Countering violent extremism

The United Nations Security Council increasingly emphasises the need for a comprehensive approach to countering the spread of terrorism and violent extremism. One aspect of such an approach has come to be known as countering violent extremism (CVE). In its resolution 2178 (2014), on stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs), the Council underscores that CVE is an “essential element” in addressing the threat to international peace and security posed by FTFs. The Council encourages Member States to engage with relevant local communities and non-governmental actors in developing strategies to counter the violent extremist narrative that can incite terrorist acts. States are also called upon to address the conditions conducive to the spread of violent extremism, including by empowering youth, families, women, religious, cultural and education leaders, and all other concerned groups of civil society, and promoting social inclusion and cohesion.

The adoption of resolution 2178 (2014) is in part a natural extension of the Counter-Terrorism Committee’s long-standing approach to the implementation of Security Council resolution 1624 (2005), which calls on States to prohibit incitement to commit acts of terrorism and to counter incitement motivated by extremism and intolerance. In its preamble, resolution 1624 (2005) stresses “the importance of the role of the media, civil and religious society, the business community and educational institutions” in efforts to enhance dialogue and broaden understanding, in promoting tolerance and coexistence, and in fostering an environment that is not conducive to incitement of terrorism.

Initiatives for countering incitement and violent extremism can take many forms. Common to all methods is an emphasis on dialogue, inclusion, and the promoting of understanding. States have, for example, created forums for interreligious and intercultural dialogue, or platforms that bring together governmental and non-governmental actors to advise on CVE strategies. Similar steps have been taken in the fields of education and religion. CVE measures also include initiatives for counter-messaging and the use of social media and other communications channels to counter terrorist narratives and promote alternative visions based on respect for human rights and human dignity.

Central to the concept of CVE is the importance of addressing the “conditions conducive” to the spread of terrorism, which are defined by the General Assembly in the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The Security Council has recognized that acts of terrorism cannot be prevented through repressive measures alone. It is also essential to take account of grievances that may be exploited by terrorists and their supporters and to develop constructive solutions.

In 2015, the Council adopted resolutions that highlighted in particular the importance of including women and youth in CVE strategies. The Council’s resolution 2242 (2015) urges Member States and the United Nations system “to ensure the participation and leadership of women and women’s organizations in developing strategies to counter terrorism and violent extremism.” Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) urges States “to consider ways to increase inclusive representation of youth in decision-making at all levels in local, national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention and resolution of conflict, including institutions and mechanisms to counter violent extremism”.

In its assessments of Member States’ implementation of the relevant Council resolutions, the Committee and CTED place considerable emphasis on the steps taken by States to institute programmes and strategies to counter incitement, in accordance with resolution 1624 (2005), as well as to counter violent extremism. Wherever there are gaps, the Committee and CTED seek to bring States together with technical assistance providers to develop further initiatives in these areas.

In January 2016, the United Nations Secretary-General presented to the General Assembly a Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (PVE), which adopts a comprehensive approach to the challenge of violent extremism, encompassing not only ongoing and essential security-based counter-terrorism measures, but also systematic preventive measures that directly address the drivers of violent extremism at the local, national, regional and global levels. In July 2016, the Assembly adopted a resolution referencing the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action and invited Member States, regional and subregional organizations to consider developing national and regional plans of action to prevent violent extremism as and when conducive to terrorism. The Committee and CTED are committed to ensuring coordination of their efforts with those being made in support of the PVE Plan of Action, including through CTED’s participation in the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF).

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