António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, says threats posed by terrorism globally continues to persist despite important steps taken across the world to fight the menace.
He told the Second High-level Conference of Heads of Counter-terrorism on Monday, June 28, 2021 at UN headquarters, New York that the fight against terrorism had caused damage by exploiting social grievances and gender stereotypes.
Guterres expressed deep concerns over foreign terrorist fighters and underscored the need to hold them accountable. In addition, he said terrorist groups were exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic.
He urged the General Assembly to reaffirm the consensus behind the UN Global counter-terrorism Strategy to enhance national, regional and international efforts and adopt a forward-looking resolution.
“We need consistent, coordinated and comprehensive efforts across countries, sectors and disciplines, anchored on human rights and the rule of law,’’ Guterres said.
To counter terrorism, the UN chief outlined sets of priorities, which began with building resilience.
“Strong, just and accountable institutions as reflected in Sustainable Development Goal 16 for inclusive access to justice are a prerequisite for States to deny terrorists the space to operate, bring them to justice and provide security to their populations,” he explained.
While putting victims at the centre of all efforts, he also noted that to help break the cycle of violence, after serving their sentences, those found guilty should be rehabilitated and reintegrated back into society.
The Secretary-General also stressed the need for a human-right reset for counter-terrorism. He stressed that this must be addressed by protecting and promoting human rights, including gender equality.
“To this end, technological innovation must be nurtured while mitigating its risks,” Guterres said. “New technologies need to be harnessed responsibly for counter-terrorism, within the framework of the rule of law and human rights.”
Highlighting that social media is being used to accelerate hate speech and violent ideologies, he pointed out that since the pandemic, there has also been a spike in cyberattacks and cybercrime.
“As capabilities and actions have not kept pace with risks, Member States have the ultimate responsibility to prevent technologies from falling into terrorist hands,’’ he said.
Vladimir Voronkov, Head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (OCT), who also spoke at the conference talked about terrorists’ challenges in an age of transformative technologies.
“We need urgently to look ahead on how to adjust our counter-terrorism efforts to respond to new realities and emerging threats,” Voronkov said.
“We have the means and responsibility to work together to ensure safe and effective use of technology and prevent its use for terrorist purposes.”
Volkan Bozkir, General Assembly President in his remarks noted that the initial hope was that the COVID-19 pandemic would deter terrorist groups and lockdowns restrict their movements.
“It seems that terrorist groups have quickly adapted to this new landscape,” Bozkir said.
He called for global solidarity against the rise of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, stressing.
“We must be vigilant, and stop hate speech, when it is first uttered both in person, and online,” Bozkir added.
“That this is an individual, collective, national, and international responsibility.”
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