“It is only through collaboration and cooperation at the global, regional and national levels that we can reduce the vulnerability of soft targets to terrorist attacks.”
-- Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, in his statement at the Open Briefing of the Counter-Terrorism Committee on 'Building partnerships in protecting soft targets from terrorist attacks’.
Marking of soft targets
The targeting of “soft” targets, including religious sites by terrorist groups of different affiliations and ideologies, is on the increase. In addition to great numbers of casualties and wounded, devastating terrorist attacks against soft targets disrupt daily life, spread fear and, in the case of religious sites, terrorist attacks also target people’s beliefs, identities, histories and dignity. It is crucial that States have measures in place in order to prevent, protect, mitigate, investigate, respond to, and recover from damage from terrorist attacks against “soft” targets. Immediate response to an attack is crucial in mitigating the impact and in this regard, local leaders, communities and civil society actors play a key role.
The challenge for Member States is that there are innumerable soft target areas. Although Governments, including at the local level, bear the primary responsibility for protecting “soft” targets against terrorist attacks, the private owners and/or operators of such sites must also take steps to address the related security needs and reduce their vulnerabilities. It is vital that central and local Governments, community leaders, faith actors and private-sector actors cooperate in order to identify ways to mitigate the related risks and threats and, ultimately, to prevent such attacks from occurring. Effective protection of such targets requires not only the implementation of physical-protection measures, but also the development of strong and resilient communities and close engagement with civil society and local leadership, including religious leaders.
Protecting vulnerable targets programming
UNOCT has developed a new global Programme on “The Protection of Vulnerable Targets” which aims to support the development and enhancement of key counter-terrorism capabilities to assist selected Member States in detecting, monitoring and countering threats against vulnerable targets, including those associated with mass casualties and fear-inducing events using both traditional as well as sophisticated tactics and tools.
The programme will support countries in assesing their vulnerability and needs, including in regard to touristic venues, places of worship, religious sites, major sport events and threats associated with the use of unmanned air systems. Through this programme UNOCT will build capacities and provide mentoring to prevent and counter relevant threats.