Open Debate: Threat to international Peace and Security Caused by Terroristic Acts.
11 May, 2016
On Wednesday May 11, 2016, under the Egyptian presidency, the Security Council held an open debate under the theme, "Countering the narratives and ideologies of terrorism: Threats to International Peace and Security caused by terrorist acts." Inspired by the ideas of the concept note S/2016/416 circulated by Egypt prior the debate, speakers highlighted the importance of countering the narratives and ideologies of terrorist groups which are inspiring people from across the globe to leave their homes and join terrorists’ ranks. They also discussed how terrorist groups use their narratives and ideologies—based on distorted interpretations of religion—to justify their acts of violence, to recruit supporters and fighters, to mobilise resources, and to target global audiences through propaganda in social media. The outcome of this debate was the request to the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee contained in a presidential statement issued by the 15-member Council. This request called, specifically, for the Committee to recommend guidelines and good practices to that end by 30 April 2017. The Council expressed its concerns about the distorted narratives that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities crafted based on misinterpretation and misrepresentation of religion to justify violence. It proposed that the international community should consider a number of concrete actions, such as developing a counter-narrative campaign to encourage and amplify those actively denouncing terrorism. Other proposed actions included developing the most effective means to counter terrorist propaganda, incitement and recruitment, including through the Internet, and raising public awareness of counter-terrorist narratives, including through education.
Different perspectives on countering violent extremism and its narratives have been discussed by Member States at the Open Debate on Wednesday. Even though all States agree on the magnitude of the problem and the need to address it, tensions were demonstrated among members regarding how to strike a balance between preventing violent extremism and respecting state sovereignty, and between developing counter-terrorism strategies and upholding human rights. The speech of the representative of the United States concentrated on the fact that the counter-terrorism strategies must embrace legal action without infringing upon freedom of expression. Such a strategy, according to the speaker, should focus on exposing the lies that underpinned terrorist narratives through joint efforts alongside religious and civil society organizations, with Governments playing a supporting role by providing training. The representative of Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, insisted that the international community must adopt a comprehensive plan that would end terrorism and preserve the sovereignty, security and stability of all States. The overwhelming majority of speakers discussed that the young population of the world is most likely to become radicalized through terrorists’ social media recruitment techniques. Additionally, young people were identified as active players in countering violent extremism. As it has been pointed out by the Deputy Secretary-General, the investment of material resources in youth and their meaningful political empowerment is crucial. “Instead of viewing young people as part of the problem, we must harness their immense potential to forge solutions,” he stressed. In the same vein, speakers proposed to shut down the cyberspace front lines of terrorist recruitment and incitement. The representative of the United Kingdom, in this vein, emphasized the need to work with technology companies, such as Microsoft, on addressing this issue. The new counter-terrorism strategy, according to the speakers, should include persuasive context-specific counter-narratives and messages to neutralize the influence of terrorists. According to the representative of South Africa, there is an urgent need to understand and address the conditions and contexts that made terrorism an attractive option. While the General Assembly is working on developing a future counter-terrorism convention and while the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy review is approaching, a successful comprehensive international strategy for countering the narratives and ideologies of terrorist groups and the mechanism to coordinate, follow-up and mobilise the necessary action and resources are required. In this vein, the representative of the United Arab Emirates suggested that the Security Council should apply a single standard to all actors.
Out of nearly 58 statements delivered, only ten speakers (17.24%) used a specific gendered language. In his introductory remarks, the Deputy Secretary General underlined the need to listen carefully to affected communities and to engage them at the grass-roots level, where community and faith leaders, women and young people were on the front lines, standing up to violent extremists. Generally, the issue of women’s participation in peace processes and counter-terrorism measures has been highlighted by five speakers (8.6%) while the need to establish inclusive governance and inclusive dialogue has been emphasized by twenty-three speakers (39.6%). According to the representative of Bangladesh, it is critical to explore the potential role of women — traditionally seen as victims of terrorism — as agents of prevention, resilience and change. Overall, the issue of prevention has been covered by forty-nine speakers (84.5%). However, the role of women in preventative strategies have been covered only by few speakers in a variety of contexts. Women have been described as victims of the conflict by four speakers (6.7%). The representative of Afghanistan reminded everyone about the harsh realities of terror the world is witnessing today, including stoning women to death, closing girls’ schools and introducing suicide attacks that had brutalized Afghanistan’s entire population. The threat caused by terrorists’ access not only to cyberspace but also to deadly weapons has been covered by six speakers (10.3%). In this vein, the representative of Georgia suggested that in order effectively to prevent terrorists from acquiring them, the international community must enhance the existing security architecture and reinforce the physical security of sensitive materials. Frequently, Member States referred to issues related to the implementation of Security Council Resolutions and other counterterrorism frameworks (24.13%), protection (32.7%) human rights (46.6%), and the rule of law (22.4%). However, States generally refrained from using gender-specific language.