Implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy
Wednesday, 16 May, 13:00 hours
Vienna International Centre (VIC)
VIENNA, 16 May - UNIS Vienna organized a press briefing today on the occasion of the Symposium on advancing implementation of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, 17-18 May at UN headquarters in Vienna. The speakers were: Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Planning, Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF); Ambassador Thomas Stelzer, Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations (Vienna) and Jean-Paul Laborde, Chief, Terrorism Prevention Branch, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The briefing was chaired by Nasra Hassan, Director, UNIS Vienna.
Ambassador Stelzer introduced the counter-terrorism actions that had been taken by the UN system and its Member States, leading to the adoption of the Global Strategy in September 2006, and argued that the value of the Strategy lay in its implementation. While the Strategy's adoption had been a great and historic achievement, it could not be the final point. A range of activities had been conducted within the UN Secretariat and the UN system in facilitating the implementation of the strategy, including the creation of the CTITF, and it was now important to include the Member States. Hence, the Symposium was aimed at assisting Member States in better understanding their own interests in the issue, and to identify concrete measures to build Member States' capacity in fighting terrorism.
Mr. Laborde said the Strategy was an important tool which the Symposium would help to turn into more than a piece of paper, by bringing it to life and making it more concrete. It was important to encourage and maintain the will on the part of the Member States to implement the Strategy. The role of the UN system was to assist Member States in the Strategy's implementation, to which UNODC was contributing by providing technical assistance, which had already been provided to over 140 Member States.
Mr. Orr pointed out that the Strategy was a document with a high level of substance, and while its adoption by consensus had been hailed as a historic breakthrough, it would not be sufficient if it remained just a document. The aim of the Symposium was to be an important first step to define the path for implementation of the strategy. Almost 100 Governments would be represented at the Symposium, which showed remarkable interest among Member States in implementation of the Strategy. The Strategy was designed to be a living document. The challenge of terrorism was not new, and would evolve. Therefore, counter-terrorism measures had to evolve with it. In recognition of this need to evolve, a two-year review clause had been built into the Strategy, with a review envisaged for September 2008. Mr. Orr highlighted the work of the CTITF as unique and significant. The CTITF was one of the best examples of system-wide coherence that the UN could offer.
The briefing was followed by a Q and A session.
In a response to a question on whether the Strategy laid out geographic priorities, Mr. Orr said that the Strategy was a global one, as the dimensions of the problem went beyond the national level. He said that the strategy recognized that there was no "one size fits all" approach - with differing specific threats to each Member State, and therefore the solutions also had to be different. However, he hoped that the Symposium would provide an opportunity to gain feedback from Member States on specific challenges they faced.
Asked for examples of the priorities that would be discussed at the Symposium, Mr. Orr said that previous meetings and feedback had indicated that one of the burning issues that crossed boundaries was that of protecting vulnerable targets and groups such as civilians, which was a problem around the world, regardless of the origin and ideology of the terrorist group. Another priority was the treatment of victims of terrorism, including the establishment of a global dialogue between Governments and victims. Thirdly, the question of Human Rights violations, both by terrorist attacks and in the name of counter-terrorism, was also among the identified common priorities. The Symposium would seek to identify operational, practical measures with regard to these priorities.
When asked what he perceived as a challenge for the strategy, Mr. Orr said that he saw the biggest task as that of prioritization. "A realistic programme of work needs to be laid out with short and long term goals. What we need at the Symposium, is for Member States to tell us what assistance we can provide, and what their priorities and capacities are," he concluded.