Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorist Narratives

The Counter-Terrorism Committee holds an open meeting on 24 March 2022 on countering terrorist narratives and preventing the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes. CTED/Vijai Singh

The Security Council recognizes that acts of terrorism and violent extremism cannot be prevented or countered through repressive measures alone and has consistently emphasized the need for a comprehensive, whole-of-society, human rights compliant and gender-sensitive approach. 

Security Council resolution 1624 (2005) 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. 

The subsequent adoption of resolution 2178 (2014) is in part a natural extension of the Counter-Terrorism Committee’s long-standing approach, as set forth in Security Council resolution 1624 (2005). In  its resolution 2178 (2014), on stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs), the Council underscores that countering violent extremism (CVE) is an “essential element” in addressing the threat to international peace and security posed by FTFs. The Council further encourages States to engage with relevant local communities and non-governmental actors in developing strategies to counter violent extremist narratives 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. 

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.” Its 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”. 

Initiatives for countering incitement and violent extremism can take many forms. Common to many approaches is an emphasis on dialogue, inclusion, and the promoting of understanding, including in the fields of education and religion. CVE measures also include gender-sensitive and age-appropriate initiatives to counter terrorist narratives, both online and offline, to promote alternative visions based on respect for human rights and human dignity, partnerships with the private sector and working with internet communications technologies (ICT). 

Terrorist groups have been successful in using propaganda for multiple purposes, including for recruitment and radicalization to violence. Security Council resolution 2354 (2017), builds on the Council’s presidential statement of 11 May 2016 (S/PRST/2016/6) and the “Comprehensive International Framework” (S/2017/375) to address legal and law-enforcement measures, public-private partnerships and development of counter-narratives. The resolution sets out a series of guidelines that stress, among other factors, that United Nations actions in the field of countering terrorist narratives should be based on the Charter of the United Nations; that Member States have the primary responsibility in countering terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism; that relevant United Nations 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. 

In its resolution 2354 (2017), the Council requests the Counter-Terrorism Committee to “identify and compile existing good practices in countering terrorist narratives, in coordination with the CTITF [Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, since replaced by the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT)], and where appropriate in consultation with other relevant non-United Nations entities”. The Committee will also continue to review legal measures taken by States to enhance implementation, develop further public-private partnerships, conduct outreach to civil society organizations and religious actors, and to work with members of the CTED Global Research Network and others to measure the impact and effectiveness of counter-narratives. 

In its assessments of Member States’ implementation of the relevant Council resolutions, the Committee and CTED therefore place an emphasis on the steps taken by States to institute programmes and strategies to counter incitement, in accordance with resolution 1624 (2005), criminalizing incitement and countering terrorist-narratives in accordance with resolution 2354 (2017), as well as to counter violent extremism in accordance with 2178 (2014) and others. Wherever there are gaps, the Committee and CTED seek to bring States together with technical assistance providers to develop further initiatives in these areas. 

The Committee and CTED are committed to ensuring coordination of their efforts with those being made in support of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, including through CTED’s participation in the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact. 

Download the CTED factsheet about countering violent extremism and terrorist narratives.