Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


UNCCT/UNOCT Virtual Roundtable on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism Entities: Building Strategic Partnerships across Regions

  08 December 2020


Dear colleagues,

Thank you for the opportunity to address this Virtual Roundtable.

I would like to thank Saudi Arabia for its significant contribution to UN counter-terrorism efforts, and as ever, I am grateful to USG Voronkov for his commitment to collaboration and coordination across the UN system.

UNODC is contributing to global counter-terrorism responses through our integrated approach, which draws on our mandates as guardian of the UN conventions against transnational organized crime and corruption, and our work supporting implementation of the global counter-terrorism instruments, the international drug conventions and the UN standards and norms on crime prevention and criminal justice.

Our Office remains fully active in supporting implementation of the four pillars of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, accounting for nearly three-quarters of the technical assistance delivered under Pillar Three, on building States’ capacity and strengthening the role of the UN.

Further enhancing cooperation and synergies with our UN partners has been a top priority for me since I joined UNODC as Executive Director in February.

In fact, yesterday USG Voronkov and I signed the new UNODC-UNOCT joint action plan that will enable us to advance these efforts and further strengthen our collaboration.

With UNOCT and other partners, we have ramped up global support to manage violent extremist prisoners and prevent radicalization to violence in prisons; enhance border management through legislative and operational assistance; and advance comprehensive prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration strategies.

Along with IPU, UNOCT and UNODC are developing model legislative provisions for parliaments to address support victims of terrorism.  

I also appreciate the cross-regional focus of this roundtable. UNODC delivers support through interlinked global, regional and country programmes, working from Vienna and through our field network, which operates in more than 150 countries.

We have delivered extensive training from a criminal justice and rule of law perspective, addressing challenges including prevention of exploitation and recruitment of women and girls by terrorist and violent extremist groups, as well as prevention of recruitment and exploitation of children by terrorist and violent extremist groups.

Drawing on UNODC’s longstanding work on addressing children recruited and exploited by terrorist and violent extremist groups, our Office developed a series of e-Learning modules to continue providing remote assistance on these challenges.

Despite the inevitable challenges that have been brought on by the pandemic, UNODC, through our Online Counter-Terrorism Learning Platform, has trained over 1,000 criminal justice officials since the start of the crisis.

Moreover, our Office is supporting 10 countries in the Sahel and North Africa to prevent and counter the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes, and providing legislative assistance and capacity building to strengthen criminal justice responses to terrorism for the Southern African Development Community countries.

UNODC has presented a draft Roadmap as part of efforts to establish a regional network on preventing violent extremism in South Asia.

In South-East Asia, UNODC delivered technical assistance activities to build a regional network that was included in the ASEAN Plan of Action to prevent and counter the rise of radicalization and violent extremism.

Furthermore, UNODC is helping countries around the world to address criminal justice challenges posed by returning foreign terrorist fighters and their families; deal with digital evidence collection; strengthen human rights protection; and promote prevention through sports.

As this brief overview shows, UNODC’s broad criminal justice mandates have enabled us to provide comprehensive, agile support.

The need for such integrated assistance to address evolving terrorist challenges in preventing and countering violent extremism leading to terrorism is more urgent than ever as our world remains under pressure from the pandemic.

In particular, the international community needs to provide greater support to address links between terrorism and crime, most of all in developing countries, where recovery from crisis will be hardest and vulnerabilities to these threats most acute. 

Terrorists benefit from organized crime, including human trafficking and migrant smuggling; trafficking in drugs and firearms; kidnapping for ransom, robbery and more.

Returning foreign terrorist fighters have engaged in criminal activities, while organized criminal groups have been involved in transporting terrorists across borders.

In August, I had the privilege of joining USG Voronkov at the Security Council to present the Secretary-General’s report on actions taken by Member States to address linkages between terrorism and organized crime.

The steps identified include: ratifying relevant legal instruments; fighting money-laundering, terrorist financing and corruption; strengthening border security and international coordination; implementing comprehensive responses to drug demand and illicit drug trafficking; improving prison management; and incorporating whole-of-society approaches to prevent and counter violent extremism leading to terrorism.

Governments also highlighted the importance of inter-agency and international cooperation as key enablers for success.

This roundtable is an opportunity to strengthen coordinated, cohesive support to tackle these challenges, drawing on our organizations’ respective strengths for maximum effect.

By building more strategic partnerships, including with regional organizations, civil society, the private sector, academia and youth, we can support governments to invest in and innovate prevention, to counter terrorist recruitment narratives and tailor support to vulnerable and at-risk groups that are being targeted by violent extremist groups.

Engaging diverse allies within and outside the UN system is a key priority of the new UNODC strategy, which we are launching next year along with our new Strategic Vision for Africa.

Drawing on UNODC’s unique mandates, the strategies seek to advance justice responses and build resilience, with a focus on human rights-centred approaches, gender and youth, and with the aim of realizing the Sustainable Development Goals and fostering peace.

With these objectives in view, I look forward to further developing our cooperation. UNODC remains fully committed to doing our part, in close collaboration with OCT and the Global Compact entities, and all our partners.

Thank you, and I wish you fruitful discussions.