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A Guide For Cities: Preventing Hate, Extremism & Polarisation

Last updated:
07/05/2024
Publication Date:
12/09/2023
Content Type:

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Strong Cities Network A Guide For Cities

Chapter 4: Coordination

This chapter expands on the different types of coordination and partnerships that cities should consider when developing their prevention efforts. It looks at how cities can build effective coordination with central governments, before exploring how whole-of-society multi-stakeholder approaches can be developed into city-level operational coordination models. Finally, it also discusses how cities can consider engaging with the private sector as key stakeholders in their prevention efforts as much as potential resource partners. 

The Benefits of a Local Coordination Platform 

Given its multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary nature, coordination among different sectors and actors is a prerequisite for effective and sustainable prevention. Operationalising a whole-of-society approach necessitates integrating contributions from a multitude of offices, organisations and individuals. This includes frontline practitioners like social, health and youth workers and teachers; community leaders such as religious, tribal, youth and respected members of community groups; and different government agencies. This applies as much to local as national efforts and includes cooperation between these two levels. Cities should bear this in mind whether they are looking to become involved in prevention for the first time or to deepen and broaden their existing involvement. 

In general, there are a number of modalities for enabling coordination: this includes creating dedicated centres, networks or bodies, or by appointing an As reflected in the NLC Toolkit, local coordination mechanisms can serve a number of purposes. mechanisms can serve a number of purposes. 

For example, they can: 

  • provide a single point to organise and collate the input and activities of local actors;
  • facilitate both implementation of relevant local prevention programmes and coordination with the national government;
  • connect local stakeholders – from across government and civil society – to discuss and address issues of concern to local communities and pursue cooperative solutions;
  • coordinate information-gathering and sharing to both inform local actors and help ensure local perspectives and needs are communicated to the national level; 
  • provide or facilitate the delivery of relevant capacity building that is tailored to relevant front-line workers and community actors; and
  • manage and disperse funding for locally-led prevention initiatives.  

Cities should be mindful of the importance of ensuring there is a mechanism in place to enable the sustained involvement of a diversity of local stakeholders in prevention. For many, this is not an issue on which they necessarily feel comfortable working, whether due to a lack of resources or expertise. Cities should recognise the need for some level of cooperation with the national government. 

Sindh Province, Pakistan: is administratively divided into 29 districts totalling a population of 47.9 million which makes it challenging to develop policies and programmes that will be relevant to all its constituencies. Like all provincial governments of Pakistan, Sindh has developed the Apex committee, a coordination and cooperation mechanism to enhance vertical and horizontal connectivity. It does not only serve as a platform for strengthened cooperation with civil society and other relevant actors, but also between the district governments. The Apex committee has permanent members and can also summon officials as and when needed. The coordination and cooperation mechanism focuses on a couple of aspects including information sharing, resource allocation, ameliorative action and collective decision making with lower tiers of government.


The Importance of National-Local Coordination

As a result of its engagements with scores of cities around the world, Strong Cities has found that some level of NLC is needed for cities to unlock their full potential in prevention. At a fundamental level, NLC encompasses the structures, resources and approaches that cohere national strategies with the localised needs of a city’s approach, with both national and local stakeholders able to work collectively and maximise the impact of their respective efforts.

Since its Third Global Summit in 2018, Strong Cities has been at the forefront of efforts not only to highlight the critical role that meaningful NLC plays in operationalising a whole-of-society approach to P/CVE, but to develop practical guidance for national and local stakeholders, including cities. This includes its support for the development of the GCTF’s 13 NLC good practices and the above-mentioned Implementation Toolkit that provides recommendations, case study examples and other resources that local governments may find helpful to apply and tailor to their own contexts. The toolkit breaks down NLC into six core competencies: Trust; Inclusivity; Coordination; Communication; Capacity; and Sustainability.

Cities are encouraged to refer to the Implementation Toolkit for detailed guidance on each component. Note that the operational and coordination approaches outlined in this toolkit, although developed primarily for the P/CVE field. are applicable and relevant across the wider spectrum of prevention efforts.

Local Multi-Stakeholder Coordination Models and Lessons

Some local governments have had success pursuing a coordinated approach in which they develop municipal-led, multi-stakeholder and/or multidisciplinary frameworks or mechanisms for preventing violence, hate and extremism and/or other social harms. These locally-led, multi-stakeholder platforms often involve a diversity of representatives from the community, including religious leaders, educators, social workers, youth workers and law enforcement, as well as representatives of the national government. These bodies can help identify and engage frontline actors across the city in prevention. They also help to build an appropriate and coordinated response to issues of hate and extremism that is both tailored to the local context and in line with national prevention frameworks. 

This approach is sometimes referred to as a ‘local prevention network’ (LPN) and leverages the advantages of multiple actors to support prevention within their existing mandates. The power of LPNs stems in part from their proximity to, and immersion in, the day-to-day issues and challenges prevalent in their communities. This can contribute to a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the individual and structural factors that might lead to violence motivated by hate or extremism than if each actor engaged separately. 

The following key learnings were raised by cities consulted in relation to some of the common challenges they experience when trying to expand or develop multi-actor coordination through various local models:

  • Everybody supports collaboration in principle but there are always reasons why it is difficult to achieve. These might typically span differences in working cultures and legal limitations around information-sharing or be symptomatic of a more fundamental lack of trust. Cities need to navigate these issues and build understanding around the key concerns each part of the local government has, as well as how varying institutional approaches or professional disciplines will inform different perspectives. Where there are legitimate barriers, for example, legal restrictions around information-sharing or confidentiality, these need to be explained at the outset.
  • Building on existing institutional partnerships can give cities a head-start in building the working-level trust and cooperation required to address complex, contentious or sensitive issues.
  • Balancing input from police and security actors against contributions from non-security stakeholders, including health and social care professionals, can be difficult, but it is critical. Whether these specific partners are part of a city’s prevention network or are able/willing to come to the table and cooperate with a city will vary from one context to another. 
  • Running an inclusive mapping process from the outset that involves all the stakeholders likely to be key in implementation will inform the specific partnership, information-sharing and institutional cooperation challenges in any given city. This is likely to be more useful than building a theoretical list of the various partners and stakeholders that represent an ideal model. (See Chapter 1). 
  • Each partner needs to understand the value of the other and appreciate what they are contributing to planning and implementation. Developing working level trust and effective teamwork needs to be part of training and capacity building efforts and not left until it is needed in an emergency response situation. Scenario planning exercises and basic roles and responsibilities need to be agreed upon.

Information-sharing will inevitably be a challenge. Developing protocols and guidelines can help to avoid confusion, bring clarity, provide accountability and reassure partners, but they are not sufficient to create trust by themselves. 

Information-sharing systems: 5 top tips

Information-sharing systems do not need to be costly, complex or technologically advanced platforms. They may not even need to be digital. Regardless of the system a city already has or wants to put in place, these principles apply to support the effective flow of information and ensure that stakeholders use it with a common purpose and understanding.

  1. Train stakeholders not only in how to use the information-sharing system but also in understanding the ethical considerations, data protection regulations, and the wider context. For instance, ensure that their information-sharing systems comply with local, national, and (where applicable) international data protection regulations;
  2. Establish a clear purpose for the information-sharing system, e.g. outlining goals, type of information to be shared, and primary users;
  3. Direct pertinent information to the engaged civil society stakeholders (if they are authorised to receive such information);
  4. Have standardised formats. Different agencies might use different terminologies or data structures, which can hinder effective communication; and 
  5. Periodically review and update the information-sharing systems to remain effective and the chain of information required may differ depending on the type of intervention deployed or issue being addressed.

These tips are adapted from lessons from R&R efforts in German cities but are of wider applicability.

Coordination platforms, which come in different shapes and sizes, have contributed to operationalising a whole-of-society approach to prevention that draws on existing city-level agencies and resources and includes civil society and other community partners. 

For example, several cities in Bangladesh have Town-Level Coordination Committees (TLCC) that are headed by the mayor and made up of representatives from local government, education, law enforcement, social work, civil society, and members of the community. TLCCs meet regularly to discuss issues facing the city and oversee the delivery of projects. In Tangail, according to its Mayor, the TLCC has taken up issues related to prevention. TLCCs across the country have also been critical for elevating marginalised voices, like those of women and the impoverished.

In North Macedonia, with support from Strong Cities, a number of municipalities (with a mandate from the national government) have created Community Action Teams (CAT), local government-led multi-stakeholder groups that facilitate coordination around the implementation of local prevention plans. For example, the CAT in Kumanovo has helped build the prevention-related capacities of its members, which include representatives from the city, religious communities, sports and youth organisations, teachers, and CSOs to inspire its members to lead prevention efforts and to share their experiences and learn from city level professionals in other cities in the region and beyond.

New York City Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (OPHC) coordinates the implementation of whole-of-city community-led hate and extremism prevention efforts across the city. This involves overseeing an interagency committee that includes more than 25 city agencies, including ones related to law enforcement, criminal justice, housing, parks and recreation and community engagement and liaising with community-based organisation across the city.

Several counties in Kenya created County Engagement Forums (CEFs); Counties should lead in Countering Violent Extremism » Capital News (capitalfm.co.ke) to coordinate the delivery and evaluation of their P/CVE County Action Plans (CAPs). While the structure and make-up vary per county, the multi-stakeholder platforms are all co-chaired by the County Commissioner, who is appointed by the national government, and the elected County Governor. They serve as CAP implementation steering committees that bring together national and local government actors, civil society, the private sector, religious leaders, traditional elders, youth groups and women’s groups. Community Teams were also developed in three Kenyan counties in collaboration with the National Counter Terrorism Centre and a number of municipalities in Jordan and Lebanon, with guidance from Strong Cities, established similar structures.

Drawing from its wide-ranging experience supporting the development of city-led, multi-stakeholder coordination and engagement platforms, Strong Cities has identified 10 lessons for cities interested in heading down a similar path:

  1. Design a structure to fit the specific context
  2. Identify and articulate a clear remit for the body
  3. Tailor the mandate to fit the needs and priorities of the city and the communities it serves 
  4. Emphasise local knowledge and context
  5. Leverage existing community structures and initiatives
  6. Maximise strategic and action planning and resource deployment for prevention
  7. Coordinate and/or deliver local programmes aligned with an action plan
  8. Enhance coordination with relevant national actors
  9. Institutionalise communication and coordination mechanisms with the community
  10. Provide safe spaces

Regardless of the approach a local government pursues, it should try to utilise existing departments, policies, positions, programmes and materials wherever possible, rather than disregarding the creations of their predecessors. Prevention must be pursued over the long term and disrupting or ending programmes prematurely can undercut a city’s progress and cause a backlash among those who are directly affected, potentially undermining future efforts. 


Involving the private sector

Private companies generally benefit from a stable and safe environment, yet few actively participate in specific prevention activities, much less at a local or city level.

Companies in every sector can be relevant to prevention, not just the seemingly more influential stakeholders like large multinational tech companies involved in regulatory issues over harmful/hateful content, for example. Many cities felt that beginning with understanding the role that local businesses and employers can play is a more accessible starting place for developing collaboration with the wider public sector.

Cities consulted for this Guide highlighted two primary reasons for engaging the private sector in their approaches: 

As stakeholders actively participating in a city’s approach

Companies can contribute to prevention planning and potentially be part of a local network or multi-stakeholder model (see Institutionalising the approach in Chapter 2). More broadly, the workplace is also an everyday domain no less vulnerable to risks and challenges than other spaces in a city.

This may necessitate engagement with the private sector in specific interventions and at different levels of prevention. Private companies might, for example, establish processes and support efforts to combat hate, violence, intimidation, discrimination, stigmatisation, exclusion or other challenges in the workplace, whether between colleagues or as part of any external engagement. In some cases, a city may be positioned to support companies by providing basic training and support and raising awareness around key risks as well as the approach and broader principles the city is adopting. 

The potential impact companies stand to make is not limited only to their employees; companies can also be vital partners in, for example, providing job support, training and employment and career development opportunities, which might form part of a city’s chosen approach. 

As resource partners 

Cities might also turn to the private sector for resources – financial, human, material, facilities, and/or expertise – that can support their prevention approach. This may be a significant or a more modest contribution, but in either case, demonstrating investment in, and partnership with, the private sector can help make a stronger case for continued public investment too. For more on public-private partnerships, see Identifying resources in Chapter 2.

Another area in which cities can potentially attract investment in prevention approaches is by accessing corporate social responsibility or equivalent schemes that many companies develop. Demonstrating how the private sector can support community work that creates a general social good, or how local employers and businesses can ‘give back’ to the community is an important first step. Some companies may also recognise the ‘business case’ for prevention, where safer and more cohesive communities support better commercial outcomes as well as social ones.

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Strong Cities Network A Guide For Cities

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Last updated: 13/09/2023

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