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United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy


A central starting point for examining the framework governing global counter-terrorism efforts is the United Nations CT Strategy. Adopted without a vote by the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution 60/288 on 8 September 2006, thereby reflecting a baseline of universal consensus and legitimacy, this was the first time that the United Nations Membership had agreed and adopted a common strategic approach and framework to fight terrorism. The CT Strategy is reviewed and updated biennially, to reflect changing priorities, by the United Nations General Assembly (see e.g. United Nations, General Assembly, 2008, A/RES/62/272; 2010, A/RES/64/297; 2012, A/RES/66/272; 2014, A/RES/68/276; 2016(b), A/RES/70/291). In this way, the CT Strategy remains a living document. This is illustrated by a General Assembly review on 1 July 2016 (United Nations, General Assembly, 2016(b), A/RES/70/291), which was linked to the consideration of the United Nations Secretary-General's Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (United Nations, General Assembly, 2015(a), A/70/674; 2015(b), A/70/675) as a matter of growing international concern (see further Module 2). The changing environment, and accompanying priorities, are reflected in the biennial reports of the United Nations Secretary-General, the Activities of the United Nations system in implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (most recently United Nations, General Assembly, 2016(a), A/70/826), which provide an informative summary of current progress and challenges regarding implementation of the CT Strategy.

The CT Strategy is a unique global instrument to enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter terrorism, including by strengthening cooperation between all key actors (see below). Its adoption demonstrated not only the agreement of all Member States, for the first time, to a common strategic and operational approach to fight terrorism, sending a clear message that terrorism is unacceptable in all its forms and manifestation, but furthermore a resolve to take practical steps individually and collectively to prevent and combat it. Those practical steps include a wide array of measures ranging from strengthening state capacity to counter-terrorist threats to better coordinating the United Nations system's counter-terrorism activities.

United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (2006)

The Strategy takes the form of a resolution with an annexed Plan of Action comprising of 4 Pillars:

  • I - Addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism;
  • II - Measures to prevent and combat terrorism;
  • III - Measures to build states' capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the United Nations system in that regard;
  • IV - Measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism.
United Nations, General Assembly (2006). The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. 8 September. A/RES/60/288.

Module 2 considers Pillars 1 and 2, though the narrative of prevention is a recurring theme throughout this University Module Series. Pillar III is aimed primarily at practitioners and, therefore is beyond the scope of the current University Module Series, though references are made throughout to relevant tools, such as those produced by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Therefore, the remainder of this Module, as well as the University Module Series as a whole, focuses on Pillar IV. As it is apparent from Pillar IV especially, the pivotal importance of the rule of law is central to the realization of the CT Strategy's overarching goals. For example, its Preamble "[r]eaffirm[s] that the promotion and protection of human rights for all and the rule of law is essential to all components of the Strategy…" (United Nations, General Assembly, 2006, A/RES/60/288).

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