Aarhus, 18.11.2015 – Attending the International Conference on the prevention of radicalisation leading to violent extremism, a hundred or so mayors, councillors and local representatives from 22 European countries adopted a joint declaration. They call for concerted action by local authorities, in close consultation with national governments, as part of an alliance of European cities to counter the increase in radicalisation and the acts of extreme violence to which it gives rise.
The declaration highlights the exceptional nature of the network constituted by the millions of mayors and local councillors throughout Europe. “This unique network of elected representatives can contribute, through its members’ knowledge of their area and population, to an early warning system for any drift towards radicalisation. We ask national authorities to systematically include local decision-makers in the drawing up and implementation of strategies that are being developed at European and national levels”, declared the conference participants.
They undertook to adopt integrated approaches to ensure that all local stakeholders are involved : civil society, faith-based organisations, social, educational, security and justice services. They also suggest launching an alliance of cities for the prevention of radicalisation leading to violent extremism.
In this connection, they suggest that to assist local authorities and underpin this network steps should be taken to establish a digital platform to exchange initiatives, experiences and resources that are already in place in the fight against radicalisation. Lastly, in order to continue this initiative they invite local and regional elected representatives to meet in Rotterdam in 2016 at a European summit of mayors.
This conference was jointly organised by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe and the European Forum for Urban Security. It will be followed, on 19 and 20 November, by a conference on “Building resilience to radicalisation and violent extremism” organised by the City of Aarhus.
The meeting of the Executive Committee of the European Forum for Urban Security (Efus), on 17 November in Brussels, was held in a particularly difficult context following the attacks in Paris, which illustrate a well-known spiral and follow the terrorist attacks in Madrid, London, Copenhagen, Oslo, Brussels, but also Beirut, Ankara and Tunis, among other.
Today, with a feeling of emotion and shock but also with strong determination, the Executive Committee of the European Forum for Urban Security wishes to express its support to its member cities and in particular the Mayor of Paris, Anne HIDALGO, and the Mayor of Saint-Denis, Didier PAILLARD.
We wish to express our compassion and support to the families of the numerous French and foreign victims.
We commend the emergency services, the police, the fire brigades and the medical teams who were mobilised in this situation of emergency for their efficiency and dedication, as well as the victim support services, which will play an essential role in the weeks and months to come.
We also commend the huge and spontaneous citizen mobilisation : hundreds of people immediately reacted to help, to evacuate and host victims, to bring moral support and to contribute to the search for victims. Restaurants and bars welcomed and protected citizens ; social networks developed operational support tools. This mobilisation highlights the essential role of all the components of civil society in the protection and promotion of our shared security.
Because they target what constitutes the very richness of European cities – access to culture and leisure, the sharing of public spaces and the mix of populations – these attacks are aimed at the constitutive principles of our societies. Cities are places where we build coexistence and social cohesion. Indeed, it is in these public spaces, cultural and sport venues and café terraces that exchanges take place among generations, among citizens of diverse origin and visitors from the world over.
Far from making us bow to terror, these acts strengthen our deep conviction, held for over 25 years, that networking is necessary ; indeed, solidarity among cities and collective work are more crucial than ever.
Efus members work every day, in their own cities and at the European level, for security to be a common good shared among all. The prevention of exclusion and the fight against discrimination contribute to strengthening social links and to individual and collective resilience. The challenge for local elected officials is made even more complex by the fact that they cannot act alone on the fundamental causes of the emergence of terrorism, which lead some political forces to feed amalgams between immigration, terrorism and asylum.
The phenomenon of radicalisation leading to acts of violent extremism is in essence global ; its causes and scope go far beyond the limits of cities. Yet, it is the elected officials and their teams and partners on the ground who have to manage the consequences of acts of violence and terrorism and build the resilience of their territories. Day after day, local elected officials manage the coexistence among populations, who can be worried as well as victims of stigmatisation. Cities have a crucial role to play in bringing coherence within local, national and European partnerships.
The question of the role of local powers in the prevention of radicalisation will be at the heart of the Aarhus Conference, on 18 November, which is co-organised with the Council of Europe and the cities of Aarhus (Denmark) and Rotterdam (Netherlands. This event follows a series of actions conducted by Efus over the past two years aimed at increasing local authorities’ knowledge and capacities in front of such a complex and evolutionary phenomenon, in the spirit of the Manifesto of Aubervilliers and Saint-Denis.