Above: Mayor of Kumanovo, Maksim Dimitrievski, speaking at the roundtable discussion on the municipality’s new Local Action Plan.
Strong Cities Network Regional Manager
4 February 2020
Polarisation and extremism have historically been critical security threats to communities in the Balkans. North Macedonia is no exception.
Cities and local communities have always been at the forefront of these security risks. To address these challenges, the government adopted its first National Strategy for Countering Violent Extremism where it mandated the formation of Community Action Teams (CATs), local multi-stakeholder groups designated to work on preventing violent extremism at the local level.
To support this goal, the Strong Cities Network has been working with city officials and practitioners to support the establishment of a to build local prevention efforts into local governance. The creation of this team signals the increasing importance of whole-of-society approaches and the role of community leaders in violence prevention. It also signals a shift away from viewing violent extremism through a security lens and towards a holistic, preventative approach.
On 27 January, the SCN facilitated a roundtable discussion on the newly adopted Local PVE Action Plan (LAP) organised by the CAT. The event brought together over 65 key stakeholders from the municipality in Kumanovo and the international community.
The purpose of the roundtable discussion was to present the key strategic priorities listed in the LAP and strengthen partnerships and discuss the roles and responsibilities of each societal actor in prevention.
The LAP is the fruitful outcome of the partnership between the Municipality of Kumanovo and SCN in the previous year, and symbolises the ongoing work that has been done over the previous 5 months, including:
Members were identified and recruited and the Community Action Team officially established.
Member guidelines were drafted and agreed upon. Roles and responsibilities were clarified, and supporting materials disseminated.
Community members were trained to get a better understanding of the threat of violent extremism and different prevention approaches, and to develop a strategic local plan based on their local knowledge and expertise.
Exchange of Best Practices
Regional bilateral exchanges were conducted to promote and share practical tools and initiatives on a city-to-city basis, whilst creating spaces which encourage the exchange of ideas and knowledge, and strengthens collaborative efforts.
Successful local projects were highlighted as good examples of existing efforts, while opportunities were provided to build partnerships with CSOs.
Local Action Plan
The Local Action Plan was drafted, with support from the Strong Cities Network.
The Mayor of Kumanovo called the LAP “a strategic document for the municipality.” He urged and encouraged the participants to take an active role in the implementation of the listed activities. Moreover, he particularly stressed the role of education in prevention and the importance to work with vulnerable youth.
The adoption of a LAP is just the first step in effective PVE work. The LAP provides only a strategic framework and guidelines for key priorities and goals. Nevertheless, implementation of the strategic document is always the hardest part in this process. The SCN will continue supporting the CAT by providing human and financial assistance for the implementation of LAP activities. There are various challenges that could likely hinder the sustainable achievement of strategic goals – mostly connected to a lack of local capacity, financial resources and awareness of best practices in this field. Nevertheless, despite these key challenges the Municipality of Kumanovo has shown its determination to use existing capacities and structures to bridge the gap in capacities and work as efficiently as possible with available resources.
The next steps for the SCN and CAT members is to provide further training so the municipality of Kumanovo has sustainable in-house capacities to work with practitioners on the ground. Equally important, SCN will continue to engage with other members of the network in the region to provide guidance and share best practice for the establishment of local prevention networks. On 29 January, just a couple of days after the launch of the Local PVE Action Plan in Kumanovo, members of the Community Action Team were at an event in Tetovo, another SCN member from North Macedonia, to present lessons learned from their experience to municipal stakeholders.
Many municipalities in the Western Balkans have formed multidisciplinary groups to work on the prevention of wider societal security challenges. However, some exist only in name while others have limited functionality. Kumanovo’s experience with the Community Action Team provides a perfect formula of a tailored model – combined with local ownership and the will to devote resources and energy in addressing polarisation and hate – that can be replicated by municipalities with similar issues.
If you are interested in forming your own local prevention network or action plan, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected] for guidance.