Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


International Conference "Global Challenges and Threats in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Terrorism and Violent Extremism

  15 April 2021

Distinguished participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

It is an honour to join this international conference on the threats of terrorism in and beyond the global pandemic.

I thank the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the CIS Member Nations for organizing, and for inviting me to speak to you today.

I am glad to see many of UNODC’s partners with us, including of course my colleague USG Voronkov, as well as representatives of the IPA CIS Council; the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean; and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

Parliaments represent the people, their interests, concerns and needs.

Cooperation with parliamentarians and parliamentary organizations is a key pillar of UNODC’s counter-terrorism assistance, including to address challenges related to returning foreign terrorist fighters, and most of all to hear and help victims of terrorism.

I am grateful to USG Voronkov for the close cooperation with OCT, as well as with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, to develop model legislative provisions to strengthen support to victims of terrorism.

UNODC is proud to be a long-standing provider of counter-terrorism policy advice and technical assistance to Member States.

Our mandates addressing drugs, crime, corruption and terrorism enable us to provide integrated assistance to address interlinked threats. Terrorists benefit from cooperation with organized crime, including through funding support, as well as the provision of weapons, training, and safe havens.

Corruption facilitates cross-border terrorist financing, and is used by terrorists to perpetrate attacks.

UNODC has stepped up assistance as the global pandemic has heightened vulnerabilities to terrorism. The pandemic has worsened inequalities and driven up poverty, with the World Bank estimating that up to 124 million people were pushed into poverty by COVID last year.

Vulnerable people are at greater risk of being further marginalized, which further increases their susceptibility to recruitment by terrorist groups.

The COVID crisis has also accelerated terrorist exploitation of new tools and technologies to recruit and to carry out attacks.

In response, UNODC has taken a proactive approach since the start of the pandemic. Our Office has continued delivery of technical assistance from Vienna and our field offices.

Last year, we trained more than 2,000 criminal justice officials online.

UNODC has developed tools to better support Member States, including an update to our Practical Guide on Handling Electronic Evidence, which now offers sections related to admissibility and presentation of electronic evidence in the context of the pandemic.

The guide also provides practical case studies addressing new situations impacting evidence collection and increased digitalization.

Furthermore, our Office is updating the UNODC Model Law on Mutual Legal Assistance, with a component on handling electronic evidence in the context of cross-border cooperation and mutual legal assistance.

UNODC is supporting Member States to develop effective national strategies that engage and empower youth to prevent violent extremism. These efforts will help to target effective action, as the pandemic has vastly increased online activity, leaving many more young men and women vulnerable to online radicalization.

UNODC also published the Technical Guide on Preventing Violent Extremism through Sport last year. In line with the priorities set in the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, the Guide will support countries with the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of sport-based initiatives to prevent radicalization and violent extremism among youth.

Finally, together with UNOCT, we are implementing a project on managing violent extremist prisoners, which represents another area where the virus has presented new challenges and threats.

Going forward, UNODC is focused on further building support to Member States to address post-pandemic challenges; ensuring responsive, integrated and people-centred counter-terrorism assistance; increasing the focus on the needs of vulnerable people in criminal justice systems; and addressing emerging right-wing extremism and terrorism.

In this time of crisis and greater needs, partnerships are more important than ever, and reinforcing existing cooperation and building new alliances is a key pillar of UNODC’s new corporate strategy.

In this regard, I am pleased to have signed a new joint UNODC-UNOCT plan of action with USG Voronkov last December, and our Office remains a proud contributor to the Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact and its eight working groups.

UNODC continues to benefit from close counter-terrorism cooperation with regional parliamentary assemblies and IPU, and we stand ready to further develop our collaboration with parliamentarians, to strengthen legal frameworks to prevent and counter terrorism, and to build capacities to take effective action.

Thank you once again for inviting me to address this conference, and you can count on UNODC’s support.

Thank you.