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Southeast Asia Regional Workshop: Strengthening National-Local Cooperation to Prevent and Counter Violent Extremism

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— 2 minutes reading time

On 18 – 19 July 2023, the Strong Cities Network held its first Southeast Asia regional workshop in Manila, the Philippines, bringing together 20 mayors, governors and national government officials from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines to identify opportunities for strengthening national-local cooperation (NLC) related to the prevention of hate, polarisation, and violent extremism. With support from the U.S. Department of State and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the workshop convened key city and provincial leaders as well as those charged with developing national strategies related to preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE). For most city leaders and officials participating, the workshop provided their first briefing on their own country’s national approach and the national agencies engaged in delivery, as well as their first dialogue with other cities – either domestically or regionally – to share insights on their own potential role in P/CVE and prevention and resilience efforts more broadly.

Setting out key national efforts, Indonesian government officials shared that they are already working in partnership with five provinces and two cities to develop local action plans in line with Indonesia’s 2020 – 2024 P/CVE National Action Plan. While local governments clearly have a vital role in informing threat assessments as well as prevention activities, our colleagues from Indonesia noted that mayors and governors needed to be engaged more consistently rather than risk local approaches becoming overly reliant on  input from provincial-level security actors. Government officials from the Philippines noted that the workshop was well-timed as they are beginning the localisation of their National Action Plan across 17 regions. They shared with participants a delivery roadmap for the coming years beginning with sensitisation and capacity-building for local governments. Malaysian counter-terrorism police outlined some of the opportunities for expanding the role that mayors and local governments play in prevention efforts, noting the importance of furthering collaboration in the pre-criminal space to identify potential risks and conduct effective community engagement. With a national action plan forthcoming, they identified a need for greater support and capacity-building for mayors to enable them to realise their potential role in prevention and suggested several existing mechanisms and resources at local levels which could potentially be leveraged for prevention and resilience-building.

Mayors and local leaders welcomed the discussion of national approaches. There was widespread agreement that local governments have a key role to play in prevention efforts in each country, as well as in informing national strategy development with their local knowledge and understanding of the issues in their communities. In addition to more awareness and capacity-building efforts for local leaders, mayors urged stakeholders to be realistic about resourcing and sustainability challenges, as well as the need for formalised coordination mechanisms that can facilitate dialogue and information sharing in both directions. In country-focused break-out sessions, participants focused on mapping each of these challenges in more detail and developing an outline for potential areas of collaboration.

Many mayors and local officials initially questioned their relevance to P/CVE issues at the outset of the event. However, by the end, several expressed that they now felt they were central to P/CVE and, more broadly, to prevention efforts. They noted that seeing first-hand the recognition of this capacity from national counterparts was a critical first step. What they had assumed was the exclusive remit of security agencies and not public service-oriented local governments was in fact, they felt, a vital – if yet to be fully realised – strength of city and provincial administrations and their local leaders in each country.


Event Report