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DPC travel outcomes report: Rob Scott's 2017 travel to Denmark

Information about costs, purpose and outcomes of Rob Scott's travel to Denmark in May 2017.

Minister Robin Scott MP
Portfolio Multicultural Affairs
Countries visited Denmark
Date of travel 13 to 20 May 2017
No of official travel days (including date of departure and date of return) 8
Accompanying ministerial staff Mohamed Elrafihi, Senior Adviser
Accompanied by spouse in an official capacity No
Funding source Multicultural Affairs and Social Cohesion Division
Department of Premier and Cabinet
Airfares (including taxes and fees) $15,083
Accommodation (including taxes and fees) $3479
Other expenses (includes surface travel and travel allowances) $2155
Travel cost for minister and staff $20,717
Are the above costs final and complete? No

Purpose of travel

Primary purpose:  Attending the May 2017 Strong Cities Network Global Summit 2017 in Aarhus, Denmark

Secondary purpose: Meetings with Danish and other international/government representatives specialising in the prevention of violent extremism and meetings with other relevant experts.

Strong Cities Network Global Summit 2017

I visited Denmark for one week in May 2017 with the primary purpose of attending the Strong Cities Network Global Summit and the Strong Cities Network Third International Steering Committee meeting.

Launched at the United Nations in September 2015, the Strong Cities Network is the first ever global network of mayors, municipal-level policy makers and practitioners united in building social cohesion and community resilience to counter violent extremism in all its forms.

Victoria is a founding member of the Strong Cities Network and there are international meetings held regularly to facilitate sharing of new research, best practice policy and learnings from local experience between city leaders.

The Strong Cities Network is managed by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). ISD a London based think tank that aims to strengthen strategic planning practices amongst local policy makers and build the capacity of local practitioners to prevent and respond to instances of violent extremism. 

The May 2017 SCN Global Summit was held in Aarhus, Denmark. The focus was on Building Resilience to Radicalisation and Violent Extremism. Denmark has the second highest number of fighters per capita who have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq. In response to these trends, Denmark has developed an internationally recognised approach to countering violent extremism.

Meetings preceding the Summit

The Strong Cities Network Global Summit took place from 17-19 May in Aarhus. Prior to this I attended meetings in Copenhagen with a number of Danish policy makers and experts in the field of countering violent extremism. 

These meetings included the Danish intelligence services, foreign affairs, justice ministry, immigration, and the integration and housing ministry which auspices a stand-alone prevention agency, the Danish Centre for the Prevention of 

Extremism. I also met with a delegation of government representatives from the United States of America, specialising in counter terrorism and a number of researchers in the field.

Meetings attended

  1. Prevention Unit, Danish Police Intelligence
  2. New threats, Counter-Terrorism and Violent Extremism, Ministry Foreign Affairs
  3. National Centre for Prevention of Extremism
  4. Office of Prevention, Ministry of Justice
  5. Jacob Bundsgaard, Mayor of Aarhus
  6. Professor Preben Bertelsen and Professor Lasse Lindekilde, Aarhus University
  7. Office of Countering Violent Extremism, Bureau of Counter terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism, US Department of State

These meetings provided an opportunity to learn about Denmark’s multi-agency approach to countering violent extremism and for me to share Victoria’s experiences and initiatives in the field.

In brief, the Danish approach involves a coordinated effort across multiple government departments and the meetings introduced me to the different agencies that are part of the approach.

Benefits of travel to the State of Victoria

Both the SCN Global Summit and the preceding meetings were opportunities to learn about international initiatives and approaches to the prevention of violent extremism.

The benefits of the trip can be summarised as: 

  • extensive networking opportunities with international policy makers using bespoke/locally based approaches to the prevention of violent extremism
  • exchange of information and international cooperation
  • support for the ongoing development of this important global network
  • consolidation of Victoria’s position as an international leader in maintaining a cohesive society

Learning from the Danish approach

Denmark is considered to be a world leader in the field of preventing violent extremism and has a number of bespoke models for preventing and addressing radicalisation.

Denmark was therefore a relevant destination for learning and sharing lessons in the field. In my meetings with representatives from the Danish Police Intelligence, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I received a comprehensive introduction to Denmark’s approach and learned about the various national and local level arrangements.

In each of my meetings the importance of partnerships between different agencies and organisations was emphasised.

Denmark’s Information House Model

My meetings with Danish experts in intelligence services, foreign affairs and justice ministries, and the Danish Centre for the Prevention of Extremism provided an opportunity to learn about the Danish “Information House” model.

This model is a framework for local cooperation and sharing of information between police and municipal social services. Of particular interest was the potential applicability of aspects of the “Information House” model in Victoria.

The Information House model enables assessment of concerns about radicalisation and extremism that might originate from community members, services, professionals or agencies.

It involves collaborative information sharing between a range of agencies, including police and intelligence in conjunction with local services. I learned that the model has broader crime prevention roots dating back to 1975, which Denmark has leveraged for the purposes of countering violent extremism.

The experts I met with also emphasised the high level of trust between Danish government agencies and the importance of this trust to the success of the Information House model. 

The Centre for the Prevention of Extremism is the Danish counterpart to the Victorian Government’s Community Resilience Unit. I learned about the Centre’s contribution to Denmark’s National Action Plan and the online component of their work around violent extremism.

This work, although very much in its initial stages, includes restricting access to some websites and the use of counter-narratives.

There are many synergies between the Victorian and Danish approach to de-radicalisation.

The Aarhus Model 

The Strong Cities Global Summit took place in the City of Aarhus. The “Aarhus Model” for Countering Violent Extremism, is the foundation for the Information House approach.

The Aarhus Model also includes a strong focus on a range of support programs including mentoring, school engagement, support for parents with young people involved in violent extremism, community dialogue and programs to reintegrate returned foreign fighters. The Aarhus model was the central theme of this Summit. 

I met one-on-one with the Mayor of Aarhus, Jacob Bundsgaard and we discussed the similarities between the Aarhus Model and Victoria’s approach. The Mayor outlined a previous challenge in Aarhus was the high number of foreign fighter exports emanating from a particular location.  

Rather than taking a punitive approach, the City of Aarhus decided to work directly with the community and community leaders to address the issues.

The Mayor emphasised the importance of mentoring in the Aarhus model, and the direct approach to working with community to de-escalate people's behaviour. I shared the Victorian government’s “Victorian. And Proud of it.” campaign, which the Mayor was very interested in.

Research and expertise

The field of countering violent extremism is an ever-changing and dynamic space. Staying abreast of the latest research is critical in the development of effective policy.

I met with Professor Preben Bertelsen and Professor Lasse Lindekilde of Aarhus University to discuss the  transferability of aspects of the Aarhus model and the Danish framework to Victoria.

We also discussed the importance of strong evidence based evaluation techniques which is very applicable to the Victorian context. 

Professor Bertlesen was heavily involved in the development of the Aarhus model and emphasised the importance of finding appropriate mentors, nurturing mentoring relationships and providing adequate supervision and support to mentors.

I gained a good understanding of the research base and evaluation approach to the Aarhus model and the focus of the programs under the model, centred on supporting the well-being of the individual.

The Strong Cities Network Global Summit itself was also a valuable forum to hear from academia and government policy makers. I attended sessions led by Professor Tore Bjørgo, Director at the Center for Research on Extremism at the University of Oslo. Tore spoke about various competing models of crime prevention and the nine common preventative mechanisms that underpin each model.

Rabbi Michael Melchior who is the creator of Mosaica Interreligious Dialogue, spoke about the role of religion in tackling polarisation and violent extremism. Rabbi Melchior has created a coalition to create peace between Israel and Palestine. I also heard from Bart Brandsma, a political philosopher, on the dynamics of polarisation. 

At the Summit I also attended a workshop on the importance of raising awareness amongst students through the Aarhus model approach. Through this approach (targeting 15-18 year olds) students are provided with a safe place for debate and discussions that transcends political domains.

It is a way to focus on topics and subjects like radicalisation, extremism, terrorism and discrimination, prejudice, digital behaviour, fellowships and wellbeing with the broad goal being primary prevention. 

Right Wing Extremism 

An important part of violent extremism is looking at the causes and impacts of right wing extremism.

I learned that right wing extremists have killed more people in the US than all other terrorist groups combined and, in Sweden right wing groups are trying to achieve a perception of legitimacy by recruiting younger people.

Around the world governments are understandably concerned about this form of extremism. Tackling this problem has been made more difficult as ‘fake news’ becomes more of an issue.

The Summit supported a robust discussion on the various challenges and effective approaches that have been used to address right wing extremism in other international jurisdictions. 

Other intergovernmental relationships

In addition to my meetings with Danish government representatives, I also met with a government delegation from the United States to better understand the strategic focus of the US Government, which shares many of the  Victorian Government’s goals and interests in this field.  

We discussed approaches to partnership with community, shared some of Victoria’s approaches and compared this with the US. The US delegation indicated its interest in working with Victoria in the context of the Asia Pacific. 

During the meeting with the SCN Steering Committee members I heard updates from other cities including Stockholm, Mombasa and Los Angeles on their various struggles and initiatives with regards to countering violent extremism.  

The Steering Committee agreed on continuing to expand the Network’s membership and to introduce more sponsorship and public private partnerships to support the development of a broader funding base. I was invited to give an update on Victoria’s initiatives in the prevention of violent extremism. 

Sharing Victoria’s approach and success

The Steering Committee and the people with whom I met one on one, were impressed with the Multicultural Policy Statement and the “Victorian. And Proud of It.” Campaign as a key driver of social cohesion.

It was clear that the level of research we have applied and our subsequent implementation has not been tried before in other jurisdictions and many wanted to learn about how they could apply such an approach in their own contexts. 

Next steps

At the Strong Cities Network Steering Committee meeting I raised the possibility of Victoria hosting the next Global Summit, to cement us as a leading jurisdiction globally in countering violent extremism. While there is significant work to do, the offer was received positively and we are continuing to work with the Strong Cities Network and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue to develop the Summit concept. 

As I learned from my meeting with the US delegation, there is an interest in ensuring a focus of the Strong Cities Network around the Pacific and Southeast Asian region, which makes Australia a strong candidate for the next Summit.

If Victoria was selected as the destination for next year’s Summit, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and the Strong Cities Network would work closely with the Victorian Government to develop an appropriate conference theme and travel plan for other member cities.

The idea of keeping the Summit as more of a regional event for jurisdictions in the Asia-Pacific region was also discussed. 

I am looking forward to the opportunity for Victoria to host future related events and the chance to collaborate with the Federal Government and other states around this important network. The Summit would be an excellent chance to showcase Victoria as both a location and as a leader in the prevention of violent extremism.