The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recently published his report on the ‘Progress of the UN system to support Member States in assisting victims of terrorism’ (A/74/790) which was mandated by the 2019 General Assembly resolution on ‘enhancement of international cooperation to assist victims of terrorism’ (A/RES/73/305)
The report affirms that Member States have the primary responsibility for implementing the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Strategy (A/RES/60/288), including those provisions related to upholding the rights of and providing needed support to victims of terrorism, but it also emphasizes the decisive role that victims themselves can play in efforts to counter violent extremism by making their voices heard. It also recalls their broad range of needs, including that of physical, medical, and psychosocial support; that some victims may require immediate as well as long-term rehabilitation to address trauma and build resilience, including humanitarian assistance and protection; and that women and girls, disproportionately affected by conflict and terrorism, require special considerations.
The report is a comprehensive resource for those interested in the work undertaken throughout the United Nations architecture to protect and promote the rights and voices of victims of terror. It discusses how to not only maintain current programming, but also how to build upon it in the future. General Assembly resolution 73/305 requested detailed options whereby comprehensive national assistance plans to victims of terrorism could be voluntarily funded and the Secretary-General listed three recommendations for a voluntary fund in his report for further consideration, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
The report also includes a series of recommendations, including the following:
- There needs to be better and more sustained coordination and coherence to support victims. Member States may wish to enhance their cooperation with victims and other stakeholders, including civil society organizations, to exchange expertise, collect data, identify gaps and solutions, and share good practices
- The Global Compact Working Group on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights and the Rule of Law while Countering Terrorism and the Support to Victims of Terrorism has been able to increase the number of activities on victims under its work plan, which has ensured consistent system-wide efforts when working with and for victims. However, the lack of dedicated and sustainable funds specifically earmarked to work on victims of terrorism means that many of these efforts continue to remain ad hoc rather than strategic, long-term and sustainable in nature.
- The United Nations Victims of Terrorism Support Portal has proved to be an invaluable resource that can only stay relevant and useful when based on current and accurate information, and Member States are urged to continue supporting the Portal through timely and relevant contributions and sustained funding.
- The report also urges that any actions to support victims – be it where terrorism takes place in a conflict or non-conflicted affected area, be based on four key elements:
- All measures taken for the enforcement of the rights of victims shall be in compliance with Member States’ obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and international refugee law, as well as international standards and relevant Security Council resolutions;
- Victims of terrorism have to be treated with compassion and respect for their dignity, privacy and family life, and have to be based on the overall principles of ‘do no harm,’ that seeks to uphold their rights, dignity and well-being;
- Gender-sensitive responses to victims’ needs are required for the short-, medium- and long-term, with access to effective, rapid and appropriate assistance, including legal, medical, psychosocial, material and spiritual assistance and support, understanding that these needs are interlinked; and
- Any response has to pursue a rights-based, survivor-centred approach, that is gender and age sensitive and includes non-discrimination and equal treatment.
- The development by each Member State of a National Comprehensive Assistance Plan (NCAP) would be a major step toward establishing sustainable national institutions and mechanisms that could effectively fulfil the rights and needs of victims of terrorism.
- Member States may also wish to consider developing national legislation that specifically addresses the rights, interests and needs of victims of terrorism, including recognizing the respective experiences and needs of victims who are women, men, girls and boys, and ensuring that victims and their families are provided with comprehensive gender-sensitive support and assistance.