Tuesday 30 June 2015

UN Counter Terrorism Strategy needs the support of EU

Jean-Paul Laborde / European Parliament
Interview about the UN counter-terrorism strategy in 2012

Jean-Paul Laborde, Special Advisor for the UN spoke to New Europe about the counter terror strategy that brings in thirty agencies to co-ordinate efforts, not only to fight terrorism directly, but to also use soft power to dissuade people from using terror as a way of achieving political goals.

The UN counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force has four main pillars; to address conditions conducive to terrorism; to combat and prevent terrorism; to build capacity for member states and measures to ensure that human rights are respected. This also involves preventing and reducing conflicts and supporting people who have been victims of terrorism.

You bring in expertise from thirty agencies to counter terrorism, but have we got a definition of what terrorism is?

This is a very good question. But if I talk as a lawyer, I would say yes, but if I am talking about general policy, I would say no. We have 16 instruments against terrorism that cover 99% of the acts of terrorism, but these cover everything with the exception of snipers. If we talk about a general understanding of what terrorism is, that is very difficult because it becomes political. You could ask this question about other matters. We have no general definition of corruption, transnational crime, but we are never asked about these definitions. For terrorism it is raised because it is connected to political issues. The issue is not the definition of the acts, we know what they are, but the scope of application, which means, do you cover soldiers, liberation movements and so on? That is the issue.

When there is an act committed, international co-operation works on the basis of the current conventions. We need a full convention on international co-operation against terrorism. I don't say a comprehensive one, but a full one.

It is said that definitions don't matter, as one expert said, "I recognise it when I see it"

That is correct, but the point is that we have to resolve these issues through a definition, because co-operating between countries, we need to have a common recognition, for example so that extradition can happen.

There is a military tendency to fight the previous war. Because we're now almost exclusively focused on Islamic terrorism, are we prepared for what might be the next type of terrorism?

Without the strategy we won't be ready, but now that we have covered the area of education, development and so on and since we are linking the fight against terrorism in a multi-faceted way, then yes, we are prepared for the next war. If you answer from only the perspective of law enforcement and the military, they could be stuck in the last war. Force has to be used, or law enforcement has to catch the terrorists, but that is far from enough for a successful strategy.

We have used just law enforcement and force to fight terrorism. Has it worked? Yes, partially, but not as much as we want. We cannot resolve the problem in its entirety so we have to work on other aspects of the strategy. We should think and act on a multi faceted approach.

Can we find processes to bring people into talks to end prolonged conflicts? Is the UN in a good position to be an honest broker?

I think we are in a department that is in a very good position for this, the political affairs. We may not always be seen as impartial, but we do have a neutral attitude. We have to continue with that and we will have a role to play. This is why I am here, because we have launched a project, with the support of the EU, on conflict prevention. first we work on preventative diplomacy, secondly we involve civil society, much more than before. Thirdly work with the media. They are also part of conveying the message of peace. We should talk with people as long as we have the mandate.

You also work on counter extremism. what have you seen that is effective, what works?

First of all, the outreach is working. Secondly we have some working groups that are doing good work, like that on the use of the internet by terrorists. We have also worked on the technical aspects and now on a counter narrative. What also works well, is the support of the victims. We have established a global survivors network, so these are some actions that are well recognised and regarded.

We're reviewing the strategy in November and I want to go further, in engaging the countries, some of whom could understand more. We als them to look at our strategy and try to implement it in their policies. The EU can be a leader, to show them how the strategy can work.

There is concern in the EU that, with large cuts in public services in many countries and there could be a violent response, that may not be terrorism per se, but could affect ordinary citizens. What advice would you give to President Barroso?

Or Mr Rompuy! My advice, well, what do we do? do we cut and where? now we're cutting into the beef. What the EC could do is the question. The budget is still very significant. They should try to connect things and develop a comprehensive strategy. You need to look at where the most affected parts are and treat them, don't try to apply everything thinly, to everywhere.

There have also been some interesting developments with former extremists, how do you learn to?

It is very interesting to see. I have nothing to say to them as it is better for us to just listen and find out the best practices. The problem is that these guys should not be seen as the tools of anyone, but people will listen to them, rather than to me.

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