Panel Discussions - Monday, October 17, 2011
UN Counterterrorism Strategy in South Asia and the Role of Civil Society
Civil society faces a number of challenges in supporting counterterrorism efforts in South Asia despite an agreement among member states that it plays an important role. These challenges were identified, along with ways to strengthen civil society in preventing and combating terrorism in the region, during a two-day workshop held on October 17-18th at IPI on “Strengthening Regional Security Cooperation and Capacity in South Asia: What Role for Civil Society in Countering Terrorism?” The event was held in partnership with the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation.
Participants of the workshop represented a range of civil society actors, including human rights advocates, media freedom experts, development practitioners, academics, former security and law enforcement, policy analysts, and UN staff. The majority of the participants came from South Asia, along with other international and US-based participants who focus on South Asia in their work.
The participants’ range of backgrounds is reflective of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, passed unanimously in 2006 by member states, which calls for a more comprehensive view of counterterrorism, including addressing the “conditions conducive to terrorism” in addition to the more traditional security responses. The diversity of views represented at the workshop offered a unique opportunity to look at counterradicalization and counterterrorism in the region through a variety of different lenses.
The sessions of the workshop, held under the Chatham House rule of non-attribution, examined the four pillars of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and its Plan of Action, which calls for measures to: address the conditions conducive to terrorism; prevent and combat terrorism; strengthen states’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism; and ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law as the fundamental basis of the fight against terrorism.
Other sessions addressed the key regional challenges to multilateral engagement in South Asia, and the role of civil society in countering the terrorist narrative. Participants viewed two documentaries produced by civil society organizations that aim to combat extremist views by putting a human face to terrorism and its victims.
The workshop concluded with a discussion of ways to strengthen the role of civil society in counterterrorism in the region. Participants noted the need for states to improve their relationship with civil society rather than viewing it as a threat. However, they stressed that civil society organizations must be independent from the government in order to be effective and remain credible, especially where governments are not transparent and are violating the rights of their citizens.
Participants pointed out that in some fields, such as development, human rights, and education reform, labeling their work as counterterrorism can be counterproductive, since counterterrorism is often viewed as the hard security response from states and can come with negative connotations. Further, it was noted that civil society is a broad term and is not monolithic; civil society represents a range of views, interests, and goals. In some cases, civil society might actually be involved in supporting terrorist networks and promoting extremist views.
Moving forward, participants suggested that the UN, with its universal membership and international legitimacy, has an important role to play in clarifying the key issues of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and bringing together the most effective civil society organizations working on these issues in South Asia to network and strengthen their capacities. It was also noted that the UN could expand its efforts to facilitate engagement between states and civil society in the region in order to build trust and confidence among them.
Listen to Global Observatory interview with Ali Dayan Hasan >>
The Global Observatory
Caught in the Middle: Civilian Protection in South Sudan
Absent an active effort by the South Sudanese government, the UN Mission will need to adopt a holistic approach to civilian protection.
Key Global Events to Watch in October
A list of key upcoming meetings and events with implications for global affairs.
2014 Top 10 Issues to Watch in Peace & Security: The Global Arena
A list of ten key issues to watch that are likely to impact international peace and security in 2014, compiled by IPI's Francesco Mancini.
The Global Observatory, produced by IPI, provides timely analysis on peace and security issues, interviews with leading policymakers, interactive maps, and more.
October 09, 2014
Rethinking Women and Forced Migration
The drastic increase in conflicts around the globe has seen the world’s displaced population pass 55 million people, and the fact that 80% of them are women and children is prompting many to rethink how the international community is responding.
October 09, 2014
Africa: China’s Second Continent
Speaking at an IPI Distinguished Author Series event on October 9th, author Howard French made a case for how Western underestimation of Africa’s economic promise has enabled China to establish an economic and human presence on the continent, leading to the permanent migration there of nearly 2 million Chinese.
September 30, 2014
Vike-Freiberga: Rethinking the United Nations
In a speech delivered at IPI on September 30th, Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga gave a sobering historical analysis of the gains and setbacks made by the international system over the past century and, focusing on the UN, she called for a rethinking of the organization’s structure and approach to peace.
September 25, 2014
IPI Remembers Margaret Vogt