SCN in the Middle East and North Africa
According to the latest available statistics, the MENA region has suffered the largest number of both attacks and fatalities in between 2002-2016. The conflict in Iraq and Syria has seen a rise in terrorism-related fatalities and served to radicalise and recruit those from both within and outside the region fighting among the ranks of Daesh and other armed groups. More widely, issues of conflict, stability and migration pose significant challenges and risk to the peace, cohesion and resilience of communities.
In a region frequently engaged on sharper-edge counter terrorism and security programming, the SCN has engaged in the region with governments and local municipalities on a prevention and resilience agenda.
 Institute of Economics and Peace, Global Terrorism Index 2017.
Community Prevention Networks
For more than two years, the SCN has been implementing an in-depth capacity-building programme in Lebanon and Jordan, focused on the prevention of violent extremism (PVE) through the establishment of municipal-led Community Prevention Networks (CPNs). Supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, our work has supported six municipalities to develop sustainable grassroots infrastructure and design, coordinate and deliver effective prevention initiatives that are locally-owned and city-led.
Beginning with a partnership between Danish cities and Jordanian and Lebanese counterparts, initial exchanges focused on how the multiagency partnership at the heart of prevention models in cities like Aarhus, Copenhagen and Viborg could be fostered and contextualised to meet regional PVE needs. Working with local communities to contextualise this approach and identify key actors, sensitise and deliver PVE training, and establish a local bottom-up mandate for prevention, this work has seen an unprecedented growth of multi-stakeholder cooperation on PVE. It has sought to harness existing stakeholders and infrastructures, bringing together a wide diversity of community actors to work in partnership with municipalities on key PVE issues.
In the municipalities of Al-Karak, Zarqa and Irbid in Jordan, and Tripoli, Saida and Majdal Anjar in Lebanon, our CPNs comprise local actors – including teachers, civil servants, religious leaders, psycho-social support providers, NGO representatives and community police – to enhance sub-national involvement in PVE work and align local initiatives with national efforts. Through their project activities, the municipalities have been engaged in tailoring local PVE work to their respective contexts.
“In order to decrease instances of violence, we need to address root causes.” Scout leader participating in our PVE training in Saida, Lebanon.
As part of the SCN’s capacity-building activities, our regional team delivered two regional workshops to members of the six CPNs in 2017. Over 90 practitioners received training on PVE activity planning followed by sessions aimed at co-designing outreach activities to be delivered in the local communities. The workshop took place in Beirut in July 2017 and brought together the CPN members of the Jordanian and Lebanese SCN member cities who drew on their extensive experience and diverse set of skills to develop targeted interventions.
The second regional workshop included sessions on the development of a PVE guide in order to allow CPN members to create contextualised PVE guides reflecting the local challenges conducive to violent extremism in their cities. Each CPN examined local push and pull factors and radicalisation processes linked to social and political issues, in addition to listing potential community-based solutions within the domain of the CPN and relevant local partners and stakeholders. Each CPN in Lebanon has launched its own ‘Local Guide for PVE Work’, addressed to a wide range of practitioners and local actors during a public event attended by project partners.
Local activities led by Community Prevention Networks
Through the SCN, the CPNs have designed and delivered several activities in their local communities. These activities aim to raise awareness about the dangers of violent extremism and to allow members of the community to develop relevant prevention skills.
After completing planning workshops and brainstorming sessions, different priorities have been outlined for each municipality: the CPNs of Saida, Al-Karak and Majdal Anjar saw the targeting of school pupils as a key vulnerability. The CPN of Saida opted to focus on the training of local school staff and scout leaders to spread PVE efforts locally. Other CPNs chose to work directly with local youth. The CPN of Majdal Anjar organised a 3-day PVE camp to train Syrian and Lebanese youth on social cohesion and non-violent communication to strengthen resilience, while the CPN of Tripoli developed a ‘PVE Through Arts’ initiative for 12 local underprivileged youths exposed to protracted conflict. The CPN of Irbid also used creative means to foster PVE by implementing a public interactive theatre activity aimed at reflecting on potential collaborative solutions to extremism and violence. Online influence was listed by all CPNs as a significant risk, especially for younger users, leading Zarqa’s CPN to launch several online platforms to encourage community members to critically discuss PVE challenges and solutions.
CPNs also collaborate with academics and policymakers as major stakeholders. Mu’ta University in Al-Karak held an international P/CVE conference, providing an opportunity for the CPN to engage over 300 participants including researchers, political figures, parliamentarians and religious leaders.
Lebanon & Jordan: Context
At the national level, the Lebanese government created a national PVE unit tasked with developing a national PVE strategy, following the launch of the United Nations Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. After the formal approval of the strategy by the Lebanese Council of Ministers, the national PVE unit is currently developing the National PVE Action Plan, the implementation of which will start in 2019.
The Lebanese and Jordanian contexts are shaped by a long history of difficult state-building processes, social unrest, violent conflict, corruption, foreign interference and social inequality. Neither can be examined without considering events and fluctuations in the wider MENA region. The structural issues specific to each of the two countries are coupled with recent events such as the wave of uprisings in Arab countries, the emergence of Daesh in Syria and Iraq and the ensuing influx of refugees.
In August 2017, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) carried out the ‘Dawn of the Outskirts’ offensive against Daesh combatants who tried to penetrate the peripheries of Ras Baalbek and El-Qaa. A year before, the village of El-Qaa had been the target of a series of suicide bombings, placing Lebanon at the heart of the group’s expansion plans. Recently in Jordan, several tourist areas have been targeted. The blast of a gendarmerie vehicle stationed near the Fuheis festival in 2018 and the 2016 attack carried out in several locations within the Al-Karak vicinity are tragic reminders of the fragile security situation. Security forces in both countries also report the foiling of numerous other would-be attacks.