The Internet and social media are some of the most powerful tools used by terrorists to spread violent extremism and ultimately, fuel conflict. At the same time, COVID-19 has sharply increased the use and exposure of individuals to online platforms and channels. Addressing violent extremism leading to terrorism is key to preventing terrorism and ensuring international peace and security.
In this context, UNODC’s Terrorism Prevention Branch (TPB) convened a series of online national consultation meetings 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 several South and South-East Asian countries. The event was generously funded by the Government of Japan.
On 11 June 2020, TPB organized the second consultation with Malaysian criminal justice practitioners to elaborate on the potential threats and challenges related to COVID-19 with the aim of identifying legal and policy measures to advance the development of strategies related to the screening, prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of returning foreign terrorist fighters and their families. During the event, participants emphasized the need to develop a national “PVE Plan of Action” and strategy that are informed by institutions at the national and local levels. Emphasis was also placed on the advantages of involving local communities and civil society organizations to prevent and counter violent extremism leading to terrorism. Furthermore, the need to strengthen the participation of women and youth in the development of strategies and take concrete actions at the local level was also highlighted.