Border Security Initiative - Expert Seminar

The Expert Seminar of the joint United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) – Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) Border Security Initiative (BSI) took place in the premises of the UN Office on 10-11 September 2015, in Vienna.

The Expert Seminar built on the El Jadida Inaugural Conference on the UNCCT-GCTF Border Security Initiative in the Sahel and Horn of Africa regions and brought together 25 senior experts from 17 different countries, both from Member States and international organizations.

Experts discussed the crucial role that border security and management plays in combating terrorism, foreign terrorist-fighters (FTF’s), and cross-border organized crime. They also elaborated in the area of border security and management covering a range of cross-border cooperation models, including border community engagement, effective border surveillance methods, as well as the importance of creating an effective proportionality between technology based solutions and well trained border law enforcement officers.

The discussions were related to the further development of a non-binding, globally focused paper with good practices based on lessons learned in relation to border security and management.

Key themes of the discussions during the Expert Seminar included but were not limited to:

  • The UNCCT-GCTF Border Security Initiative
  • Engagement with border communities
  • “Community border policing” as a new model to be developed
  • Modern Border surveillance technologies are crucial
  • Coordinated border patrolling improves states’ border management capacities
  • Control of remote and porous land borders

Working group sessions related to cross-border cooperation

Experts of working groups discussed various models existing in the area of border security and management and their definitions, key principles, as well as cross-border cooperation and border surveillance to fight transnational threats in general and terrorism, FTF and cross-border organized crime in particular. They further confirmed the key principles of border security and management as: intra-agency cooperation, inter-agency (also multi-agency) cooperation, and international cooperation.

Therefore, border security and management continue to evolve with key players expanding beyond the Ministries of Interior and/or Defense, and other law enforcement organizations. Additionally, border security and management practices should expand beyond the traditional focus on entry controls and to enhance exit control efforts and its related standards in order to detain potential FTF before leaving their countries of origin, as well as FTF begin leaving conflict zones to return to their home countries.

Experts also discussed the benefits and limitations of advanced technological solutions related to border security and management. Of particular note was the large range of capacity differences between countries, some of which have afforded significant investment into such solutions, while others have been less able due to resource constraints.

Working group sessions on green and blue border surveillance

It was agreed between the experts that human contact is crucial in collecting relevant information on border movements with regards to green and blue border surveillance. Generating information through people-to-people contacts circumvents the need to continually counter technology advances. Human interaction is critical in countering the advantages that terrorist and organized crime groups gain from modern technologies.

As a general matter of concern experts in all working groups discussed extensively thematic sub-areas regarding risk analysis and threat assessments, which should be identified by government policies, agency missions and analysis and key risks to be identified for each border area and resources allocated accordingly. Serious cross-border threats, particularly terrorist groups, FTF and the organized crime groups that can support them, are exceedingly difficult to eliminate or avoid.

Next Steps

The UNCCT Senior Border Expert informed participants that the “paper” with good practices in the area of border security and management based on lessons learned will be further developed. Participants confirmed to provide further comments and input to the paper on good practices, which will be presented and further developed in the planned workshops in countries of the Sahel and Horn of Africa regions.

Follow on events will include two workshops in fall 2015 and two workshops in spring 2016, with dates and locations to be announced in the coming weeks.