On 24 January 2018, the Prevention Project, together with the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) and some 60 other civil society actors and organizations from around the globe with expertise on and experience in preventing violent extremism, sent a letter to the UN Under-Secretary-General for Counter-Terrorism, Mr. Vladimir Voronkov. The signatories include both international and local civil society organizations (CSOs) working across a range of issues, including human rights, peacebuilding, youth engagement, gender empowerment, and education. The letter includes a number of suggestions and recommendations for Mr. Voronkov and the new UN Office on Counter-Terrorism (OCT) to consider in 2018.
- Championing a “whole-of-society” approach that works with local leaders and civil society to address terrorism and the conditions conducive to it; this would include raising awareness among UN Member States why governments should consider CSOs allies rather than adversaries when it comes to PVE and countering terrorism, and the practical steps governments should take to empower and support CSOs in this context.
- Emphasizing to Member States the centrality of protecting human rights when addressing the threats of violent extremism and terrorism, with evidence showing that support for terrorism and violent extremism is strongly correlated with violence perpetrated by states against their own populations, in certain cases as part of or in the name of CT operations. In this regard, the signatories ask Mr. Voronkov and his office to:
- speak out against violations of human rights committed in the name of countering terrorism;
- prioritize the provision of technical support and guidance to Member States to ensure their PVE and CT laws and strategies are fully compliant with international human rights law;
- facilitate or deliver assistance focused on building trust and otherwise facilitating effective engagement between the security sector, including the police, and communities, particularly those where feelings of marginalization or exclusion persist;
- organize with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights a high-level event focused on the intersection between the protection of freedoms of expression, religion, and other fundamental freedoms and rights and effectively preventing violent extremism and countering terrorism;
- Prioritizing meaningful engagement between OCT and civil society, including women- and youth-led organizations and human rights defenders; this would involve:
- meeting with independent CSOs during OCT country visits;
- providing funding and other support through the UN Center on Counter-Terrorism to the growing number of civil society organizations and networks with PVE and CT expertise;
- urging Member States to include CSOs working across the spectrum of PVE and CT issues in the development, implementation, and evaluation of PVE national action plans, strategies, and programs; and
- meeting regularly with the wide range of CSOs active on these issues.
The signatories underscored their commitment to constructive collaboration with Mr. Voronkov, the OCT, and the wider UN system on the PVE and CT agendas and look forward to realizing such collaboration in 2018, in anticipation of the sixth biennial review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy this summer, and beyond.
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