During the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly, the Global Center organized and participated in numerous events on the margins of the High-Level Week. The Global Center organized a closed briefing on its work on realizing more inclusive and consistent civil society engagement with the United Nations on counterterrorism issues, which included findings from an ongoing scoping project the Global Center is conducting in partnership with Rights and Security International. The Global Center also participated in several Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) meetings during High-Level week which covered topics including border security management, women’s role in peacebuilding, and the right to fair trial in counterterrorism cases. It offered an opportunity to highlight the Global Center’s work in these domains, including the implementation of the Gender and Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism Toolkit through the development of a training curriculum for policymakers and practitioners.
The Global Center joined the Strong Cities Network’s Fourth Global Summit, which brought much-needed local perspectives to UN and GCTF discussions. The Global Center is pleased to have collaborated with the Strong Cities Network on its outreach and engagement, most recently in Southeast Asia.
Global Center staff also joined a number of events on a wide range of topics related to violent extremism and terrorism, including the relationship between climate change and violent extremism, and the role of artificial intelligence and other technologies in counterterrorism.
Gendered norms and identities shape everyone’s involvement in violence, including men, women, and nonbinary people. How groups, whether nonstate actors or states party to a conflict, construct norms, which includes expectations of femininity and masculinity, is crucial to understanding violence. This brief analyzes the ways in which gendered narratives have been employed during the war in Ukraine. It reflects on the traditional use of gendered narratives in the field of security and draws on the author’s research on the role of gender in the field of terrorism.
Annabelle Bonnefont and Franziska Praxl-Tabuchi share their thoughts regarding civil society engagement on counterterrorism and preventing and countering violent extremism issues within the context of the UN General Assembly’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Even though civil society has been impacted by the UN counterterrorism architecture, opportunities for a broad range of civil society actors to meaningfully engage with UN counterterrorism programming and policy-making remain limited at best. The authors layout recommendations and a path forward for member states and the United Nations to include diverse civil society in UN counterterrorism efforts.
Throughout the week, the Global Center emphasized the importance of inclusive, human rights-based counterterrorism efforts and the need to engage civil society at all stages of counterterrorism policy and program design and delivery in a safe, sustained, and meaningful manner. The recently released Blue Sky VI report provides an independent analysis of the UN’s counterterrorism efforts, progress made since the seventh Strategy review in 2021, and recommendations to inform necessary improvements. Following the conclusion of the eight review process, Global Center Executive Director Eelco Kessels and Chief of Strategy Melissa Lefas provided further reflections in an Just Security article.
At the High-Level Conference:
Eelco Kessels was a panelist during session 1 on “Multistakeholder Engagement in Countering Terrorism while Ensuring Compliance with Human Rights and the Rule of Law.” In his remarks, Mr. Kessels highlighted the need to create an enabling environment for civil society to engage in counterterrorism efforts as a prerequisite for effective multistakeholder engagement. Their participation must occur at all stages of counterterrorism policy and program processes: from diagnosing the problem; to designing, developing, and implementing policy measures and community-centric programming; and evaluating the impact of policy and practice on communities affected by terrorism and counterterrorism alike, to understand both its positive and negative impacts.
Jihane Ben Yahia, Senior Legal Analyst with the Global Center, delivered an intervention during the conference’s fourth session on “Strengthening Capacity Building Programmes – Making Them Fit for Purpose to Meet Resilience Gaps.” Building on the organization’s 19 years of experience, she emphasized that the common goal in all counterterrorism capacity development should be to build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels, in line with Sustainable Development Goal 16 and in furtherance of human rights and human security.
Over the course of the week, Global Center staff participated in a number of side events organized by member states, UN entities, and civil society organizations, including:
Saeida Rouass, Global Center Senior Programs Officer, spoke at a side event which examined good practices for managing violent extremist prisoners. She shared several lessons learned from the Global Center’s work with the prison services of Morocco, Indonesia, and Kenya, including the importance of developing long-term institutional partnerships and the value of specialist assistance alongside core trainings for general prison staff.
The Global Center co-organized a hybrid side event with Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the governments of Costa Rica, Denmark, and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The event focused on inclusive civil-society engagement to support rights-based counterterrorism efforts at the United Nations and featured a panel of diverse civil society speakers. The panel was comprised of Mavic Cabrera Balleza, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders; Maji Peterx, Preventing and Transforming Violent Extremism Lead Facilitator and Coordinator, Carefronting Nigeria; and Khalid Ibrahim, Executive Director, Gulf Centre for Human Rights. The discussion brought forth practical recommendations to remove barriers to civil society engagement with the United Nations, including the importance of multidirectional information sharing, improved risk assessment and protection measures, and offering varied methods and platforms for input and participation. The event is part of an ongoing scoping project that the Global Center is conducting in partnership with Rights and Security International.
The Global Center’s Eelco Kessels and Melissa Lefas published an article in Just Security reflecting on the eighth review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (GCTS) which furthered the promotion of human rights and protection of civic space. The negotiations were heated, with some member states threatening to revise existing language in an attempt to deprioritize human rights and civil society engagement, while promoting their own interests and agendas. The next GCTS review will mark its 20th anniversary, demanding a sober assessment of its promise to normatively reset counterterrorism approaches and size, scope, and prioritization of UN counterterrorism efforts against other global priorities.
This report is the sixth in the Global Center’s “Blue Sky” series which explores how the UN’s comparative advantages can be leveraged to improve the balanced implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The report opens with a broad overview of changes in the security landscape and reflections on UN counterterrorism and preventing violent extremism responses. Chapter two highlights key developments in the UN ecosystem since the seventh review of the Strategy, providing context and background to support member states, UN entities, and other stakeholders in situating core issues in the eighth review. Chapter three then assesses the key architecture, namely the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism and the Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact, and stresses the need for improvements in integrating the rule of law, human rights, and gender commitments, engagement with diverse civil society, and monitoring and evaluation. The report concludes with recommendations on leveraging the Strategy to realize the UN’s comparative advantage on counterterrorism and PVE issues.
The recommendations focus on (1) optimizing the UN counterterrorism architecture; (2) resource mobilization; (3) integrating the rule of law, human rights, and gender commitments; (4) meaningful engagement with diverse civil society; and (5) measuring Strategy implementation.
Summary findings and key recommendations were presented during a launch event held in 31 May 2023, in the lead up to the UN Counter-Terrorism Week and the negotiations of the eighth Strategy review resolution. Support for this project, including the consultations, high-level events, and report, was generously provided by the governments of the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland and with broader support of our work by the government of Sweden.
After Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, there was relatively wide-ranging support of the call from Ukraine for foreign volunteers to join its military efforts based on nations’ perceived alliances to Ukraine, considerations of European security, and concerns over threats from Russia and its interests and allies. This brief addresses the implications and impacts of the international call to fight in Ukraine in order to gauge potential threats and to encourage preparations for the successful return and reintegration of volunteers into civilian life. It raises awareness of the societal reintegration preparations needed by the countries of origin for the mental, physical, and potentially ideological challenges these foreign volunteers may have faced while responding to the defense of Ukraine.
With more than 1.5 billion adults unbanked globally and a growing body of data demonstrating the benefits of increased financial access, it is crucial to support financial inclusion efforts . This brief summarizes key evidence of the success of financial inclusion efforts globally and reflects on the role of financial inclusion in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Realizing the promise of financial inclusion toward advancement of the SDGs requires bridging the gaps between financial service providers and potential account holders. Digital finance offers significant promise, but the evolving nature of the landscape presents risks and barriers to access both traditional banking institutions and digital financial technology remain.
As part of a series of policy briefs collaboratively produced by the Global Center and the Royal United Services Institute, Claudia Wallner examines the relationship between the global far right, Russia, and the war in Ukraine. In her brief, she analyzes the ways in which the perception of Putin’s actions among the international far right, as well as the relationships that existed with Russia, has shifted since the beginning of the war. In addition to the far-right reactions to Russia’s denazification claims and the immediate conflict, she also looks at the reactions of the far right to issues such as sanctions on Russia and the energy crisis that has resulted from the war. Building on this analysis, she outlines key trends and narratives that have been developed or strengthened through the war and that will likely remain in the far-right discourse in the future.
Among other efforts, the Global Center is currently leading a global process to engage civil society around the work of the United Nations on countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism, with the goal of establishing a mechanism by which civil society can advocate, inform, and hold states accountable on counterterrorism.
Separately, on 9 March, 2023, the Global Center organized a high-level event at the UN Headquartersto inform the negotiations on the future of UN counterterrorism efforts. An all-women civil society panel briefed member states and UN entities on the importance of inclusive, human rights-based approaches to counterterrorism, which need to account for the negative impacts on civic space, humanitarian action, and human rights defenders.