Behind resolution 1624, a call for prevention
The Security Council has adopted more than 2,000 resolutions since 1946, the first on the Military Staff Committee and number 2,000 of July 2011 on the situation in Côte d'Ivoire. During its history, the 15-member body has discussed many issues related to international peace and security. Terrorism has been on the agenda for decades. Before and after the 2001 attacks on the United States, Council members have negotiated key resolutions dealing with this threat. Numbers 1373 and 1624 are two of the more recent ones.
A landmark resolution, number 1373 was adopted in September 2001 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, requiring States to take a strong stand against terrorism. The Council understood that a comprehensive and global response was needed.
Speaking at the event to mark the tenth anniversary of the resolution, Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri of India, Chair of the Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee, said that “the international community has vigorously responded to the call to rise up to the unprecedented challenges posed by terrorism.”
Terrorism is still considered a serious threat, in part due to its evolving nature. “Today, terrorists are not only truly globalized, but are also waging an asymmetric warfare against the international community,” Mr. Puri said. Terrorists constantly review their strategies and tactics, using all tools at hand to pursue their criminal plans. The United Nations is doing the same with a view to disrupt those plans.
Security Council resolution 1624 (2005) builds on number 1373 and others concerned with threats to international peace and security caused by acts of terrorism. At its core, the resolution is about prevention and places increased emphasis on social contexts that may be conducive to the spread of terrorism.
According to Mike Smith, head of the Committee’s Executive Directorate (CTED), it is “critical to address the conditions that terrorist recruiters exploit to persuade young people to support their cause.”
The resolution calls on States to prevent and prohibit incitement to commit terrorist acts, strengthen international cooperation and border control, and enhance dialogue and understanding among civilizations.
Global survey on implementation
In its Global Survey, published in early 2012, CTED analyses how Member States are implementing resolution 1624, looking at the evolution of risks and threats, identifying gaps, and making recommendations for future action.
Basing its report on a variety of sources, including Member States, international organizations, country visits and regional workshops, CTED found that the level of risk and threat varies significantly from one country to the next. While some States indicated that incitement is pervasive in their territory and creates a risk of terrorist acts taking place, other States consider the threat of incitement and terrorist violence to be low. Yet they, too, reported maintaining a high level of vigilance.
“Our collective goal is to prevent individuals or groups that are intent on committing terrorist attacks from slipping through the net,” said Mr. Smith.
Most States have adapted their criminal laws to prohibit incitement in accordance with resolution 1624, resulting in some prosecutions and convictions for incitement or otherwise supporting acts of terrorism.
Different definitions of incitement and approaches to counter incitement motivated by extremism and intolerance present a challenge to the implementation of resolution 1624. International human rights bodies expressed their concern, which was reflected in the survey, that some measures may be excessive or overreaching and could infringe on human rights. Such measures could be counterproductive and alienate communities, the opposite of what the resolution calls for.
“Strategies that are comprehensive and inclusive are the most effective,” said Mr. Smith. “They respect fundamental rights and bring on board the contributions of many actors, including those of civil society.”
The Global Survey also pointed to a dramatic increase in the use of the Internet, mobile phones and other new technologies to convey violent, extremist views intended to incite terrorist acts. Generally, though, these tools serve a good purpose, allowing people to communicate and share their opinions widely. They also offer new avenues for countering terrorist narratives.
The challenge for States is to prevent incitement from taking place online while keeping the Internet as open as possible. That is, people must be able to exercise their right to freedom of expression. And as the Security Council noted in resolution 1624, any restrictions to this right should be in line with international law.
Owing to the complexity of the terrorist threat, States have launched a series of initiatives to combat it. Law enforcement and intelligence services continue to have a central role to play within comprehensive and integrated national strategies against terrorism. Yet these strategies also include programmes that promote peace and tolerance; counter radicalization and rehabilitate terrorists; and prevent the subversion of educational, cultural and religious institutions. Mr. Smith said that “dialogue and understanding can potentially help eliminate the threat of terrorism and extremist violence from daily life.”