By Robert Korkuti –
Confronted by the need for better coordination between state, non-state, and civil society actors, several municipalities established and formalized Local Councils for Public Safety. This initiative was triggered by a directive of Agency for Support to Local Self-Government in the framework of territorial reform and implementation of the Law on Local Self-Government. But beyond strategic and legal provisions, there is also a benefit to communities from this strengthened cooperation and interaction to address security issues, including those of radicalization and violent extremism.
Usefulness of the local safety councils in addressing and improving local security parameters prompted the Municipality of Bulqiza to seek USAID support to establish a council and assist with its functioning.
What Is A Local Safety Council? Headed by the mayor, a local safety council is comprised of local stakeholders representing state and municipal police, social services, education, health services, forestry and environment, prefecture, civil society, religious communities, the business community, local media, volunteer groups, and other relevant local organizations. The council operates upon a regulation approved by its members, outlining the purpose and structure, as well as the modalities of management, secretariat, cooperation, and reporting. The regulation also provides the establishment of special (ad hoc) groups as per specific local concerns. Decisions taken at the council are submitted in the form of recommendations to the responsible local institutions, which in turn report on the activities carried out to address local public security issues.
Unlike other existing local referral mechanisms that are limited in terms of the organization and functioning of the system, the local security council’s scope is unlimited vis-a-vis the topics they cover and the issues they address.
In the absence of a dedicated mechanism on radicalism and violent extremism, the security council is the appropriate forum to handle many local issues that cannot be addressed in the existing referral mechanisms. They address push factors in radicalization and violent extremism, such as exclusion, inequality, discrimination, denial of civil rights and freedoms and pull factors, including the existence of local extremist groups, narratives, and distorted preaching of religious leaders. What is specifically important is the fact that the local security council facilitates communication and cooperation between the two key local security actors: the mayor and the head of police commissariat.
The First Bulqiza Council Meeting
The launch and the first official meeting of the Local Council for Public Safety of the Municipality of Bulqiza occurred on September 12th. Chaired by the Mayor, the meeting was attended by 11 senior local stakeholders including prefecture, state and municipal police, education department, hospital, social services, environment and forestry, youth board coordinator, and civil society representatives. The USAID Planning and Local Government Project (PLGP) supported drafting of the internal regulations which were adopted and endorsed by the Council. During the meeting, the Head of Bulqiza Police and the Director of the Education Department provided an update on safety and security in Bulqiza and the measures being taken for safer schools. The participants in the meeting provided feedback and the meeting generated lively discussions.
Role of Youth as Promoters of Change
The active role of youth, and more specifically of the Bulqiza Youth Group Coordinator, Fatri Puca, was impressive in the first meeting of the local safety council. A representative of the selected group of the high school students, Fatri raised some concerns related to road safety and drug consumption by youth.
This young man’s demands and concerns were straightforward and well-articulated, as he spoke from his heart. Of the various voices in the council, Fatri’s dominated and made the officials take note. Indeed, the head of the Police invited him and his peers to visit the police station and assured him that the Police will place more efforts to address the concerns of the youth.
“It is unacceptable! The police are not reacting to prevent people driving their cars like crazy in our town posing risk to the life of the people. Police patrols should be present whenever and wherever the community needs are, including schools where drug dealers operate undisturbed,” – was Fatri’s appeal to local stakeholders in this meeting of Security Council of Bulqiza.
Empowering youth and training them on a variety of topics is one of the main goals of PLGP. In July, the members of the Youth Board of Bulqiza were trained on advocacy and lobbing as tools to build the capacities of the youth in bringing positive models of participation through advocacy. During this specific training, young men and women acquired new skills and discussed some of their own successful experiences advocating in their community. These newfound abilities empower youth to speak up and voice their problems and concerns. To them it is more important to be heard, not simply in a safety council meeting, but also in all forums where they can be part of the decision-making process.
Photo by Erald Lamja