Victims Must be ‘at Heart of Efforts’ to Prevent, Counter Terrorism, Says Secretary-General at Group of Friends Launch

SG/SM/19645
25 June 2019

Victims Must be ‘at Heart of Efforts’ to Prevent, Counter Terrorism, Says Secretary-General at Group of Friends Launch

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the launch of the group of friends of victims of terrorism, in New York today:

I am pleased to join your launch of the group of friends of victims of terrorism.

I thank the Permanent Representatives of Afghanistan and Spain for their leadership and vision in establishing this group.  I am also pleased to see so many Member States here today from around the world.

Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations remains a global and transnational challenge.

Recent terrorist attacks in Kenya, Mali, New Zealand, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and elsewhere have claimed thousands of innocent lives.

Terrorists continue to use sexual violence to spread fear and assert control.

Children are often forced to join terrorist groups as a matter of survival.

The trauma from terrorism causes lasting damage to individuals, families and communities.

I have seen this for myself when I visited Christchurch earlier this year.  Or Mali last year.  Or Afghanistan the year before.  And so many other places.

The scars run deep.  While they may fade with time, they may never disappear.  We cannot erase those memories, but we can help victims and survivors cope and heal by listening to them and supporting them.

Countless victims and victims’ groups tell us that achieving justice for the crimes they endured is essential to helping them cope and transform their lives.  Appropriate psychological, social and livelihood support in accordance with their rights is also vital.

The launch of the group of friends of victims of terrorism is an important step to address all these challenges.  Through its leadership role at the United Nations, this group can ensure that victims’ voices are heard, their rights protected, and their recovery and rehabilitation needs addressed.

We already have a strong foundation on which to build.  This includes the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, the forthcoming adoption of a General Assembly resolution on victims of terrorism and the first global Victims’ Congress that the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism will organize during the “UN counter-terrorism week” in June 2020.

But there are also many challenges.

A new regulatory landscape on victims needs to be developed.

There must be more room for the meaningful engagement of civil society actors — and greater commitment to the human rights of victims in national laws and policies.

As you explore these and other pressing issues, I want you to know that you have my full support.

I thank Under-Secretary-General [Vladimir] Voronkov for making support to victims a key priority of his Office.  The United Nations is advancing this in two concrete ways.

First, through a global programme specifically tailored to enhancing the voices of victims and ensuring comprehensive support.

Second, through improved coordination of assistance to justice systems to help countries fight against impunity and seek justice for victims of terrorism in a manner consistent with international law.

Combating terrorism requires all of us to work together through the prism of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy to address the threat of terrorism and violent extremism in a comprehensive and balanced manner.

We must ensure equal implementation of all four pillars of the Strategy, including the pillar to protect and promote human rights, which includes the rights of victims and their needs.

Victims must be at the heart of our efforts to prevent and counter terrorism.

They are also powerful and credible messengers to denounce the ideology of violence espoused by terrorist groups.  We must help them raise their voices.  Often, they are members of communities most targeted for terrorism recruitment, as well as easy target for attacks.

Their remarkable courage and resilience are an inspiration to us all.  By supporting them, we will move further ahead in upholding our responsibility to defend human dignity and our common humanity.

I thank you for everything you are doing, and everything you will do, in support of victims to both seek justice and rebuild their lives.

For information media. Not an official record.