Good afternoon distinguished guests,
Welcome to The Hague.
I am honoured that the Global Counterterrorism Forum has organised this conference.
A conference focusing on the REMVE-toolkit.
A practical tool, which can help us tackle a range of emerging threats.
The location of this conference could not be more appropriate.
The Hague, the city of peace and justice.
A city that is home to many international organisations dealing with important security topics.
Including the Global Counterterrorism Forum, the International Centre for Counterterrorism, Europol and Eurojust, just to name a few.
I am honoured to speak to you as a Mayor of The Hague.
But also, as one of the Co-Chairs of the Strong Cities Network.
Together with my Co-Chair, the Mayor of Rabat, Asmaa Rhlalou, and 224 other member cities around the world, we focus on how to tackle hate and extremism at the local level.
I heard that our wonderful colleagues from the Strong Cities Network have shared with you the importance of local actors when it comes to grappling with the REMVE-threat during this morning’s session.
In the Netherlands, and in our local context in The Hague, we have also seen a more diverse and complex threat landscape.
A landscape in which anti-institutional and right-wing extremism have been on the rise.
This rise has been accompanied by a broader trend of polarisation and a normalisation of hate speech.
In the Netherlands for example, we have seen that very young people have been active in a right-wing extremist environment online.
An online environment where nothing seems to be too absurd.
These young men share shocking material online, inciting violence, fascinated by weapons and an impending racial war.
In most cases, in the Netherlands, they have not turned to physical violence.
Last Monday, I was informed of a boy who had placed a threat online.
He said he hated black people and Muslims and wanted to do something about it.
Because of this, together with the police and the general prosecutor, we decided to include him in our individual preventative approach.
In this so-called safety house model, the municipality looks at how to ensure that we can prevent further radicalisation.
We do this together with a range of other partners including the police and the public prosecutor, but also actors such as child protection services and parents.
This is not a solely a repressive approach.
We do not just jump into action after something terrible has occurred.
Instead, we are able to receive and assess important signals relating to ideology and behaviour, that allow us to intervene to prevent something terrible from happening in the first place.
It is clear, that local actors play a vital role.
In my time as Mayor of Utrecht I experienced the consequences of a terrorist attack.
On the 18th of March 2019 there was a terrorist attack on a tram.
During this attack 3 people lost their lives and 7 people were injured.
The perpetrator of this terrible act was arrested and currently serving his sentence.
This experience and the lessons I learned, I take with me everywhere I go.
One of those lessons is that we need to improve our signalling structure.
We have to ensure that signals and concerns about radicalisation reach the relevant actors.
And how important it is to have a network of key figures in the city who are trained to recognise radicalisation.
This requires people who have a proper understanding of a whole range of ideological threats from jihadism to right-wing extremism.
I would like to end with expressing my sincere hope that this conference and this toolkit will provide you and us with more and better ways to tackle and grapple with the extremist threat landscape.
I thank the organisers and the delegations from the United States and Norway and wish everyone fruitful discussions today and tomorrow.
And by the way, do not forget to enjoy our beautiful city.
And please come back.