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UN Counter-Terrorism Symposium Concludes with Strong Call for Member States to Take Action on Global Strategy
VIENNA, 21 May 2007
UN Information Service
A two-day symposium on implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy concluded with a strong call by participants to take concrete action to advance on all aspects of the Strategy. The Symposium was the first major forum since the adoption of the Strategy by the General Assembly in September 2006, and brought together representatives of Member States, the United Nations system, regional organizations and counter-terrorism experts to discuss how they can best work together to implement the Strategy.
"Advancing the implementation of the Strategy is challenging to all constituents. The overall success of the Strategy depends on the Member States of the United Nations. This realization should motivate to work towards concrete actions and measurable results, supported by relevant UN entities - including the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), other international and regional organizations, civil society and the private sector. Failure in this endeavour is not an option," said Ambassador Thomas Stelzer, Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations (Vienna) and Chairman of the Symposium in concluding the meeting. He stressed that Member States must be "proactive, committed, and willing to persevere in order to counter the common and global threat of terrorism."
The Symposium was convened jointly by the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General, the Vienna-based United Nations
Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Government of Austria to assist Member States to define a path on how to take forward the action points of the Strategy - to help them chart their own course of implementation with assistance, if needed, from United Nations system counter-terrorism entities.
In accordance with the General Assembly resolution, progress made in the implementation of the Strategy will be reviewed by Member States in the fall of 2008. In his opening address to the symposium, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of UNODC, called on States to set clear benchmarks against which performance can be measured, adding that "we will be judged by our actions, by results."
The main responsibility for carrying out the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy "falls squarely on Member States," said the Chairman of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), Assistant-Secretary-General Robert Orr. The role of the United Nations entities involved in different aspects of countering terrorism is to facilitate state action. This was clearly recognized by the representatives of the over 100 participating Member States who also acknowledged that implementation requires long-term and sustainable commitment.
"We have an excellent opportunity to examine what has been done and what still needs to be done," said Mr. Orr. "The Strategy contains more than 50 practical recommendations and provisions. While each and every one of them is crucial to our success in combating terrorism, we must agree on tactics for sequencing the implementation of the various measures if we are to maximize their effectiveness," he added.
The Symposium focused on six central themes: (1) the Strategy as an integrated approach in addressing terrorism; (2) measures to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; (3) measures to prevent and combat terrorism; (4) building state capacity and strengthen the United Nations to combat terrorism; (5) respecting human rights and the rule of law as the basis for the fight against terrorism; and (6) advancing the implementation of the Strategy (themes 2-4 correspond with the four chapters of the Strategy's plan of action).
In the course of the discussions around those themes, participants reviewed their own counter-terrorism efforts, highlighted concrete actions they had been taking to advance the Strategy and drew attention to challenges they were facing in this regard. A number of concrete proposals were also suggested by speakers to further pool capacity and resources among UN counter-terrorism entities, Member States and other regional and sub-regional actors and expert bodies. These include:
Ensuring that the voices of victims of terrorism are heard, and helping to facilitate a dialogue between victims and States;
Sharing best practices on preventing radicalization, as well as promoting national de-radicalization and rehabilitation programmes;
Sharing best practices on the protection of vulnerable targets ranging from mass transport to civilian populations in areas of conflict;
Addressing armed conflicts as conditions that are conducive to the spread of terrorism;
Countering the growing terrorist use of the Internet, as well as using the Internet to combat incitement of terrorism and extremist ideologies;
Preventing terrorist access to nuclear, biological and chemical materials that can be used to inflict mass casualties;
Incorporating human rights obligations and the promotion of the rule of law into all aspects of counter-terrorism work;
And, ensuring that the Strategy is implemented in an integrated manner, without fragmentation or duplication of work.
The CTITF was seen as especially important in helping to carry forward those initiatives and the role of the Task Force was overall recognized as crucial in implementing the Strategy. Mr. Orr emphasized that the CTITF had made substantial progress in providing Member States, regional organizations and civil society with a wide array of resources to draw upon in carrying out their counter-terrorism efforts, such as an Online Handbook that allowed all actors to get in contact with and request assistance from any of the 24 entities of the CTITF. But, as he stressed, "the relationship between the Task Force and all actors must be symbiotic and mutually beneficial. To be effective in assisting all parties in implementing the Strategy, the Task Force will, at the same time, require their strong support."
The Symposium also drew on UNODC's experience and expertise in providing technical assistance to Member States in building capacities to counter terrorism, especially in the legal field.
"With the adoption of the Strategy last September, UN Member States spoke out clearly and in unison about their resolve to fight terrorism and what must be done to prevent it. Now comes the hard part - translating words into deeds," said Executive Director Costa, highlighting that the Strategy explicitly encouraged States to draw on the technical assistance available from UNODC. "We all have a heavy burden to carry to make the world safer from terrorism. We can make it lighter by sharing expertise, information, and advice," he added, underlining that UNODC had a history of technical assistance, the network of field offices and the knowledge of the links between drugs, crime and terrorism to help Member States on the ground as they devised practical measures to counter terrorism.