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MENA Regional Hub: Operationalising a Whole-of-Society Approach to Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE): Roles and Needs of Iraqi Cities

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— 2 minutes reading time

The Strong Cities Network’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Hub held its first country roundtable on 31 May – 1 June 2023 in Baghdad, Iraq in partnership with the National Committee for Countering Violent Extremism (NCCVE) and the European Union Advisory Mission (EUAM) in Iraq.  The two-day workshop focused on “Operationalising a Whole-of-Society Approach to Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE): Roles and Needs of Iraqi Cities” and gathered more than 35 representatives from the Iraqi national government, governorates and cities, endowment authorities, civil society organisations (CSOs), and international organisations. The workshop was held under the auspices of Strong Cities’ EU-funded STRIVE Cities programme.

Participants discussed local drivers to violent extremism in Iraq, the national response and institutionalisation of P/CVE strategies, roles and responsibilities of local governments in P/CVE efforts, achievements and gaps in national-local cooperation (NLC) in prevention and existing partnerships and support offered by international and multilateral organisations to national and local actors across the country.

Three key findings emerged out of these discussions:

  1. The roundtable highlighted the need to raise awareness among sub-national actors regarding their role in Iraq’s National Strategy for CVE. Many stakeholders were unaware of their responsibilities and lacked understanding of the strategy’s scope and expectations. The roundtable offered such actors the opportunity to learn more about the strategy and to explore how best to implement it at the local level.
  2. Achieving sustainability for the national strategy requires improved collaboration between local and national actors, as well as local, national and multilateral institutions. The lack of understanding amongst Iraqi local governments of the role they are expected to play in implementing the national strategy is due, in part, to a lack of NLC – a deficit many other countries face. Participants agreed that enhancing NLC should be a top priority for the national government and cities across the country and that Strong Cities is well-placed to support through facilitating more national-local dialogues. Participants also agreed that efforts to streamline relevant engagement by international institutions, like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), should be intensified.
  3. The potential for optimising P/CVE efforts across Iraq by proactively leveraging existing structures and mandates at the local level was recognised. By leveraging these structures, local governments can effectively implement the national strategy and scale city-led P/CVE efforts more broadly.

Overall, discussions underscored the importance of existing multilateral, national and local P/CVE efforts, and participants agreed that the roundtable provided a useful forum in which to raise awareness about these efforts and how best to improve coordination to maximise and sustain their impact.