Elevating the Role of African Cities in Preventing Extremism and Hate: Mapping City Needs and Priorities – Dakar

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Workshop | 31 May – 1 June 2022
Novotel Hotel, Dakar, Senegal

From 31 May to 1 June 2022, the Strong Cities Network (SCN), in cooperation with the African Centre for the Study and Research of Terrorism (CAERT), and with support from the European Union, convened more than 50 mayors and other local leaders, civil society representatives and senior officials from national governments and multilateral bodies in North and West Africa for an exchange of views on how best to support city and other local authority-led efforts for preventing extremist- and hate-motivated violence and polarisation

. The multi-stakeholder gathering included officials and experts from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo, as well as the African Union, UNOCT, UNDP, UN Habitat, UN Women, other networks including the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), the EU Delegations in Ghana and Senegal, and the US Embassy in Dakar. The workshop is part of a larger EU-supported initiative to map city-level prevention-related needs and priorities across Africa.

The workshop opened with remarks from the SCN, CAERT, the EU Delegation in Senegal and the City of Dakar. Participants were then invited to share their perspectives of the increasingly integrated threat landscape of hate and extremism in the region, and the existing landscape of responses to the threat, with a focus on the strengths and limitations of those responses. This was followed by a discussion on existing approaches to preventing hate, polarisation and extremism specifically by cities in the region, an exploration of the comparative advantages of cities and other local authorities in prevention, as well as the policies and infrastructure needed to leverage them.

Participants also shared their experiences with and understandings of the main challenges cities face in the specific context of North and West Africa, and how international, regional and sub-regional bodies and networks can support cities with overcoming these challenges. Key barriers identified included the absence of a mandate at the local level, with participants observing that prevention remains overly-securitised and -centralised, and that related efforts are therefore concentrated at the national level and missing the input and insight of local actors.

Other key challenges pointed to a general lack of trust and cooperation between central and local governments, and the inaccessibility for local actors of regional/multilateral frameworks for prevention, with participants identifying a role for both central governments and the SCN in building the capacity of local officials to help them understand, contextualise and apply such frameworks. Finally, when asked to identify the main characteristics of a “strong city” in North and West Africa, participants listed, among others, good local governance and innovative and proactive local leadership that takes the initiative to pursue prevention policies and programmes rather than waiting for support from the central government. Participants also asked that SCN gives clear, actionable and practical recommendations to local and national government actors for enhancing city involvement in the region.

From Accra to Dakar to Kano State to Mansakonko to Monrovia to N’Djamena to Ouagadougou to Rabat to Sfax to Tunis, the workshop benefitted from a range of diverse perspectives from local authorities on the threat landscape and the strengths and limitations of existing approaches to preventing and countering the threat. Participants expressed appreciation for the opportunity to come together discuss the topic of prevention with a specific focus on cities and other local authorities, and to learn from the diversity of experiences in the region.

A detailed meeting summary that highlights key workshop findings and recommendations will be shared in the coming weeks. This workshop is the second of two that the SCN delivered on the African continent in May 2022, with the first taking place in Nairobi, Kenya from 10 – 12 May, engaging East and Southern African cities on the same topic. Key findings from both workshops, as well as a series of virtual consultations with local leaders across the African continent, will inform a comprehensive report the SCN will produce that outlines the needs of African cities to become leaders in prevention, recommendations for which will be presented during the high-level opening of the 77th UN General Assembly in New York on 22 September 2022.

Note: SCN works with all sub-national authorities, ranging from capital cities to rural towns, county and other regional governments. We use ‘cities’ as a broad term to refer to all these variations of subnational authorities.
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