Consultancy: Countering terrorist narratives


Title: Consultancy: Countering terrorist narratives
Organizational Section/Unit: Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED)
Duty Station:  New York, United States of America
 Proposed period: 15 November 2018-15 November 2019
 Application deadline: 31 October 2018

Terms of Reference



Background information

Terrorist groups such as ISIL (Da’esh) have been successful in using propaganda for multiple purposes, including for recruitment and radicalization. They understand that they can influence “as effectively with a video camera and an Internet connection as with an improvised explosive device.”[1]

Countering the scourge of terrorism has been on the agenda of the United Nations for decades. In the aftermath of the 11 September attacks against the United States in 2001, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1373, which for the first time established a dedicated Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) of the Council. The CTC is assisted by an Executive Directorate (CTED), which carries out its policy decisions and conducts expert assessments of the 193 United Nations Member States.

The United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) was established by the General Assembly in June 2017. The Office has several functions, one of which is to enhance coordination and coherence across the 38 Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) entities to ensure the balanced implementation of the four pillars of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. UNOCT does this, inter alia, by engaging through CTITF Working Groups on various themes. The most recently started CTITF Working Group pertains to Communications, established in response to the fifth review resolution of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (A/RES/70/291) and the Security Council Presidential Statement of 11 May 2016 (S/PRST/2016/6) on Countering terrorist narratives. The latter was eventually referenced in Security Council resolution 2354, adopted on 24 May 2017, which focuses on countering terrorist narratives.

This resolution sets out a series of guidelines for implementing a “comprehensive international framework” in the area of counter-narratives and amplifying positive and credible alternatives to audiences vulnerable to extremist messages. These guidelines, which are outlined in its OP 2, inter alia stress that UN actions in the field of countering terrorist narratives should be based on the United Nations Charter; that Member States have the primary responsibility in countering terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism; that relevant UN entities should ensure greater coordination and coherence with donors and recipients of counter-terrorism capacity-building; that counter-narrative measures and programmes should be tailored to different contexts; that all measures must comply with Member States’ obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international refugee law, and international humanitarian law; and that research into the drivers of terrorism and violent extremism is necessary to develop more focused counter-narrative programmes.

UNSCR 2354 (2017) also highlights the roles of CTED and the CTITF, directing the CTC, with the support of CTED, to organize at least one meeting per year to review global developments in the counter-terrorism narrative domain, including on how Member States can enhance their capacity-building efforts in countering terrorist narratives, also through assistance from CTITF entities.

In UNSCR 2354 (2017), OP 4. (a), the Council requests CTC to “identify and compile existing good practices in countering terrorist narratives, in coordination with the CTITF Office [now UNOCT], the CTITF Working Group on Communications, and where appropriate in consultation with other relevant non-United Nations entities.”

The CTITF Working Group on Communications, chaired by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI), with CTED and UNOCT as Vice-Chairs, through its broad membership and interaction with a range of UN entities, is well placed to support the identification and compilation of good practices in this area. The Working Group can assist in these efforts, inter alia by promoting good communications initiatives at the country level; guiding UN support to Governments and civil society organizations willing to engage in this area; communicating on the guidelines of UNSCR 2354; developing media literacy; and empowering young people.

As noted in the Sixth report of the Secretary-General on threats posed by ISIL (Da’esh) to international peace and security, the Counter-Terrorism Committee and CTED will continue to facilitate international cooperation to “implement the comprehensive international framework to counter terrorist narratives, identify and compile existing good practice,” and provide guidelines and technical support. These efforts should build upon the considerable research and scholarly studies that have been conducted over the last few years, including by regional organizations, to better understand the role of counter-narratives and alternative narratives, as well as of strategic communications to this effect.


A Consultant is sought by CTED, representing the CTITF Working Group on Communications for the purposes of this project, which is financially supported by the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT),[2] part of UNOCT. Funding was approved by UNCCT’s Programme Review Board (PRB) on 15 August 2018.

The project aims to respond to a request from the Security Council (UNSCR 2354 (2017)), as well as contribute to the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (A/RES/60/288), particularly its pillars I (prevent incitement to commit a terrorist act) and III (sharing of best practices in counter-terrorism capacity-building). Ultimately, the project will provide the United Nations, its Member States, and other stakeholders with a better understanding of what can make countering terrorist narratives (online and offline) effective, thereby responding directly to a request from the Security Council.

This project will have a global scope, organized by region/subregion, in line with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate Global Implementation Survey.[3]

The project has identified three specific outcomes:

  • Key stakeholders to gain increased understanding of previous/existing efforts to counter terrorist narratives;
  • Target groups (United Nations, its Member States, the private sector, civil society, and other key stakeholders) to be able to effectively monitor & evaluate efforts aimed at countering terrorist narratives;
  • Key stakeholders to be provided with practical tools to counter terrorist narratives.

In terms of output, the Consultant is expected to produce:

  • A comprehensive literature review/desktop study, or written compilation, of effective counter terrorist narratives / strategies, covering all parts of the globe, organized by region/subregion, including specific recommendations for the United Nations, its Member States, and other stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector. This catalogue should include practices developed by key non-Governmental actors, such as youth, families, women, religious, cultural, and education leaders, and other concerned groups of civil society, corresponding to the requirements of UNSCR 2354 (2017), as well as the private sector/tech industry.
  • Evidence-based recommendations for the effective monitoring & evaluation (M&E) of countering terrorist narratives.
  • A playbook / tool kit to guide stakeholders in counter-narrative efforts on their own or in co-operation with other actors. The kit should include principles or conditions under which counter-narrative efforts are likely to have a positive impact, as well as offline and online tools, models or samples (a checklist, as well as suggested key messages, graphics, videos, and could also reference the development of an app). Key messages should take into account age differences and gender mainstreaming considerations, and consequently be targeted to various audiences, including women, young boys and girls.

In order to avoid potential overlaps, and build on ongoing research and existing efforts, the Consultant is asked to study and, where appropriate, make full use of findings from consultancy work commissioned by UNOCT/UNCCT (“StratCom to PVE,” phases one-three), and by CTED (“Developing an International Framework for Countering Terrorist Narratives,” conducted by one Senior Consultant and a number of additional Consultants, in 2017). UNOCT/UNCCT and CTED, respectively, will ensure the sharing of all relevant documentation with the Consultant to this effect.

Functional responsibilities and reporting

The Consultant will work under the guidance of these Terms of Reference (ToRs). The Consultant will seek further guidance from, and report directly to, CTED’s Strategic Communications Officer, who will act as Project Manager. As an initial step, the Consultant will draft a work plan outlining how s/he intends to plan his/her work over the course of the project, as well as his/her work methodology for the review. This draft work plan shall be submitted to the Project Manager as soon as possible, but no later than within the first two weeks of the project. The Consultant will prepare a monthly progress report on project implementation, and potential challenges, while respecting the deadlines outlined below. Additional, oral debriefings could, on an ad hoc basis, be initiated by the Project Manager or the Consultant.

Along with the preliminary compilation, to be delivered by mid-January 2019, the Consultant will provide a short-list of countries/subregions, based on which the Project Manager, in consultation with the Chair and Vice-Chairs of the CTITF Working Group on Communications, will decide on two countries/subregions for further study. These case studies will serve to pilot findings from the overall project, including for the development and/or testing of M&E practices and the playbook / tool kit. A comprehensive report, including findings, analyses, and recommendations from the case studies, will be presented at the end of the project.

In the medium to long-term, the aim is for themes, or conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, to emerge for the respective region/subregion, based on which principles and tools could be developed to effectively counter terrorist messages, thereby assisting the three broad types of stakeholders outlined above, both online and offline, including through the sharing of good practices.

The project will also recognize how counter-terrorist and alternative narratives can address the different ways that women, men, girls, and boys are impacted, and their multifaceted roles in shaping solutions and influencing decision-making pertaining to effectively preventing/countering terrorism.


Professionalism: In-depth knowledge of and solid experience of countering terrorist narratives. Good knowledge of working with various stakeholders, including Member States, and civil society. Strong analytical skills and ability to conduct research. Proficiency in drafting and ability to prepare well and under time pressure briefs, statements, and other written materials.

Communication: Speaks and writes clearly and effectively, including the ability to produce a variety of written reports in a clear and concise style, and to deliver presentations to external audiences with language, tone, style, and format tailored to match the audience. Maintains timely and consistent flow of information with relevant colleagues within CTED and other relevant UN, as appropriate. Demonstrates openness in sharing information and keeping people informed, and ability to build and maintain effective partnerships.

Planning and organizing: Ability to plan and organize his/her own work, as well as events and activities as instructed, at times targeting different audiences, and to ensure the effective facilitation of communication between stakeholders. Skills and ability to solicit and coordinate input from others, work to tight deadlines, and handle multiple concurrent projects; good understanding of contemporary international relations, and of the UN system, its organization, and internal politics and dynamics.

: Works collaboratively with colleagues to achieve organizational goals. Solicits input by genuinely valuing others’ ideas and expertise, and is willing to learn from others. Places team agenda before personal agenda. Supports and acts in accordance with final group decision, even when such decisions may not entirely reflect his/her own position. Shares credit for team accomplishments and accepts joint responsibility for team shortcomings.


Education/Experience/Language requirements

Education:   Advanced University Degree (Master’s or equivalent) in communications, political     science, international relations, psychology, or related field, preferably with an emphasis on countering terrorist narratives. A combination of relevant academic qualifications and extensive practical experience may be accepted in lieu of the advanced university degree.

Experience: At least 5 years of progressively responsible experience in countering terrorist narratives or related field. Experience in the development of policies, tools, communications, and guidelines to counter-terrorism and countering terrorist narratives is highly desirable. Experience of having worked with various stakeholders, including Governments, and civil society, is highly desirable.

Languages: Proficiency in English is essential, with French or Arabic as desirable.

Outputs: Specific tasks for the incumbent will include:

First delivery: due by 15 January 2018

  • A summary of preliminary findings from the literature review/desktop study related to the three outputs clearly outlined above (in writing, but also other means could be used, particularly for the M&E part and the tool kit element). Additionally, the Consultant will provide a short-list of countries/subregions, based on which the Project Manager, in consultation with the Chair and Vice-Chairs of the CTITF Working Group on Communications, will decide on two countries/subregions for further study.


Second delivery: due by 30 April 2019

  • A more fully developed compilation of findings, with the first output (1) fully finalized (in writing). This may be accompanied by an oral debriefing to the CTITF Working Group on Communications, CTED, and/or the Counter-Terrorism Committee.


Third delivery: due by 31 October 2019

  • A final, comprehensive report, including results, analyses, and recommendations from the additional two outputs (numbers (2) and (3)) to be delivered, including results from the case studies, which will serve to illustrate findings from the overall project, including in terms of developing and/or testing M&E practices and the playbook / tool kit. This will be accompanied by an oral debriefing to the CTITF Working Group on Communications, CTED, and/or the Counter-Terrorism Committee.


Contract duration: 15 November 2018 – 15 November 2019


Location:    New York, United States of America


How to apply?

Experts with relevant experience who are available for this assignment are invited to submit their personal history profile (PHP), built through Inspira, their CV, and a short letter of motivation (one page) to by 31 October 2018. In the subject line of your email, please indicate “Application to Consultancy on Countering Terrorist Narratives – FIRST NAME LAST NAME”.



United Nations Considerations

The United Nations shall place no restrictions on the eligibility of men and women to participate in any capacity and under conditions of equality in its principal and subsidiary organs. (Charter of the United Nations – Chapter 3, article 8). The United Nations Secretariat is a non-smoking environment. As per UN policy, Consultants and Individual Contractors may not apply for or be appointed to any position in the Professional or above categories and for positions at the FS-6 and FS-7 levels in the Field Service category within six months of the end of their current or most recent service. This restriction does not apply to associate experts (Junior Professional Officers) appointed under the Staff Rules.

No Fee


[1] Fink, N.C. & Barclay, J. (2013), p. iii. The report is the result of a study undertaken as part of a broader effort by the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation (CGCC) to enhance multilateral capacities to prevent terrorism and violent extremism.

[2] The overall aim of the Centre is to support Member States in the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy through capacity-building.

[3] These include: Africa (North Africa; East Africa; Southern Africa; West Africa; and Central Africa); Asia (Pacific Islands; South-East Asia; South Asia; Central Asia and the Caucasus; Western Asia; and East Asia); Latin America (Central America; the Caribbean; South America); and Europe and North America (Eastern Europe; Western Europe, North American, and other States; and South-East Europe). See

2018-10-10T10:47:41+00:00 Wednesday, 10 October 2018|Countering violent extremism|