Expanded Regular Budget Funding and a Grant-Making Mandate for UNOCT

This brief provides background to contextualize proposed changes to the UN’s counterterrorism funding and grantmaking mandate. They follow from the requests made by member states in the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy for the Secretary-General to make budgetary recommendations for the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) and for a cost-effective grants-making mandate for UNOCT. The brief presents a system-wide lens through which to assess these requests by drawing comparisons to other UN entities and notes, among others, incongruities between the 2023 proposed regular budget and the Secretary-General’s priorities as stated in his report Our Common Agenda. Further, it encourages member states to seek clarification on the type of grantmaking mandate being requested by UNOCT, to whom funds will be disbursed, and to what ends. This brief builds on independent analysis by the Global Center on the UN’s comparative advantages in policy development, interagency coordination, delivery, and impact of counterterrorism and preventing violent extremism efforts, and this work is funded by the Government of Norway.

UN Photo/Cia Pak

Since the 9/11 attacks, there has been a significant increase in attacks attributable to violent extremists motivated by racial, ethnic, and anti-authority sentiment. Understanding how the finances connected to these extremists are raised, used, moved, and stored is vitally important to designing strategies to prevent and counter extremist violence, no matter the ideological, religious, idiosyncratic, racial, or ethnic motivations. This brief examines the online financing and support systems associated with U.S. anti-authority and racially or ethnically motivated (AAREM) violent extremists. It focuses on the threat as manifest in the United States and to a lesser extent the transnational dimensions of AAREM violent extremist financing. Clear linkages between U.S. and transnational violent extremists, especially within white supremacist and neo-Nazi circles, also extend to the world of financing. It concludes with several policy solutions to better combat the financial support systems of AAREM violent extremists.

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 EngagementIn 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 fpraxl@globalcenter.org.

This brief presents key recommendations for improving civil society engagement in UN counterterrorism and preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) efforts. It provides concrete steps that the United Nations and its member states can take to better engage civil society and offers a blueprint for civil society to advocate for and assert itself more consistently and effectively within the UN counterterrorism architecture, policies, and programs.

The recommendations are based on wide-ranging consultations with individuals representing diverse civil society organizations, governments, and UN entities as well a comparative analysis of relevant mechanisms for engagement between civil society and other multilateral bodies.

The Global Center is grateful to the many partners who participated in the consultations and the Government of Switzerland for its financial support. We are especially grateful to the members of the project’s advisory council.

This policy brief examines the 2021 renewal of the mandate of the UN Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and seven key issues Security Council members must grapple with as part of the renewal: (1) assessments, (2) facilitation of technical assistance, (3) research and analysis, (4) partnerships, (5) mandate expansion, (6) human rights, and (7) monitoring and evaluation.

To support Security Council members in their reconsideration of CTED’s mandate, the Global Center and the International Peace Institute undertook an extensive research and consultation process. A broad range of stakeholders were consulted, including current CTC members and other UN member states, UN representatives, and civil society actors. Information was gathered through a widely distributed survey, bilateral interviews, three focus-group discussions, and two workshops held on 28 July and 3 November 2021. Along with providing analysis of the implementation of CTED’s mandate, the intention was to provide an informal Track II setting for member states and other stakeholders to engage on priorities for the mandate renewal and to solicit input into the formal negotiation process from underrepresented parties, including civil society. This brief outlines findings and recommendations for the renewal of CTED’s mandate, building on this research and consultation process.

This year’s 76th Session of the UN General Assembly aligned with the twenty-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks, giving heightened significance to the annual multilateral discussions. The Global Center team produced a range of commentaries, resources, and analyses that speak to counterterrorism policy over the last two decades and prospective future of counterterrorism.

In an article in The Hill, Executive Director Eelco Kessels reflects on the twenty years since September 11th to underscore the urgency of restoring human rights and centering civil society in global security efforts.

In a Just Security article, Global Center staff reflect on the seventh review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and progress on issues within the United Nations since 2001. And in an IPI Global Observatory article, Legal Analyst Annabelle Bonnefont highlights the need for more meaningful engagement with civil society by the UN as part of its counterterrorism efforts.

Executive Director Kessels delivered remarks as part of the Special meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Committee commemorating the 20th anniversary of the adoption of Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) and the establishment of the Counter-Terrorism Committee.

Finally, the Global Center spotlighted these pieces, additional resources, and reflections from several Advisory Council members on our social media channels using #20YearsofCT.

The 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks compels the international community to take stock of the past two decades of counterterrorism policy and ask: Have these efforts made us safer, and at what cost?

This opinion piece in The Hill penned by executive director Eelco Kessels reflects on the twenty years since September 11th to underscore the urgency of restoring human rights and centering civil society in global security efforts.

The threat of terrorism today is more diverse, diffuse, and decentralized than ever before. At the same time, the growth of counterterrorism has spurned the unraveling of hard-won human rights protections and democratic norms and the shrinking of civic space. There is no evidence indicating that these restrictions reduce terrorist attacks; quite the opposite, they may in fact help galvanize radicalization and recruitment.

Twenty years after 9/11, the upcoming 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September is sure to be a time for reflection on UN and global efforts to counter terrorism and prevent the spread of violent extremism. However, insights for the upcoming discussions can already be gleaned from the recent negotiations and seventh review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The seventh review resolution, adopted by the General Assembly on June 30, shows both the progress that has been made since 2001 and reveals the many challenges that still lay ahead. In this Just Security article, Eelco Kessels and Melissa Lefas argue that while the adoption of the seventh review resolution demonstrates a commitment to consensus, a closer inspection reveals significant cracks in the global approach.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) are often more knowledgeable, experienced, and trusted by local communities than governments, and their contributions have been well documented across various aspects of counterterrorism and prevention. As part of a series on the role of the UN system in preventing violent extremism and countering terrorism by the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory, this article explores the UN’s engagement with civil society and the need for more meaningful and beneficial interactions with CSOs.

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 United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism 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.