Lebanese SCN delegation on a study trip to the UK

Above: the Lebanese focal points with Prevent officers in Leicester

Author: Nayla-Joy Zein
Regional Coordinator, Strong Cities Network

On 24 and 25 June, the Strong Cities Network (SCN) organised a study trip for its municipal focal points from Lebanon with the support of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Our focal points from the cities of Saida, Tripoli and Majdal Anjar travelled to the United Kingdom to meet with our members in Leicester and London to learn about the UK’s Prevent Strategy, and what the role of a Prevent Coordinator entails on a day to day basis.

Day 1: St. Philips’ Centre in Leicester

On the first day of their trip, our Lebanese focal points visited Leicester, a recent SCN member city, to learn about the Prevent strategy, local PVE programming, and Youth Engagement. Leicester’s Prevent coordinator Sean Arbuthnot, in partnership with Leicester City Council, hosted the delegation at the St. Philips Centre and shared the experiences from his work. The focal points engaged in an interesting discussion about Leicester’s history, challenges and PVE efforts while drawing parallels with the difficulties they face in their own contexts.

The delegation also had the opportunity to meet Chief Inspector Bill Knopp, the Regional Police Prevent Coordinator for the East Midlands, who explained how the police works with the public and partners with civil society to build resilience in communities and safeguard vulnerable individuals from terrorism. Throughout the day, focal points heard about ways in which young people are engaged in local decision-making through the Young People’s Council, as well as about workshops and mentoring activities delivered by the local initiatives Focus and Real Talk. The day ended in a visit to the Leicester City Retreat, a community centre leading a variety of open activities to promote tolerance and foster a sense of belonging in the city.

Day 2: Visit to the Strong Cities Network team and Al-Manaar Mosque in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea

On the second day, Lebanese representatives visited our office to present an update on their municipal approaches to the SCN team in London, explaining the diverse array of local challenges each city faces and how their multi-sector approach working with young people, refugee communities, local schools, and religious leaders is helping to remedy key local risks.

In the afternoon, the delegation visited the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre Al-Mannar based in West London. Pinakin Patel MBE, who leads one of the biggest and most established Prevent programmes in the UK and chairs the London Prevent Network, shared the expertise of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Prevent Team and chaired the meeting. The Prevent team presented its different strands of work, local activities and highlighted the importance of engaging with local communities and partnering with religious and community organisations when safeguarding against radicalisation. The delegation took a tour of the Al-Manaar mosque, a place with a long history of community service where victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 found shelter and support, who partner and support the team’s work locally.

The importance of exchanges to share experience and expertise

The SCN is committed to creating opportunities for practitioners to learn from one another and is truly grateful to Leicester and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for sharing their expertise with Saida, Tripoli and Madjal Anjar.  We look forward to seeing how our Lebanese members apply the lessons learnt from the UK into their own work and reporting back on those achievements in the near future!

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