From 21-30 June 2021, the United Nations organized the Second Counter-Terrorism Week and High-Level Conference of Heads of Counter-Terrorism Agencies of Member States to accompany the negotiations and adoption of the seventh review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (UN GCTS).
Outside of the Security Council, the UN GCTS review is one of the few times where counterterrorism and preventing violent extremism (PVE) discussions take center stage involving all member states. The seventh review discussions were not exempt from the dynamics of deepening global polarization, with divergent positions on issues related to the repatriation of foreign fighters and their families, the shrinking of civic space, the promotion and protection of human rights and gender considerations, and how the UN system’s architecture can support member states in realizing their counterterrorism efforts. The adoption of the seventh review resolution demonstrates a commitment to consensus, but a closer inspection reveals significant cracks in the global approach – please find our analysis of and recommendations for the UN’s counterterrorism and PVE efforts here, and some reflections on the seventh review process here.
The three-day, part in-person, part-hybrid High-Level Conference focused on countering terrorism and PVE in the age of transformative technologies such as artificial intelligence and data capture techniques. Mr. Eelco Kessels, Global Center Executive Director, spoke at the High-Level Conference during Breakout Session C: The critical roles of civil society and local actors in building partnerships for prevention. His remarks referenced recent publications from the Global Center, including the fifth iteration of the Blue Sky report and the 2020 publication on Enhancing Civil Society Engagement. In his remarks, Mr. Kessels highlighted the importance of meaningful engagement of civil society in counterterrorism and PVE efforts; the negative impacts of counterterrorism and countering the financing of terrorism measures on civil society and civic space; and the need for multilateral organizations like the United Nations to model positive engagement and push back on counterterrorism and countering the financing of terrorism efforts that restrict civic space.
The week also included 36 side events, which were organized by a broad range of stakeholders, including member states, civil society organizations, and multilateral entities. These events drew attention to topics such as the rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremist prisoners and the use of new technologies and the internet both by violent extremist groups and in PVE efforts. During the Counter-Terrorism Week, the Global Center hosted an official side event in collaboration with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Switzerland. The event, Enhancing Civil Society Engagement in Multilateral Counterterrorism and Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism Efforts, was held virtually and attended by 150 people globally. The event featured remarks from Ms. Vanja Skoric (European Center for Not-for-Profit Law), Mr. Matthew Simonds (CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness), Ms. Marina Kumskova (Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict), and Ms. Amina Rasul (ASEAN Women for Peace Registry). The panelists reflected on their own experiences in working with multilateral organizations as members of civil society and shared obstacles, challenges, and opportunities for successful engagement between civil society and multilateral actors. Following the panel remarks, H.E. Mr. Vladimir Voronkov (Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism) and Ms. Elisa De Anda Madrazo (Vice President, Financial Action Task Force) offered their reflections on civil society engagement from the perspective of their respective multilateral institutions.
The event launched the global consultation process for a Global Center project with the same title as the event, supported by the Swiss government. A recording of the event is available below and on YouTube. An event transcript can be found here. For more information about this project, please contact Ms. Franziska Praxl-Tabuchi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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