Preventing Violent Extremism, Caring for its Victims
The United Nations this week took an in-depth look at the issue of extremist and terrorist violence – how it emerges, the death and destruction it causes around the world, and efforts to prevent it. Delegates heard from a number of experts and studied staggering figures telling of the extent of this most destructive contemporary scourge. And the UN membership took formal action to forestall violent extremism. But one event truly brought home the reality of terrorist violence: On 11 February, UN headquarters hosted a day-long conference on the human rights of terrorism, hearing from those who have suffered directly from acts of horrific violence.
Below is a roundup of the week’s events.
On 9 February, Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and head of DPA, told the Security Council that, given the ability of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to adapt quickly to new circumstances and the steady stream of foreign fighters joining the group’s ranks, Member States must mount a strategic response that includes addressing the underlying political and socio-economic causes of conflicts, particularly in Syria and Libya.
In the first-ever briefing to the Council on UN counter-terrorism efforts against ISIL and its affiliates, Mr. Feltman also urged strengthening the operational and legal framework needed to choke off ISIL’s funding. The meeting followed a December 2015 Council session of world Finance Ministers that requested a “strategic level” report from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the issue.
Highlighting some of the report’s key findings, he explained that ISIL’s emergence has been facilitated by the protracted conflicts and instability in Iraq and Syria, as well as the weakening of State institutions and the inability of the States to exercise effective control over territory and borders. The group, also known as Da’esh, which has benefited from a flow of financial resources and its ties with transnational organized criminals, is expanding its operations to other regions.
“In the face of this common threat, I would like to echo the Secretary-General’s call to unity and action, including in finding political solutions to the conflicts in Syria and Libya, and assure you that the United Nations is committed to supporting Member States’ efforts,” said Mr. Feltman.
Describing ISIL’s global expansion strategy, he said its operations across West and North Africa, the Middle East and South and South-east Asia, as well as the increasing number of terrorist groups pledging allegiance to its cause and the substantial flow of foreign terrorist fighters from around the world, are a source of major concern.
On 11 February, Mr Feltman urged Member States to engage with victims of terrorism and violent extremism, especially the young and the vulnerable, to build on previous commitments and ensure that their human rights are fully respected.
He added that terrorism victims could bring a perspective that shapes the debate, counters hateful narrative and influences attitudes that can help in reaching out to marginalized and at-risk communities.
“They are our allies,” he told the gathering, organized under the auspices of the Working Group on Supporting and Highlighting Victims of Terrorism of DPA’s Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF). “Member States, the United Nations and the entire international community have the privilege and responsibility to work with them to save succeeding generations from similar suffering.”
On 12 February, the General Assembly adopted a resolution welcoming the Secretary-General’s initiative to draw up a Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which it will take up during its review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in June 2016 and in other forums.
In the Plan of Action the Secretary-General calls for a comprehensive approach encompassing not only essential security-based counter-terrorism measures but also systematic preventive steps to address the underlying conditions that drive individuals to radicalize and join violent extremist groups.
Title picture: Minute of silence observed during the event on Human Rights of Victims of Terrorism on 11 February 2016. From left to right: Director CTITF/UNCTT Jehangir Kahn, Representative of Spain, Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman, Permanent Representative of Iraq Mohamed Ali Alhakim.