From 27 to 28 October 2014, the African Union (AU) Commission organized the Symposium on Victims of Terrorist Acts, the first event of its kind to be held in Africa. The Symposium was held at the initiative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who emphasized the need for a forum at the level of the AU to give a face and a voice to the victims of terrorism in Africa.
The Symposium was also held within the framework of the United Nations (UN) Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy of 2006 which, inter alia, urged an end to the dehumanization of victims of terrorism and called on UN Member States to put in place “national systems of assistance that would promote the needs of victims of terrorism and their families and facilitate the normalization of their lives”. In the Strategy, the UN Member States also pledged to “strive to promote international solidarity in support of victims and foster the involvement of civil society in a global campaign against terrorism and for its condemnation”. The Symposium was attended by a number of AU Member States, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), AU partner states, international organizations, United Nations and media representatives. Key among the participants were representatives of African civil society and non-governmental organizations established by victims of terrorist acts and their families from a number of African countries including Algeria, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda.
The speakers at the Symposium highlighted the human cost of terrorism and the untold suffering inflicted on civilians, as a result of terrorist acts, including physical injury, psychological trauma, destruction of livelihoods and social discord. The symposium allowed the victims to share their stories and experiences in helping themselves and other victims in overcoming the tragedy. Member States participating in the symposium also shared their experiences in supporting and responding to the needs of victims through the criminal justice system and other national support initiatives. The Symposium also considered international good practices developed by the relevant United Nations bodies. The symposium allowed the participants to exchange on a number of thematic issues and elaborate recommendations for future action including on enhancing the criminal justice responses to Support Victims of Terrorist Acts, psychosocial and economic support and the role of the media in delegitimizing terrorism and violence. The symposium further emphasized the important role that continues to be played by the victims and their associations in countering violent extremisms and advocating for the support to victims and their inclusions in national efforts towards preventing and combating terrorism.
The Symposium further agreed on the establishment of a Network of African Associations of Victims of Terrorist Acts as a common platform for advocacy, joint action and exchange of experiences. The conclusions and the recommendations of the Symposium can be found here.
The Symposium is the first step at the level of the AU Commission towards promoting an adequate response to the needs of the victims and strengthening the role of civil society in counter-terrorism, in line with the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the relevant AU instruments and frameworks and building on the success achieved through the AU engagement with civil society in the areas of peace, security and socio-economic development.