Mastering the Narrative: Counterterrorism Strategic Communication and the United Nations

Author : Naureen Chowdhury Fink and Jack Barclay
Date : February 2013

Terrorism has always been a battle of ideas, reflecting a desire for violent and immediate political transformation. The technologies available in a globalized world today, however, have expanded the theater of conflict into a broader swath of spaces—governed, less governed, virtual—than ever. Groups such as al-Qaida have articulated a clear mission statement and excelled at strategic communication, crafting messages based on audience perceptions and including actions as well as words.

This report presents a qualitative analysis of how strategic communication principles can strengthen international efforts to address terrorism and violent extremism. The report examines the evolution of the challenge and draws on discussions with officials, diplomats, and experts to offer a series of recommendations for enhancing strategic communications on counterterrorism. While this study focuses on the United Nations, the key principles and recommendations may also be applicable to governments and international organizations confronting this complex transnational threat.

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