From 6-10 July, the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) organized its first Virtual Counter-Terrorism week in lieu of the 2020 Counter-Terrorism Week, which was postponed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic following the postponement of the Seventh Review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy to the General Assembly’s 75th session.

UNOCT hosted ten webinars and interactive discussions over the course of the week under the overarching theme of “Strategic and Practical Challenges of Countering Terrorism in a Global Pandemic Environment” to discuss emerging trends and priorities such as bio and cyber terrorism, addressing the plight of victims of terrorism, and civil society and media perspectives to prevent violent extremism (PVE).

The Global Center’s Executive Director, Mr. Eelco Kessels, joined representatives from international nongovernmental organizations and media for Webinar V “Civil Society and Media Perspectives on Preventing and Countering Terrorism in a Pandemic.” Mr. Kessels’ conveyed the critical importance of meaningfully partnering with civil society in counterterrorism and PVE efforts, the obstacles to their engagement, and ways to overcome these challenges at the local, national, and international levels. In addition to conveying the perspectives from the Global Center’s partners around the world, the remarks were informed by two civil society-led workshops that the Global Center helped co-organize in advance of the UN Regional High-Level Counter-Terrorism Conferences in Abu Dhabi and Vienna, in which more than 75 civil society actors from 30 different countries participated.

In his remarks, Mr. Kessels highlighted the importance of meaningful and sustained engagement with a diverse civil society in efforts to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism. He presented several key considerations to help realize more productive and sustained relationships with civil society, including:

• Ensuring a conducive environment and legal basis are essential in realizing the contributions of civil society;
• Providing adequate and predictable funding as well as support in strengthening organizational capacities and building thematic and practical expertise; and
• Proactively involving civil society in policy formulation and program design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluations processes at all levels.

He stressed that the United Nations has a specific role to play in supporting the meaningful participation of civil society actors in counterterrorism and PVE policies, programs, and practices.

On 2 July, leading up to the 2020 Virtual Counter-Terrorism Week, the Global Center launched the key recommendations and summary findings of its forthcoming Blue Sky V report. The report’s findings and recommendations suggest ways the United Nations can better leverage its comparative advantages to improve policy development, inter-agency coordination, delivery, and impact of its counterterrorism and PVE efforts in a manner that systemically accounts for human rights and civil society engagement.

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