"Education is a security issue," Tony Blair tells Counter-Terrorism Committee

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said at a meeting of the Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee that education is a path through which to counter violent extremism and defeat the scourge of terrorism. "In the twenty-first century, education is a security issue," Mr. Blair told the Committee.

Tony Blair, Patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, and CTED Executive Director Jean-Paul Laborde
UN Photo/ Amanda Voisard.

Members of the Security Council, the UN wider membership, and international and regional organizations participated in the event that was held at UN Headquarters on 21 November 2013.

Mr. Blair spoke on behalf of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which he established in 2008 to work towards peaceful coexistence with people of faith or none.

Governments need to protect themselves and take security measures to combat terrorism, Mr. Blair said, but that only contains the problem. To solve it, "we have to uproot the thinking of the extremists, not simply disrupt their actions."

Since religious extremists, for example, are indoctrinating vulnerable youth in places of worship, informal schools, online and in print, Mr. Blair said it is important for those committed to peace and tolerance to recruit and organize with the same passion and determination.

In his view, religious extremists count on ignorance to fuel violence and terrorism. "The soil in which they plant the seeds of hate is the soil of ignorance, of warped thinking producing warped minds and in particular of a distorted and false view of religion," Mr. Blair said. "We will not deal with the root causes of terrorism unless we confront this fact."

He advocated for an education that brings young people closer to the other, to those who are different, and that "shows them that the only future that works is one in which people are respected as equals, whatever their faith or their culture".

Mr. Blair urged all countries to pilot education programmes that teach cultural and religious literacy. He referred to his Foundation's Face to Faith programme, which works in 20 countries and over 1,000 schools. Thousands of students, aged 12 to 17 years, have had the chance to discuss global issues from a variety of faith and belief perspectives.

After the meeting, CTED Executive Director Jean-Paul Laborde told reporters that the United Nations will continue to work closely with civil society and Mr. Blair's Foundation on education and to counter violent extremism.

CTED, the Committee's Executive Directorate, supports this Security Council subsidiary body in monitoring the implementation by Member States of key counter-terrorism resolutions.

UN efforts to counter violent extremism place considerable emphasis on the need to safeguard the rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression and opinion. Civil society and communities around the world are vital partners in creating an environment of peaceful coexistence and in countering the voices of those who incite terrorist acts.

The Security Council and the Committee assist Member States in their efforts to prevent and combat terrorism while respecting human rights and the rule of law.

This page was last updated on: 22-Nov-2013 12:58 PM EST