UNODC brings victims and criminal connections to the fore of the fight against terrorism
Vienna. 16 March 2011. UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov today called for increased cooperation and a stepping up of efforts in fighting the twinned threats of crime and terrorism.
Speaking at an international meeting to look into the growing connections between terrorist acts and global crime, Mr. Fedotov pointed out that criminal profits are increasingly finding their way to support terrorist acts: "Today, the criminal market spans the planet, and in many instances criminal profits support terrorist groups. Globalization has turned out to be a double-edged sword. Open borders, open markets, and increased ease of travel and communication have benefited both terrorists and criminals. Thanks to advances in technology, communication, finance and transport, loose networks of terrorists and organized criminal groups that operate internationally can easily link with each other. By pooling their resources and expertise, they can significantly increase their capacity to do harm."
The Executive Director's comments come at the opening of the UNODC-organized Terrorism Symposium in Vienna. Attended by more than 250 representatives from nearly 90 countries, the event comes on the back of the ever-evolving modus operandi of terrorists, and their increasing presence in the world of criminality. Drug trafficking, transnational organized crime, the movement of illicit firearms and money laundering have become integral parts of terrorism.
During the opening session of the Symposium Austria's Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger expressed his support for the event, and noted the need for enhanced collaboration in the face of terrorism: "Terrorists connect with other criminal groups making use of new technology to operate across borders. We must counter this through stronger international cooperation under the UN umbrella."
In many cases criminal components sustain terrorist groups, resulting in increased threats and challenges to global security on a number of levels. In Afghanistan, the Taliban's terrorist efforts are boosted through the production of opium - a key cash source; similarly, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia - FARC - are able to carry on operating through the cultivation and trafficking of cocaine and kidnapping for ransom.
While these criminal components in many cases sustain terrorist groups, they present increased threats and challenges to global security on a number of levels. In Afghanistan, the Taliban's terrorist efforts are boosted through the production of opium - a key cash source; similarly, FARC - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - are able to carry on operating through the cultivation and trafficking of cocaine and kidnapping for ransom.
With criminals and terrorists alike exploiting regions and countries weakened by poverty, war and corruption, many already perilous situations are worsening. Acts of terrorist violence endanger the physical security of individuals and communities, sowing fear and panic, and having a devastating impact on economic activities.
A sometimes overlooked aspect in the fight against terrorism is that of the victims. With criminality and terrorism increasingly working in tandem, it is ultimately victims who pay the price.
Representing a network of individuals affected by terrorism, the Symposium was addressed by Carie Lemack, director and co-founder of a survivor-focused NGO, the Global Survivors Network: "The victims of terrorism are so often just seen as figures - numbers which get lost as data. We want to help give the nameless names and project their voices to and work against the deadly, misguided messaging being spread around the world. In the complexity of fighting terror, real people speaking out against this crime is an incredibly powerful tool in making people think twice about getting involved in terrorism."
Ms. Lemack and the Global Survivors Network's story was recently told in the 2011 Oscar-nominated documentary "Killing in the Name". This moving piece tells the story of the Network's co-founder, Ashraf Al-Khaled, who lost 27 members of his family in a terrorist attack on his wedding. Through bringing to the fore the experiences of those directly and indirectly affected by acts of terror, a bid is being made to counter this crime through the voices of victims.
As recent incidents across the world have shown, terrorist activities continue unabated and remain one of the main threats to the security of countries and their citizens. Terrorism and its connections to global criminality continue to be a pressing and real issue with the need to enhance coordination of efforts to strengthen a global response at its most heightened.
The Symposium marks a decade after the adoption of the Vienna Plan of Action against Terrorism in September 2001 which spearheaded UNODC's assistance programme for countering terrorism. In the past 10 years, UNODC's work in supporting Rule of Law-based responses to terrorism has increased considerably, with significant progress made by Member States in implementing the international legal regime against terrorism.
A promising vehicle to connect practitioners worldwide with a view to exchanging information, sharing best practices and enhancing cooperation, UNODC's new virtual counter-terrorism learning platform will also be presented during the Symposium.
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