The Strong Cities Network (SCN) convened mayors, local officials, civil society actors and representatives from national government from Europe and North America for a two-day dialogue event to share experiences, address key challenges and identify solutions for issues related to extremism on both sides of the Atlantic.
On 15 – 16 November, more than 100 mayors, deputy mayors and other city officials, civil society actors and national government representatives gathered at the Peace Palace in The Hague for the Strong Cities Network’s Transatlantic Mayoral Dialogue on Preventing Hate, Extremism and Polarisation, and Safeguarding Local Democracy. The two-day event was organised in cooperation with the City of The Hague, Human Security Collective, The Glocal Connection, and with generous support from the US Embassy, The Hague.
Through a series of mayoral and other keynotes, plenary conversations and interactive breakout sessions, participants exchanged experiences and shared lessons and good practices around a range of common challenges threatening not only public safety, but the very fabric of local democracy in cities on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Participants discussed the increasingly interconnected set of threats facing their communities, with rising polarisation and anti-government sentiment among the most concerning. They underscored that as mayors and local governments know their cities, their citizens and communities, and understand the local dynamics fuelling many of these threats, they must be key actors in driving local prevention and response efforts.
Participants demonstrated a strong interest in connecting with each other more consistently around how to prevent and respond to these threats and challenges and acknowledged the useful and unique platform SCN offers for local leaders and practitioners in cities in Europe and North America to share with each other on these issues and for elevating their voices of mayors and the needs of local governments to the global stage. Moreover, they recognised that while different cities might look at these issues through different lenses – from violent extremism, hate, crime or violence prevention, or social cohesion – they nevertheless have a lot to learn from each other.
The event premiered Stronger Than Hate, a graphic animation of the 2018 attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, focusing on key mayoral decision points during and in the wake of attack. Following the screening of the movie, which was a joint production of SCN and the Bertelsmann Foundation (North America), former Mayor of Pittsburgh Bill Peduto shared further insights on mayoral leadership and strengthening social cohesion following such an attack.
The dialogue culminated with the Mayors of The Hague (Jan van Zanen) and Columbus (Andrew Ginther) signing The Hague Mayoral Declaration. The declaration, which has been endorsed by 40 cities, is a demonstration of the commitment and determination of cities to work together to counter hate, extremism and polarisation, and safeguard local democracy.
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