Civil Society Engagement in Addressing Violent Extremism and Illicit Firearms Trafficking

Tuesday, 17 October 2018 - During the ninth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, UNODC Civil Society Team organized a side event together with the UNODC Terrorism Prevention Branch, and the UNODC Global Firearms Programme, in partnership with the Kingdom of Sweden aimed at discussing efforts from governments, the United Nations, and civil society organizations in countering violent extremism conducive to terrorism and addressing illicit firearms trafficking. The event highlighted, in particular, the role of civil society in these areas. 

"We need a multi-society approach in fighting facets of transnational organised crime such as violent extremism and illicit firearms trafficking," said Mr. Jonas Norling, Deputy Head of the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations in Vienna. Ms. Elena Rigacci Hay of UNODC presented data analysing targeted attacks, mentioning how civil society and civilians are perceived as "soft targets" by terrorists, as data shown depicted that civil society is the primary target in the Middle East and North African region and Sub-Saharan Africa. "These groups are also being targeted on the internet through cybercrime," highlighted Ms. Rigacci. 

Mr. Ibrahim Abdelkarim from Transparency International Libya highlighted the particular vulnerability of the youth to radicalisation, and how this vulnerability must be fought through education and awareness campaigns, as well as through providing alternatives to such vulnerabilities. Ms. Simonetta Grassi of the UNODC stressed the advisory role of civil society in helping governments fight transnational organised crime, referring to the pillars of the Global Firearms Programme, in which CSOs play a key role as key members of societies. These pillars are policy development and legislation, preventive and security measures, criminal justice and response, international cooperation and information exchange, and monitoring illicit arms flows.

Ms. Christiane Isabelle Agboton of the Centre of Higher Defense and Security Studies in Senegal shared her experience about the crucial role civil society can play in the fight against the illicit trafficking of firearms, from her experience about the efforts undertaken to disarm people in Senegal which taught her that it is crucial for civil society to first address the reasons which lead to people taking up arms and/or becoming radicalised. This can be done in various ways - through awareness campaigns, educating women and girls, building infrastructure and providing social and societal stimulation in order to decrease poverty and other factors known to lead people into participating in organised crime. The panellist gave an example of how such efforts to address the root causes of the unhappiness of certain groups within the Senegalese society inspired them to give up their arms.

The event was a unique opportunity for Member States, the United Nations, and grass root civil society to exchange multi-societal approaches to tackling violent extremism and the illicit trafficking in firearms.

The ninth session of the Conference adopted the Resolution that established a review mechanism of the UNTOC, in resolution CTOC/COP/2018/L.4 /Rev.1 which provides a role for civil society to engage in a constructive dialogue with Member States.

Further information

United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto

Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

Ninth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime