The deadly links between violent extremism and extreme poverty could be broken through the creation of jobs, a reduction in inequalities and by building just and inclusive societies, the General Assembly heard today.
As the Assembly concluded its general debate on the proposed plan of action to prevent violent extremism, speakers described how the absence of such actions had triggered the radicalization of otherwise law-abiding, responsible individuals, caused by a deep sense of collective frustration, deprivation and disillusionment. The representative of Trinidad and Tobago said the current situation had resulted in a “virtual battle for the hearts and minds of our citizens”, particularly young people. The appeal of terrorism must be reduced by addressing the socioeconomic challenges and pressures present in vulnerable societies.
Many speakers applauded the Assembly’s adoption, on 12 February, of a procedural resolution welcoming the Secretary-General’s draft plan of action to prevent violent extremism (see Press Release GA/11760). Some noted the proposed plan’s shortcomings, pointing out that it made no reference to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. Iran’s representative emphasized that although foreign military interventions and regime change had fed violent extremism around the globe to a significant extent, the proposed action plan did not highlight them.
Delegates also outlined national challenges and described the ways in which their respective Governments were coping with current challenges. Serbia’s representative described programmes to address the threat of foreign terrorist fighters, while his counterpart from Spain said that regional efforts were making inroads in preventing the spread of extremist ideologies. Youth must be among the target audiences, she stressed.
Many speakers agreed, with some underlining that young people needed jobs, opportunities and education to expand their horizons. Lebanon’s representative said that programmes arising from the draft plan of action should indeed target youth, especially in Arab States, so as to prevent the rise of extremist ideologies. As a country that had suffered a heavy toll from terrorism, Lebanon remained at the forefront in the battle to eradicate it, she added.
Some speakers emphasized that terrorism and violent extremism knew no borders, with Peru’s representative calling attention to unique regional challenges while underscoring the importance of international cooperation. Sharing that perspective, the representative of the African Union said terrorism and violent extremism continued to expand geographically, brazenly displaying unprecedented levels of violence in parts of Africa. Regional responses must include efforts to establish mechanisms for improved sharing of information, he said.
Many other speakers echoed the need for a concerted, coordinated approach to halting the spread of violent extremism. The representative of the Republic of Korea said that, because there was no “one-size-fits-all” solution to address it, diverse and multidimensional approaches were required. Some delegates called efforts through the Internet to tackle online recruiters for terrorist groups.
Other speakers, including Malaysia’s representative, said anti-terrorism initiatives should arise from a rejection of both Islamophobia and xenophobia. Algeria’s representative emphasized the continuing need for a concrete definition of terrorism.
Summing up the way forward, Benin’s representative warned that without international cooperation and adequate funding to implement the proposed plan of action, reaching common goals would remain “difficult and elusive”.
Also delivering statements today were representatives of Poland, Chile, Italy, Belarus, Uruguay and Mali.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) believed that violent extremism, in all forms and manifestations, could not and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group. The plan of action was a significant initiative, which raised awareness and called for coordination among Member States. However, it failed to recognize the unconstructive and destructive role that the media had played in promoting sectarianism, intolerance, xenophobic attitudes and racism. Further, foreign and military interventions and regime changes had significantly and globally fed violent extremism, yet were not highlighted in the report.
EDEN CHARLES (Trinidad and Tobago) said the radicalization of otherwise law-abiding, responsible individuals was caused by a deep sense of collective frustration, deprivation and disillusionment. That resulted in a “virtual battle for the hearts and minds of our citizens”, particularly young people. The appeal of terrorism must therefore be reduced by addressing the socioeconomic challenges and pressures present in vulnerable societies, he said, adding that violent extremism and terrorism could exist anywhere and everywhere, and should not be regarded as limiting itself to any particular belief system. Recalling that his delegation had been among the 104 Member States to sponsor the historic Security Council resolution 2178 (2014) on foreign terrorist fighters, he expressed deep concern about the global trend of young people falling victim to recruitment by extremist groups through modern communications technology. He called upon the United Nations to play its part in establishing an enabling environment in which young people were not only encouraged but provided with assistance and support in developing a sense of purpose.
HAHN CHOONGHEE (Republic of Korea) said the resolution sent a powerful message that the international community was united in its efforts to address violent extremism. He expressed support to the Secretary-General’s plan of action, which provided guidelines for Member States to develop their own national action plans. Violent extremism was among the most pressing security challenges the world faced. However, there could not be a single one-size-fits-all solution to address such phenomenon as it required an equally diverse and multidimensional approach.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) supported the Secretary-General’s initiative, but said it could have provided more clarity on the definitions of extremism and terrorism. Drawing attention to unique regional challenges, he underlined the importance of cooperation at the regional level. Furthermore, reducing inequality and social integration must be included in national development strategies.
BORIS HOLOVKA (Serbia) said his country attached great importance to the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. Supporting the Secretary-General’s plan of action, he said proactive measures were key to eliminating terrorism and radicalization. For its part, during his country’s chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Serbia had initiated the United in Countering Violent Extremism campaign. Further, at the Ministerial Council meeting in Belgrade, participating States had adopted a declaration on preventing and countering violent extremism and radicalization.
PAWEŁ RADOMSKI (Poland) welcomed the proposed plan of action as a “timely move”, saying it tackled one of the most pressing global challenges. In the course of future deliberations, there would be a need to ensure coherence and coordination with ongoing field initiatives by various organizations, as well as within the United Nations system, he said, emphasizing that synergy was vital not only in order to achieve the relevant goals, but also for the efficient use of resources.
CAROLINE ZIADE (Lebanon) said the Assembly’s adoption of the resolution pertaining to the Secretary-General’s plan of action had sent a positive and strong message. Addressing the root causes would work towards uprooting violent extremism. Youth, especially in the Arab States, should be the main recipient of the plan’s activities to prevent the rise of extremist ideologies. Women’s empowerment was another key, as they contributed to stable and peaceful societies. Such an inclusive approach, alongside partnerships with the United Nations and civil society groups, was essential. Lebanon had suffered a heavy toll from terrorism and remained at the forefront of the battle against that scourge. Her country was committed to acting resolutely to put an end to the phenomenon.
FRANCISCA PEDRÓS-CARRETERO (Spain) said her country had taken a number of steps towards combatting the spread of violent extremism. It was critical to unite such efforts across borders, and all Member States should strengthen their legal frameworks against terrorism to be ready to cope with current challenges. Coordination in that regard would maximize efficiency. At the regional level, valuable initiatives, such as the Spain-Morocco-led Mediation Initiative, were working towards preventing the spread of violent ideologies. To ensure success, local entities must be strengthened, as they fostered the building of strong, safe communities. Efforts to end discrimination were also important, and youth should be the target audience to eliminate radicalization.
JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU (Benin), associating himself with the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said the proposed plan of action offered an analysis and shared vision of existing challenges as well as a set of strong recommendations for national, regional and international action. Benin had taken action at the regional level and, nationally, adopted prevention measures in January 2016, including programmes for persons with disabilities, microcredit for women and assistance for farmers, in addition to the creation of 130,000 jobs. Without international cooperation and adequate funding to implement the draft plan of action, however, reaching common goals would remain difficult and elusive, he said.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), welcoming the initiative of the Secretary-General, said it contained useful elements for global, regional and national strategies to prevent violent extremism and terrorism. On preventive measures, he noted that the creation of open and inclusive societies based on respect for human rights was key in addressing such phenomenon. Furthermore, there was a need for a precise definition of violent extremism and its relationship with terrorism.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, said the evolving terrorist threat called for a comprehensive approach by the international community. Stressing that the military approach was not sufficient, he said Member States must step up efforts to prevent the spread of violent extremist ideologies. In that regard, the resolution on the draft plan of action represented an important step towards a comprehensive preventive response, confirming that the United Nations would work with Member States on all levels. Strengthening the culture of dialogue and tolerance while building constructive relations with all communities on the national level must go hand-in-hand with international cooperation between States, United Nations bodies and civil society organizations, he stressed.
SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria) said his delegation supported the proposed plan of action and condemned all forms of terrorism and violent extremism. The struggle against those scourges must include the rejection of Islamophobia and xenophobia. Preventing and combatting terrorism and violent extremism required a high level of cooperation, from local to international levels. An accurate definition of terrorism was needed and should be aligned with the Charter and international law and should not include those who were living under occupation. For its part, Algeria had recently amended its Constitution to include its commitment to preventing and combatting violent extremism. In addition to a “de-radicalization” programme, regional efforts had been adopted.
ILYA ADAMOV (Belarus) said there was an imbalance in the proposed plan of action with regard to good governance and human rights. In addition, the plan had not mentioned the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, nor had it addressed non-interference in their affairs. The phenomenon of terrorism should be examined within the auspices of the fifth review of the global strategy. The Secretary-General’s report on violent extremism had not provided an in-depth look at certain aspects of its causes and manifestations. As such, he hoped those and other areas would be addressed in forthcoming intergovernmental meetings.
JORGE DOTTA (Uruguay) stressed the need to create a global action plan to prevent violent extremism and radicalization that led to terrorism. No country was immune to the effects of terrorism, he said, stressing that the international community needed to go beyond undertaking military action. Instead, countries should focus on reducing inequalities, ensuring social inclusion and increasing political participation. Strong rule of law and respect for human rights were instrumental to preventing such phenomenon.
RAJA REZA BIN RAJA ZAIB SHAH (Malaysia) said the adoption of the resolution sent a strong message of unity in the face of terrorism and violent extremism. Radicalized violence was not limited to a specific ideology or belief system, and could not be associated with any one country, religion or culture. On preventive measures, he underlined the need to address the root causes, calling upon the international community to respect State sovereignty.
DIANGUINA DIT YAYA DOUCOURÉ (Mali) expressed his country’s support to the Secretary-General’s plan of action and welcomed the consensus on the resolution. The global outbreak of violent extremism and terrorism showed that the international community needed to act collectively to effectively respond to such phenomenon. The adoption of the resolution, in that regard, showed an “unshakable commitment” to the fight against violent extremism and terrorism.
TÉTE ANTÓNIO of the African Union said socioeconomic, political and identity-driven marginalization, unequal distribution of resources, poverty, illiteracy, poor governance, institutional weaknesses and porous borders were key factors underlying radicalization and violent extremism. Equally important was the need to address high unemployment, especially among youth. In Africa, terrorism and violent extremism were the most serious threat to peace and security. The phenomenon continued to expand geographically and “brazenly” displayed unprecedented levels of violence in parts of the continent. The Union had articulated a comprehensive framework for the implementation of its counter-terrorism instruments, as well as international ones, and had undertaken a number of relevant capacity-building initiatives among member States. In addition, a number of security cooperation mechanisms had been established to better coordinate and exchange information among member States, namely the Nouakchott Process, the Sahel Fusion and Liaison Unit and the Djibouti Process for Eastern Africa. The Union had also developed and implemented programmes to counter radicalization and violent extremism in prisons and detention centres; facilitated open discussions between State authorities and civil society; engaged the media in countering terrorist narratives; and provided a platform for victims.