of any national policy to prevent violent extremism since they interact with those at risk of being attracted to violent extremist recruitment strategies.
These local actors include, inter alia, municipality employees, schoolteachers, scout leaders, faith and community leaders, youth workers, psychosocial professionals and civil society organizations.
We are proud of the special relationship between Lebanon and Denmark that has grown out of the close cooperation between both governments in the PVE file and the membership of the Strong Cities Network. With inspiration from the Danish approach to early prevention, municipality-led Community Prevention Networks have been established by Lebanese members of the Strong Cities Network.
These are responsible for coordinating local prevention efforts across various stakeholders, determining priorities, designing and delivering projects tailored to the local context, and supporting implementation of national priorities and policies for preventing violent extremism.
Our partnership is a clear illustration of how impactful multilateralism can be on solving national and local challenges. It also stems from the fact that the threats of violent extremism know no borders and have no single shape or profile, therefore, it is crucial that we enhance our exchange of experiences taking into consideration the specificities of our various contexts.
In collaboration with the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, a Lebanese delegation has visited Denmark. Meanwhile, practitioners from the Municipality of Copenhagen have returned from study visits to Lebanon with new insights on how to mobilize local leaders and civil society in prevention efforts, something Lebanon is internationally renowned for. Last December, experts from the Danish National Centre for Prevention of Extremism joined international and Lebanese colleagues at the Grand Serail to share experiences on developing and implementing national policies and action plans to prevent violent extremism. Earlier this month, the national coordinator for preventing violent extremism and the Strong Cities Network co-hosted a roundtable for heads of Lebanese unions of municipalities discussing the role of mayors in preventing violent extremism, as municipalities are the closest representative of the state to local communities.
The process of involving municipalities and other local stakeholders in local prevention work culminated last week with a national consultation workshop at the Grand Serail on urban development and local community engagement, a cornerstone of the upcoming National Action Plan on Preventing Violent Extremism.
As we move forward in translating strategy into action, we call on all members of the Lebanese and international society to join our efforts to maintain a cohesive and prosperous Lebanon.
Rubina Abu Zeinab is the national coordinator for preventing violent extremism at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers; Merete Juhl is the ambassador of Denmark to Lebanon and Khadije Nasser is the senior regional program manager at the Strong Cities Network in the MENA region.
Article originally published in The Daily Star Lebanon: Prevention of violent extremism: A Lebanese model