UNODC welcomes the SG Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism, which provides timely, and much needed policy-level guidance to UN Member States, as well as UN entities working in related fields. Given heavy focus in the plan of action on the fundamental importance of the rule of law and human rights both as a basis for preventing or addressing some conditions conducive to violent extremism, and as a means of addressing the lack of accountability and impunity of individuals or groups committing related crime, UNODC is well positioned, and stands ready to play a key role in implementing these aspects of the plan of action.
UNODC has done extensive work on the issue of preventing violent extremism, from a criminal justice and rule of law perspective. We are already implementing several projects in the PVE area, including on issues related to supporting victims of terrorism, treatment of children recruited or associated with terrorist groups, countering radicalization in prisons, foreign terrorist fighters (FTF) and human rights and counterterrorism. The plan of action highlights the importance of protecting the rights of children and youth, who are vulnerable to the allure of violent extreme narratives, or the actions of groups or individuals seeking to recruit or exploit them for their own purposes
The President of the UN General Assembly hosted a High Level Thematic Conversation (HLTC) of the General Assembly on 3 June 2016. The HLTC was structured around several High Level Panel Discussions addressing the versatile nature of threats of violent extremism to children and youth, as well as examine ways to strengthen prevention efforts and reinforce existing strategies to counter violent extremism with a specific focus on children and youth.
UNODC holds mandates in the area of child and youth justice. UNODC, through its Justice Section and Terrorism Prevention Branch is seeking to support Member States to address this issue from a criminal justice angle. For example, on 13-15 October 2015, UNODC and UNICEF jointly organised in Dakar, Senegal, a sub-regional workshop for Lake Chad Basin countries (Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria) on the rights of children allegedly involved with terrorist groups, i.e. primarily with Boko Haram. The objective of this initiative was to facilitate policy dialogue among authorities from the four above-mentioned countries on addressing the legal and practical challenges concerning children allegedly affiliated with Boko Haram.
UNSCR 2250 (2015) adopted by the Security Council on 9 December on youth in the context of the maintenance of international peace and security emphasizes the nexus with countering terrorism and countering violent extremism leading to terrorism. Recognizing the threat to stability and development posed by the rise of radicalization among young people, the Security Council urged Member States to consider ways to give youth (persons aged 18 through 29) greater voice in decision-making at the local, national, regional and international levels and urged Member States to consider setting up mechanisms that would enable young people to participate meaningfully in peace processes and dispute resolution.
While noting the extent of the youth demographic and risks posed by the recruitment and incitement of youth to commit terrorist acts, the Security Council underlined the need for Member States to actively engage youth in shaping lasting peace and contributing to justice and reconciliation, as they represented “a unique demographic dividend that can contribute to lasting peace and prosperity” if inclusive policies were put in place. Member States are encouraged (inter alia) to empower youth, families, women, religious, cultural and education leaders and other concerned groups in civil society, by adopting “tailored approaches” to counter recruitment to violent extremism.
UNODC has started working on a project aimed at supporting schools, universities and other academic institutions in their efforts to teach students across the world about the importance of the rule of law, with a particular focus on countering terrorism and violent extremism. Under the proposal, UNODC will therefore develop partnerships with training institutions to raise awareness and provide training resources amongst institutional training staff and trainees about the role of the education system and importance of a respect for the rule of law and human rights in the social and personal development of children and young people, and when countering violent extremism and violent acts of terrorism. As part of this approach, parents associations and community groups should be involved in the development of material to ensure the necessary broad support from community. UNODC would seek to establish partnerships with students associations, related student services (e.g. counselling services/student radio) or NGO’s working in campuses and similar learning environments, to promote, support and strengthen a respect for human rights and the rule of law, as well as diversity, tolerance and resilience within the rule of law and criminal justice frameworks. As part of this outreach programme, UNODC would engage with experts in technology/social media/social network marketing to develop key messages and delivery methods to maximize the targeting and impact of this positive messaging to intended recipients.
UNODC welcomes the opportunity for continued and intensified engagement with other members of the civil society to strengthen social resilience and institutional responses in the relevant thematic areas, including law enforcement and criminal justice responses.