The Global Center, Human Security Collective (HSC), and International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague (ICCT) convened an expert meeting to discuss appropriate and effective responses to the threat of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs). The expert meeting was held in Brussels with participants from the European Commission’s Directorate-General (DG) Home Affairs and DG Development and Cooperation – Europeaid (DEVCO), the European External Action Service (EEAS), and the office of the EU Counter-terrorism Coordinator (CTC). Introductory remarks were offered by Mr. Adriaan van der Meer (Head of Unit DEVCO B5), Mr. Stephan Auer (Director for Multilateral Relations and Global Issues, EEAS), and Mr. Gilles de Kerchove (EU CTC).

UN Security Council Resolution 2178 is notable for its inclusion of the concepts of countering violent extremism (CVE) and community engagement in a Chapter VII resolution on terrorism, and the effort to balance a robust response with more localized prevention efforts to address specific threats as well as the broader conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. Speakers and participants noted the critical importance of an inclusive approach that is premised on a shared notion of the threat and sustained partnerships with civil society organizations operating in the complex environments in which violent extremist groups operate. However, this section of the resolution is also less developed than other sections and participants expressed concern that the lack of definitions, the broad scope of the text and the lack of proper safeguards or enforcement mechanisms, could easily lead to the implementation of disproportionate measures. These concerns also extend to the more technical legal obligations specified in the resolution. Hence, participants emphasized the importance of appropriately and proportionally implementing Resolution 2178 and related FTF policy measures, in full accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law obligations and with adequate checks and balances.

In the end, participants agreed that the issue of FTFs necessitates a long-term, sustainable, principled approach that is tailored to specific contexts and applied appropriately and proportionally. A greater collaboration between governments and civil society actors is essential in identifying, preventing, and countering the threat of FTFs, but this requires an enabling environment and mutual trust between the different parties.

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