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International approaches to preventing and countering violent extremism

United Nations framework

Pillar I of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is concerned with "addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism", a number of which were considered in the previous section.

Issues relating to PVE/CVE have been high on the international agenda for some time, especially since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, reflected in the engagement with these issues of many United Nations organs and other entities (see e.g. CTITF Member Entities). Notably, PVE/CVE is a high priority matter on the Security Council's agenda due to the threats that violent extremism and terrorism pose to international peace and security. One of its earlier significant resolutions was Security Council Resolution 1624 (2005) which was concerned with preventing the incitement of terrorist acts through both its prevention and criminalisation under national law (para. 1), as well as through effective international cooperation on all aspects of counter-terrorism, especially the denial of safe havens to terrorists engaged in such incitement (paras. 1 and 2). In addition, the Security Council was concerned with strengthening international efforts to address rising levels of intolerance - which, together with extremism, are underlying motivators of the incitement of terrorist acts - through such efforts as increased dialogue and understanding among civilizations (Para. 3).

An integral aspect of such measures is the effective involvement of all relevant stakeholders including the media, civil and religious society, the business community and educational institutions (Preamble). An important example of how such stakeholder engagement has evolved is through initiatives such as the formation of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism in June 2017 by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube in support of especially governmental, intergovernmental and private sector initiatives "to make their hosted consumer services hostile to terrorists and violent extremists" (Security Council Counter Terrorism Committee, 2017). Initially, the Forum will focus on improving technological solutions, undertake research to facilitate the speedy removal of terrorist content, and knowledge-share with various partnerships (Security Council Counter Terrorism Committee, 2017). This is part of a joint partnership with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) and the ICT4Peace Initiative ( Tech Against Terrorism), in furtherance of Security Council Resolution 2354 (2017).

The Security Council has adopted Resolution 2178 (2014) in response to the growing phenomenon of foreign fighters joining terrorist groups such as ISIL and Al Qaida, defined as: "individuals who travel to a State other than their States of residence or nationality for the purpose of the perpetration, planning, or preparation of, or participation in, terrorist acts or the providing or receiving of terrorist training, including in connection with armed conflict, and resolving to address this threat" (Preamble). Of particular relevance to violent extremism and PVE/CVE efforts was the recognition of the need to address this phenomenon of foreign fighters in a comprehensive and multidimensional manner, including its root causes, by:

[P]reventing radicalization to terrorism, stemming recruitment, inhibiting foreign terrorist fighter travel, disrupting financial support to foreign terrorist fighters, countering violent extremism, which can be conducive to terrorism, countering incitement to terrorist acts motivated by extremism or intolerance, promoting political and religious tolerance, economic development and social cohesion and inclusiveness, ending and resolving armed conflicts, and facilitating reintegration and rehabilitation. (Preamble).

In recognition of some of the drivers of violent extremism subsequently included in the VE Action Plan in 2016, the resolution stressed the importance of developing counter-narratives to violent extremism, especially in relation to non-violent means of conflict prevention and resolution. (Para. 19). As such, this resolution builds on and further develops key themes and issues identified in Resolution 1624 (2005).

Specific focus and attention was also given in Resolution 2178 to the importance of the participation and empowerment of both women and youth, including the former in the development of counter-terrorism and PVE/CVE strategies (e.g., para. 16). Such themes were reinforced and further developed the following year: Security Council Resolution 2242 (2015) urged 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" (para. 13); whereas Security Council Resolution 2250 (2015) urged 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" (para. 1). Part of this increased focus involves the challenging of often incorrect gender stereotypes, such as the traditional view that men are more likely than women to engage in terrorist activities. Certainly, at least in some parts of the world, such views do not reflect the reality on the ground, such as in Nigeria where "the frequency and intensity of suicide attacks involving women and girls increased sharply in 2015, and Al-Shabaab has publicly called upon parents to send their unmarried daughters to fight alongside male militants" (Security Council Counter Terrorism Committee, 2017).

In parallel with Security Council efforts have been those of the General Assembly. Generally, its references to violent extremism and PVE/CVE related themes have been in the context of the United Nations CT Strategy and its biennial reviews (e.g. General Assembly resolution 70/291). Some relevant themes, such as regarding the importance of increased interfaith and intercultural tolerance and understanding, are also reflected within the content of other resolutions such as the General Assembly's annual resolutions on measures to eliminate international terrorism (most recently, resolution 72/123), as well as resolutions on themes such as the effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of human rights (e.g., resolution 72/246).

Additionally, the United Nations Secretary-General, has been actively engaged in PVE/CVE related issues, notably through the introduction of his VE Action Plan. A primary objective of the Plan is to facilitate and encourage the development of a "comprehensive approach which encompasses not only ongoing, essential security-based counter-terrorism measures, but also systematic preventive measures which directly address the drivers of violent extremism that have given rise to the emergence of these new and virulent groups" (General Assembly report A/70/674, para. 6). To this end, the Plan makes over 70 recommendations to Member States regarding preventing the spread of violent extremism, including through the development of national and (sub-) regional plans which reflect more local and regional contextual factors and priorities, approached in a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral way. The primary identified "drivers" of violent extremism were discussed earlier in the Module.

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