The seventh review of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy offers a critical moment to reflect on the UN’s role acting against the changing landscape of security. As the institution marks its 75th anniversary, the global landscape is punctuated by the COVID-19 pandemic, growing authoritarianism, shrinking civic space, and declining support for multilateralism. Now more than ever, it is critical that the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law underpinning the Strategy are reinforced and that the United Nations places a renewed focus on policy leadership and coordination to support the Strategy’s implementation in a manner that responds to the peace and security needs of the next decade.

This report, the fifth in the “Blue Sky” series, explores how the UN’s comparative advantage can be leveraged to improve the policy development, interagency coordination, delivery, and impact of counterterrorism and preventing violent extremism efforts in support of the Strategy. It first observes the growth of the Strategy and UN counterterrorism efforts in response to the evolving security landscape, resulting in a sprawling institutional architecture and array of programming that require considerable focus to coordinate and lead. Second, the report places counterterrorism and preventing violent extremism efforts within broader UN reforms to advance a prevention-forward approach that creates opportunities for greater integration across the UN’s pillars of human rights, peace and security, and development. Third, it assesses efforts to implement the Strategy at the global, institutional, and programmatic levels in a manner that systematically accounts for human rights and promotes transparency and accountability.

The recommendations focus on (1) calibrating the UN counterterrorism architecture; (2) situating UN counterterrorism efforts within the prevention framework; (3) engaging and supporting civil society; (4) mainstreaming human rights; and (5) assessing the Strategy’s implementation.

Summary findings and key recommendations were presented during a launch event held in July 2020, in the lead up to the Virtual UN Counter-Terrorism Week. Support for this project, including the consultations, high-level events, and report, was generously provided by the governments of the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland.

Photo Credit Harold Weston, Smithsonian American Art Museum

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