Fighting Radicalization and Violent Extremism Through Strong Cities Networks

Today, Secretary Kerry spoke to international municipality and non-government organization leaders who are part of a network working to build community resilience to radicalization and violent extremism.

Secretary Kerry thanked the group of leaders for their roles as our partners in the global effort to tackle this challenge, which affects communities all over the world. “Everybody has a role to play in countering violent extremism. The fact is that the battle against violent extremism does not begin on some distant battlefield, but it’s in our own neighborhoods and in classrooms and workplaces and houses of worship, and homes,” he said.

Using the stories from cities like Windsor, Canada and Columbus, Ohio, Secretary Kerry noted the impactful role local communities can play in influencing the experiences of disenfranchised youth who might turn to extremism. He pointed to the important role religious organizations, schools, nonprofits, sports and other extra-curriculars play in helping counteract violent extremists attempts to recruit and spread propaganda to this vulnerable  demographic. Recognizing that teachers, counselors, imams, and parents are on the frontlines of identifying the warning signs of extremist influences, the Secretary acknowledged how leaders can benefit from the local networks being created around the world to address these real concerns.

Secretary Kerry said, “like many other cities in this hemisphere -- Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia -- Windsor recognized that it is local communities where policies touch people, where basic services can be delivered, human needs can be met, and where families first begin to look for security, and particularly where boys and girls begin to navigate that path to adulthood, to identity, to meaning, and to respect.”

While noting there will not be a one-size-fit-all solution, Secretary Kerry emphasized the need for collaboration among cities across the globe to identify best practices and to tailor them for specific communities’ needs. He said, “We want to create more opportunities to learn from one another about what works best in building resilience to radicalization.  We want to exchange ideas, best practices.  And we therefore can prevent the expansion of these ideologies and movements.  And we want to make available the resources that you can use to tailor programs and outreach to the specific characteristics of your own communities.”

During the workshop, Secretary Kerry mentioned that several cities across the globe are already a part of the effort and noted we are already seeing results. “For example, Danish cities are partnering with Amman, Beirut, and Tunis to share their experience in mobilizing all the tools of local government for prevention and de-radicalization.”

Following their time in Washington, DC, the international municipal leaders and NGO representatives -- from Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Morocco, The Netherlands, Norway, Tunisia, Turkey, and The United Kingdom --  will travel to Los Angeles, Denver, Columbus, Indianapolis, and Chicago to meet with state, city, and local leaders. Secretary Kerry announced these regional workshops which connect local officials with experts in countering violent extremism will serve as a lead up to the first Strong Cities Network Summit May 11-12, hosted by Antalya, Turkey with support from the city of London. He also recognized the launch of a new online hub to provide members with constant access to a database of materials to help communities better protect themselves, to identify early signs of extremism, to engage vulnerable youth, and cultivate partnerships between governments, law enforcements, and religious leaders.

Secretary Kerry applauded the Strong Cities Network and similar initiatives calling them “absolutely essential” to connecting people to their communities. He underscored that even in the absence of the challenge of violent extremism, these initiatives are important in terms of educating and uniting people among many other benefits. “So by coming together at this workshop and through this network, we are not only learning about ways to provide security through cities throughout the world, but we are exposing the lies that terrorists seek to convey. We are demonstrating that the ethnic and religious differences that help to define us are not as powerful as the things that actually unite us and bring us together.  We are not all the same – that is for sure – but we are absolutely joined together and unified in our commitment and our determination to have a world of decency in which we respect and love peace itself, and where we can raise our children in safety with respect for rights and dignity of every single human being,” he concluded.

For more information:

Secretary Kerry Delivers remarks at the Strong Cities Network International Visitors Leadership Program for Municipal Leaders and Countering Violence Extremism Experts event in Washington, DC.
Posted by DipNote Bloggers
March 1, 2016

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