Inaugural Workshop: Strong Cities’ East and Southern Africa Regional Hub
On 26 and 27 October 2022, the Strong Cities Network (SCN) hosted the inaugural activity of its East and Southern Africa (ESA) Hub. The workshop, Operationalizing Local Government-Led Multi-Actor Prevention Policies and Programmes in East and Southern Africa, was organised with funding support from the European Union and US State Department.
Some 70 stakeholders gathered in Nairobi for the two-day event, including representatives from local and national governments, civil society and multilateral organizations from across the region. This group featured local actors from Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania, including some 20 governors, mayors, deputy mayors and other city officials.
It was an opportunity to learn about SCN’s new Regional Hub and for local government stakeholders in the region, in particular, to share their perspectives on how they hope to work with and benefit from the network going forward. Additionally, it provided a forum for local leaders and practitioners and other relevant preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) actors from across the region and across sectors to discuss how to elevate the role of local authorities in P/CVE and prevention more broadly and explore potential solutions to common challenges cites and other local governments face in addressing violent extremism and related threats in a neutral and facilitated environment – something that many participants noted SCN was uniquely able to provide. Finally, the workshop allowed local leaders and practitioners from counties in Kenya to share their experiences and lessons learned in developing and implementing local multi-actor prevention plans and programmes, such as the US Department of State’s PROACT initiative.
During the discussions, participants recommended a number of priorities for the Hub to pursue over next 12-18 months. This includes:
1. Helping mayors and other local government officials more fully understand their role in P/CVE and prevention more broadly. This includes:
- Facilitating the development of a model local framework (whether law, policy or regulation) that provides the local government with a clear P/CVE mandate, highlighting examples of what could be included in such a mandate;
- Exploring how local governments can mainstream P/CVE into existing city-level structures/programmes and leverage existing and/or mobilise new resources to support these efforts;
- Highlighting good practices for how local governments can build trust with local communities and reduce inter-communal or tribal tensions; and
- Enhancing the skills of local government practitioners to design and implement successful prevention programmes.
2. Facilitating the sharing of lessons learned among cities and other local authorities across the region on the different ways they can develop new or draw on existing local networks that tap into the range of local services. These networks could be leveraged to identify those “at risk” of radicalising to violence and address their needs before they cause harm. More broadly, this exchange could help them leverage existing local structures to promote multi-stakeholder programmes to prevent extremism, hate and polarisation.
3. Identifying and disseminating models and methods – including tailored social media strategies – through which local governments can connect and engage with youth. This includes facilitating the development of local youth policy that integrates P/CVE, and promoting regional peer learning on how local governments can integrate P/CVE issues into existing youth engagements (including those related to economic and employment opportunities, sports or culture) with young people.
4. Running country-focused national-local cooperation dialogues that include national and local government and civil society stakeholders aimed at building trust and identifying and overcoming the barriers to NLC that can impede the meaningful involvement of local authorities in preventing extremism, hate and polarisation.
5. Convening remote towns or villages that share a common-border to explore ways to strengthen local-local cooperation around shared cross-border threats and develop common strategies for advocating for support from their respective central governments in addressing these threats.
6. Collaborating with relevant regional and sub-regional bodies, including the AU, IGAD and SADC, to ensure future discussions in those forum around violent extremism and P/CVE include the perspectives from local leaders and local government officials.