On 27 June 2019, the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) hosted an Open briefing on “Protection of soft targets through local engagement and public-private partnerships.” The meeting featured representatives from the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), the Strong Cities Network, the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, the European Commission, the New York Police Department (NYPD), The Always Care Consulting Company, JCDecaux and Facebook. The first session discussed current threats, trends, and the normative framework relating to protection of critical infrastructure and “soft” targets; and improving protection through international cooperation and capacity-building. The second session discussed the need for building and designing a whole-of-society approach on preparedness, prevention, response, recovery, and investigation through coordination and cooperation among relevant stakeholders (communities, civil society, and local authorities); regional approaches and the protection of human rights. The last session examined integration efforts of the public and private sector to strengthen “soft” targets, including the role of technology and innovation in strengthening the security of “soft targets.”
The purpose of the meeting was to raise the awareness of central and local governments, cities and businesses to the need to protect “soft” targets through preparedness measures in order to prevent, protect, mitigate, investigate, respond to and recover from damage from terrorist attacks against soft targets.
In his opening remarks, H.E. Mr. Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee stated that the recent attacks that have been carried out around the world demonstrate the significant human, economic, and political consequences that such attacks could have as well as the urgent need to strengthen measures to protect “soft” targets. “It is essential to build effective cooperation and coordination between national and local governments, the private sector, communities, and civil society to develop measures and strategies to mitigate attacks on soft targets,” said Mr. Meza-Cuadra.
Mr. Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism said that 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.
Weixiong Chen, Deputy Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) highlighted CTEDs’ role in “taking a proactive approach to this threat by incorporating consideration of the threat into its ongoing assessment and analysis of Member States’ implementation efforts including identifying gaps, trends, useful experiences, and effective practices.”
Civil society and private sector representatives discussed prevention and incident response. For instance, Rebecca Skellett, Head of the Strong Cities Network, said that civil society plays a critical role and is the most vulnerable when tragedy strikes. Ms. Skellett emphasized the importance of information-sharing, trust-building and crisis management training. David Tessler, Public Policy Manager of the Counterterrorism and Dangerous Organizations team for Facebook, stated that in 2018, Facebook removed about 25 million pieces of terrorist content. “There are 30,000 people that work in safety and security,” that are reviewing this kind of content and “making sure that Facebook remains a safe platform,” Mr. Tessler said. In his closing remarks, the acting CTC Chair highlighted the importance to share good practices and to find effective solutions to better protect “soft” targets, and reaffirmed the determination of the CTC and CTED to strengthen dialogue and cooperation in this area with Member States and with all other relevant partners.
More photos from the meeting can be found on CTED’s Flickr.
Watch the full webcast of the meeting here.