On 29 November and 6 December 2021, the SCN facilitated two virtual workshops organised by the GCTF Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Working Group focused on the implementation of the GCTF’s good practices on strengthening national-local cooperation in preventing and countering violent extremism. The goals were to raise awareness of the good practices among a variety of national and local and government and non-governmental stakeholders and provide them with the opportunity to share and discuss the barriers to national-local cooperation in P/CVE in their different contexts and possible ways to overcome them. These events are part of a larger GCTF initiative that will culminate in 2023 with the development of a GCTF toolkit to facilitate implementation of the NLC Good Practices. Please see the GCTF website for more information on these events and the wider initiative of which they are a part.
The SCN team has identified a number of discussion points in the workshops that are particularly relevant for the network members and partners:
1. Overcoming a Siloed Approach to P/CVE: The Importance of Sub-National Actors
- Too often, sub-national authorities (e.g., city, municipal, regional, state, county, or local governments) and local civil society organisations (CSOs) are excluded from the consultation processes used to develop national P/CVE strategies, or else included too late or reduced to a minor role. More broadly, there remains a tendency for both national and sub-national and government and non-governmental P/CVE actors to operate in silos, leading to policies and programmes that are often disconnected from each other, redundant, and/or conflicting.
- Operationalising a multidisciplinary approach was emphasised as one way to break through the silos. This brings different stakeholders, e.g., law enforcement, mental health, social services, municipal officials, community leaders, and youth workers, to the table. Such an approach is essential to achieve sustainable results at a local level. Considering the different perspectives (and information) that each stakeholder may have on an individual or issue is critical to effective P/CVE work. This multi-actor approach, which participants argued was useful for a range of issues beyond P/CVE, should include civil society stakeholders, which are often marginalised in P/CVE initiatives rather than integrated into core processes. The point was made that NGOs are often more trusted by and have more access to the communities P/CVE initiatives are trying to reach than either national or local government officials.
- Cities and other sub-national authorities have a number of comparative advantages when it comes to driving and coordinating local P/CVE efforts. For example, they are often better connected with local communities and more effective than their central government counterparts in contextualising relevant national and international frameworks so they resonate with these communities. As a result, sub-national authorities can be better positioned to stimulate local engagement on and implementation of these frameworks, particularly when it comes to prevention.
2. Trust-Building: A Critical Feature of Multi-Actor P/CVE Efforts
- The inherent lack of trust that exists in many contexts among national security stakeholders, local authorities, civil society, and local communities was identified as one of the most prevalent challenges to effective NLC. Some basic level trust is likely needed to operationalise and sustain a multidisciplinary, whole of society P/CVE approach that involves both national and local actors.
- Examples to help build this trust include: 1) working to build trust with new partners, groups, and communities who might feel stigmatised by being targeted for involvement in P/CVE initiatives before engaging them on such initiatives; 2) starting small, for example, by having two or three stakeholders which are not used to working together begin collaborating on a manageable, single project before looking to pursue more system-wide collaboration; and 3) a consultative, multidisciplinary, and ‘whole of society’ approach is likely to be more successful in strengthening trust, particularly among non-security actors, rather than approaching the topic of P/CVE from a single direction and/or with a focus on a few institutions.
3. Lack of Data and Challenges for Monitoring and Evaluation
- Data collection is an essential requirement for successful, evidence-based P/CVE efforts. This includes information-gathering exercises to inform the development (or updating) of P/CVE frameworks and programmes to understand and assess a) what resources are already available to contribute to P/CVE efforts; b) how these resources are allocated across different institutions; and c) the level of decentralisation of these resources (i.e., to what extent they reside with sub-national authorities).
- Enhanced data collection and analysis skills are critical to more fully understand the threat, how it may differ across cities and communities within a particular context, and what steps are necessary to prevent and counter it to ensure a contextualised response. It is also important for assessing the impact of those steps.
4. Resources and Sustainability
- Ensuring long-term sustainability of P/CVE initiatives is both critical and challenging, particularly at the local level. P/CVE efforts are typically under-resourced, ad hoc, and insufficiently institutionalised. This increases their vulnerability to economic, political and personnel changes. Securing long-term resources, developing partnerships with apolitical entities such as universities, the private sector, and multilateral organisations, and investing in building and strengthening teams (including through training and other capacity-building activities) rather than relying on individual officials, are some of the ways to protect against political or other upheaval or uncertainty.
- Cooperation and collaboration among different local ministries and departments, as well as with other local authorities and the national government, are critical to ensure sustained city- led P/CVE efforts. Particularly given the often limited resources and mandate for city-led P/CVE work, the absence of such cooperation and collaboration can impede the ability of local governments (particularly small/remote ones) to contribute. This is particularly so given that while an increasing number of mechanisms have been set up to provide funding to CSOs to implement P/CVE projects, mechanisms for directing funds to city-led efforts are typically lacking.