While COVID-19 continues to disrupt social and economic activities worldwide, state institutions have amplified measures to manage the pandemic. It is of utmost importance that efforts to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism leading to terrorism remain in full force. This will be essential to counteract terrorists’ exploitation of the pandemic, for instance, by expanding radicalization and recruitment efforts online.
In this context, UNODC’s Terrorism Prevention Branch (UNODC/TPB) has scheduled a series of national consultation meetings online on “Developing a multi-disciplinary national plan and strategy for countering terrorism, preventing and countering violent extremism and addressing returning foreign terrorist fighters and their families in the context of COVID-19” in various countries in South and South-East Asia, generously funded by the Government of Japan.
On 13 May 2020, the first consultation meeting with Maldivian criminal justice practitioners was convened to elaborate on the potential threats, impacts and challenges of COVID-19 on terrorist and violent extremist groups. During the event, participants emphasized that, in light of the current situation, a prompt and effective response from national security and law enforcement agencies in full collaboration with civil society is imperative.
As a result of the roundtable discussion, the participants identified national priorities while UNODC/TPB shared best practices. In the context of COVID-19, discussions also focused on formulating an effective national plan and strategy to counter terrorism; a framework to prevent and counter violent extremism; and approaches for the repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration of returning foreign terrorist fighters and their families.