This month, the SCN team were in Dhaka, Bangladesh to conduct in-depth interviews and consultations with city mayors, local officials and partner organisations. The consultations included meetings with Mayor Khokon of Dhaka South and Mayor Ivy of Narayanganj City Corporation, as well as relevant city officials responsible for social welfare, planning and peacebuilding. Discussions centred on the nature of localised extremism challenges and the existing capabilities of the two City Corporations to develop and enact prevention mechanisms with government and non-government partners. The SCN also met with a number of Bangladeshi NGO and civil society actors delivering relevant programming in both areas, as well as regional SCN partners.
Following the 2016 Holey Artisan attack, domestic and international actors have developed initiatives focusing largely on the vulnerabilities of a young educated urban demographic. But prevention initiatives need to be cognisant of important parallel dynamics in the context of a bulging youth population simultaneously experiencing rapid rural-urban migration. Cities and local governments offer a unique opportunity to address extremist threats within their fast-moving societal contexts. In doing so, it is critical that strong partnerships between national and local governments as well as international and civil society relationships are leveraged to demonstrate a coordinated, effective and contextualised response.
SCN city consultations are intended to provide a grounded understanding of local needs and capabilities with regard to preventing radicalisation and recruitment, on which our future activities and regional engagement can draw. They also offer an opportunity to discuss the contextual challenges and localised issues, and how Bangladeshi cities can draw on best practice from cities across the global SCN network, and vice-versa. This is the third formal consultation exercise, following prior activities in Pakistan and the Western Balkans. The SCN looks forward to continued engagement in Bangladesh, working to support the capacity of our member cities to build resilience to extremist recruitment and community cooperation.