The U.S. Department of State sponsored an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) multi‑regional project entitled “Strong Cities: Building Community Resilience to Radicalization and Violent Extremism,” administered by Meridian International Center and conducted from February 27 to March 19, 2016. Starting in Washington DC with the Project opening, the Strong Cities Network participants were exposed to American system of federal and state government, U.S. government efforts to counter violent extremism, the roles of community engagement, youth alienation, and women preventing violent extremism. In 22 days, the 19 participants visited 5 cities and explored various themes that work together to build social cohesion and resilience to prevent violent extremism in all its forms.
- Los Angeles – Community challenges in the radicalization of youth, law enforcement engagement in counterterrorism efforts, empowering at-risk youth through entrepreneurship and countering gang culture and rehabilitation efforts
- Denver – Local government and NGO efforts to build resilience within communities and creating counter-narratives to violent extremism
- Columbus (Ohio) & Indianapolis – The use of public-private partnerships to counter violent extremism, state government community outreach efforts and training police officers in emergency preparedness
- Chicago – The use of social media to create positive counter messaging and the integration of refugees into the community
The program visitors who came to Indianapolis hold a variety of positions in their respective countries, ranging from Program Coordinators and Project Managers to Organization Directors and Anti-Trafficking Field Experts. The group was in the city for two days, attended four meetings, and expressed gratitude for a great experience. Scheduled meetings that led to engaging discussions included theIndiana Youth Institute,the Black and Latino Institute,the Peace Learning Center, The Journey,the Department of Public Safety,the FBI-Indianapolis, andthe U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana. These meetings were the platform for important dialogue on a variety of topics.
The visitors were deeply interested in examining the root causes of violence and what leads adolescents and young adults to become radicalized, which was discussed in depth with several of the local resources. Other pressing issues discussed included Marion County’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program, how the FBI works with various partners from businesses, academic institutions, and state and local law enforcement to prevent hostile acts against the U.S., and the role of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in combating terrorism. The multi-regional delegation was very pleased with their meetings and felt they walked away with useful information and connections to consult when they returned home after one final stop – in Chicago.
By Kelly Sorfleet & Samantha Wiemer (Marketing & Communications Intern & IVLP Intern)