Alliance of European Cities Against Violent Extremism meets in Barcelona
The summit, including mayors and representatives from 40 European cities and 18 countries concluded that prevention is key
Mayors from forty European cities gathered on Wednesday in Barcelona for the summit of the “Alliance of European Cities Against Violent Extremism” in order to discuss preventative measures to tackle the problem.
“We want to build safer cities but continue to be cities that are open to the world and proud of their diversity,” said the mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau. “We want to emphasize prevention rather than reaction,” she added.
Colau opened the summit. She noted that violent extremism is a threat to every city in the world, which Barcelona found out in the August attacks on La Rambla.
A rise in extreme violence
She also highlighted the increase of “far-right violent behavior” that is appearing throughout Spain, stating that “different processes of polarization that affect society” can give rise to this violence. She concluded that these behaviours become more evident in social networks, where “hate and aggressiveness are proliferating.”
The mayors’ summit served as a means to reach a consensus on a manifesto emphasizing that “violent extremism is much broader than terrorism, and is not a religious issue.”
Prevention better than cure
Cities must be committed to a culture of peace, respect for human rights, and social cohesion, according to the Barcelona mayor. In order for this to be achieved, she continued, security must be increased “without jeopardizing coexistence.”
Prevention as a means to tackle violence in cities was more effective in the long-term than repressive means, said Colau.
"We want to emphasize prevention rather than reaction"
Ada Colau · Barcelona mayor
In order for preventive measures to work, she argued that a strong civil society is essential, as well as a society that takes care of its young people, who increasingly think that “they will not have any option to live better in the future, but they see they will live worse than their parents and grandparents.”
The president of the European Forum for Urban Security, Willy Demeyer, highlighted the central role that local authorities have to face this phenomenon, especially to implement preventive actions and promote social cohesion.
Demeyer explained that he was a member of the Belgian inquiry commission on the attacks in Brussels, and confirmed that the most important aspect is that of prevention. He also stressed the importance of working in a coordinated way, pointing out that there are terrorist networks that operated between Belgium and France, for example.
An alliance against violence
A manifesto was agreed upon during this summit to fight against forms of violent extremism reiterating the basic principles of dialogue, the protection of fundamental rights, respect for others' opinions and the rejection of any form of violence.
The text shows that attacks on cities continue, with no apparent signs that of diminshing, and that is why a long-term and transversal approach is needed to create a "culture of non-violent diversity".
"We reaffirm our efforts in the prevention and construction of resilient societies that embrace values of diversity and coexistence, promoting intercultural and interreligious dialogue and combating all forms of exclusion," the manifesto concludes.
This year’s edition of the summit, hosted by Barcelona City Council, brought together representatives from around 40 European cities, including mayors and deputy mayors. Although the mayors of Madrid and Paris were due to attend the event, they pulled out in the end.
The summit, set up by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the European Forum for Urban Security, is in its third year.