The Global Center hosted a two-day retreat to explore the role of multilateral actors, in particular, the United Nations, in responding to terrorism and violent extremism. Representatives from the United Nations included members of the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, UN Women, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Participants were also joined by the Chair of the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee, Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite, Ambassador Frantisek Ruzicka, as well as representatives from the European Union, Indonesia, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States. Experts included representatives from the International Peace Institute, the International Crisis Group, and Harvard University.
The discussion focused on how the conflict landscape has transformed in the past decade, the impact of terrorism and violent extremism, and how and if the United Nations can address the threat of violent extremism by means of a normative framework and institutional capacity. It was noted that violent extremism is an important part of the conflict in an increasing number of places; looking ahead, a number of places where the United Nations may be called to act will require consideration of how to operate in such an asymmetric threat environment and address violent extremist actors. Participants discussed the implications for disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration efforts, particularly in contexts that include violent extremism actors, as well as the implications for peace operations and UN peacekeepers of an association with counter-terrorism operations.
The discussions also highlighted emerging thematic priorities for the United Nations, preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE), stemming the flow of foreign fighters, and integrating a gender perspective into multilateral counterterrorism and P/CVE responses. An important issue raised was the need for monitoring and evaluation, to demonstrate impact but also to make the case for further resourcing. The emergence of groups like Islamic State, Boko Haram, and Al-Shabab and their ability to respond rapidly to changing dynamics was highlighted. There was widespread recognition of the need to develop greater strategic coherence to equip the United Nations to address current threats and manage future conflicts which are likely to include a violent extremist dimension.