Category Archives: Op-Eds

ASEAN’s Rising Terrorism Threat Calls for Urgent Actions

Op-ed by Jeremy Douglas and Joseph Gyte

15 February 2017

2016 was a year of rising terrorist activity for the ASEAN region. Arrests and deaths of terrorist suspects in Indonesia more than doubled to 170, Malaysia faced a steady stream of travel attempts of foreign terrorist fighters to Syria or Iraq and witnessed its first successful Daesh attack in June, and the Philippines suffered from an increase in bombings and hostage-takings conducted by Daesh affiliated groups, including Abu Sayyaf. Less covered in the international media, Thailand’s ‘Deep South’ experienced a dramatic upsurge in attacks to over 800, resulting in over 300 deaths and 600 injured.

Unfortunately, this trend is not expected to subside in 2017; rather, without effective collaboration between ASEAN countries, it is predicted that the level of terrorist violence will increase further.

Daesh has shown great interest in this region. In June last year, a propaganda video instructed their supporters to focus on Southeast Asia, telling them to join their regional branch in the Philippines if they can’t make it to Syria or Iraq. Now, as Daesh’s territorial control in the Middle East diminishes, their  need to disperse and move elsewhere is becoming a reality. As a result, it is predicted that many foreign terrorist fighters from Southeast Asia now in the Middle East – there are believed to be more than 1,000 – will return home to continue their campaign and potentially declare a caliphate.

Several militant groups in the region have already pledged allegiance to Daesh and have adequate manpower and connections to be a viable threat in the region. Southeast Asia also provides an extremely hospitable environment for Daesh to thrive. Using ongoing conflicts and pockets of instability, and capitalizing on racial and religious intolerance, Daesh could gain power and momentum in the region.

Daesh has frequently utilised the suffering of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar as justification for their cause and recruitment. Now, the recent sectarian violence in Rakhine has led to increasing attempted attacks on Myanmar interests and protests in Muslim majority countries; Malaysia and Indonesia. This could lead to an environment in which Daesh’s claim of legitimacy is strengthened.

Long running conflicts in both the Philippines and Thailand also provide fertile breeding grounds for violent extremism. Protracted insurgencies in both countries provide Daesh with the opportunity to exploit deep-rooted grievances to garner support, resources, and potentially start exercising control.

As well as potential local support for Daesh, Southeast Asia has exceptionally porous borders, which combined with highly sophisticated smuggling networks, provides easy entry into, and movement  within, the region for persons, weapons, and resources.

Although there is clear cause for concern, there are many actions which could help mitigate these risks.

Indonesia’s immigration offices in Batam and Depok last year rejected close to 1400 passport applications, mostly for suspected intentions of travel to become foreign terrorist fighters. Unfortunately, screening processes in many parts of the region are usually poor to non-existent, and it remains easy for terrorists to move from one country to the next. Building on the successful border liaison office mechanism and network to address transnational crimes, UNODC has started assisting border officials to recognize and prevent the movements of foreign terrorist fighters. Dismantling smuggling networks and preventing corruption at border checkpoints will further assist.

Throughout the region, counter terrorism investigators and prosecutors are hindered by inadequate legal frameworks. In-line with UN Security Council Resolutions, Universal Legal Instruments Against Terrorism, and International Human Rights Law, it is essential that ASEAN countries update their terrorism related legislation. Notably, travelling for the purpose of conducting or facilitating terrorist activities has only been criminalized by one ASEAN nation, Malaysia. Without this legal backing, ASEAN remains vulnerable to the movements of terrorists.

While ASEAN countries have improved collaboration and intelligence sharing, it still occurs in an ad hoc and inconsistent fashion. Regular and efficient information sharing through formal and informal channels, within and between countries of the region, needs to be seriously enhanced.

Lastly, there is no ASEAN plan for the prevention of violent extremism or PVE. In much of the region, local grievances and root causes of terrorism are left unaddressed and Daesh’s propaganda goes unchallenged; leaving communities vulnerable to radicalisation. It is important that ASEAN develops a regional PVE plan which is subsequently tailored for each country.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of recommendations; however, if all ASEAN nations implement a common approach, including what we are recommending, risks posed by terrorists in the region would be significantly reduced.

 

Jeremy Douglas is the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific and the former UNODC Representative for Pakistan. Joseph Gyte is a UNODC Counter Terrorism Consultant for Southeast Asia.

A Continent of Hope

Op-ed by António Guterres

Far too often, the world views Africa through the prism of problems. When I look to Africa, I see a continent of hope, promise and vast potential.

I am committed to building on those strengths and establishing a higher platform of cooperation between the United Nations and the leaders and people of Africa. This is essential to advancing inclusive and sustainable development and deepening cooperation for peace and security.

That is the message I carried to the recent African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — my first major mission as United Nations Secretary-General.

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Violent extremism in prisons: Behind bars, but not locked up

Opinion article by Yury Fedotov

Violent extremism today presents a chilling challenge to the world’s prison correction communities.

Anis Amri, shot dead before Christmas by Italian police after killing 12 people in the Berlin terrorist attack, was allegedly radicalised in prison. His story follows a shocking trajectory that enables murderous terrorism due to the incitement and recruitment of vulnerable prisoners.

Cases such as Amri’s show that, today, for the small minority, prisons have become the first step towards committing horrific acts of mayhem and destruction. How can we get this minority back on the rehabilitation path and defeat the violent extremists. While no quick remedy exists, there are approaches that can make prisoners less susceptible.

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A Turning Point for Humanitarian Action

Op-ed by UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon

9 June 2016

At the recent World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, more than 9,000 participants made a three-fold commitment to people in crisis all over the world. We pledged to improve our response to people caught up in natural disasters and conflicts; to empower them as the agents of their own recovery; and to summon greater political will to prevent and end the wars which are causing so much suffering.

The challenge we face is unprecedented. Around the world, 130 million people need humanitarian aid. More than 60 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes.  Despite their precarious conditions, there is a severe lack of funding to assist them — raising basic questions about global solidarity in a world of great wealth.

The massive extent of this challenge meant this had to be a different kind of summit. For the first time, people affected by crises worked alongside world leaders, heads of NGOs, civil society and the private sector to find solutions. This diversity of voices was an achievement in itself.

I met many people affected by crisis, and spoke with brave aid workers. People on the front lines, often in the poorest countries in the world, show enormous commitment to helping families and communities in crisis. The international community as a whole must do more.

My Agenda for Humanity, drawn up in advance of the summit, outlined five areas for collective action: preventing and ending conflict; respect for the rules of war; leaving no one behind; working differently to end needs; and investing in humanity. The summit recorded nearly 3,000 individual and collective commitments in support of these five core areas, including many from countries affected by crisis.

A “Grand Bargain” between 30 top donors and aid agencies should reduce management costs, provide more flexible funding and give affected people a bigger voice in the decisions that will shape their lives.

The new Charter4Change commits 27 international NGOs to channel one fifth of their funding to national organizations, in response to widespread calls for more local decision-making and funding.

The Vulnerable 20 Group of Finance Ministers launched a Global Preparedness Partnership, which will help countries most at risk of crisis to prepare for future shocks.

Donors committed new funding to initiatives to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, and to ensure that millions of children in crisis can continue their education, addressing one of the most urgent priorities of refugees and displaced people around the world.

And the Summit won significant commitments to bridge the gap between humanitarian and development work; to create a new way of working together to reduce needs, manage risks and aim at common goals over longer timeframes.

Some 80 percent of humanitarian funding goes to manmade crises caused by conflict. So it was particularly significant that all the 173 Governments that were present committed to invest more in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, finding better solutions for refugees and internally displaced people, and pushing for practical measures to uphold the laws of war.

Now we must turn these commitments into action.

Later this year, I will report to the United Nations General Assembly and propose ways to take our commitments forward. The High-Level Meeting on large movements of Refugees and Migrants, to be held in New York on 19 September, will be a major opportunity to maintain momentum and build on the Summit’s achievements.

Civil society organizations were a dynamic presence in Istanbul, and I urge them to play an active role in monitoring States’ compliance with their commitments.

The World Humanitarian Summit was not an end point, but a turning point.  The United Nations is committed to building on the momentum generated to work in partnership with world leaders, including those who could not be present, and with all stakeholders to support the most vulnerable people in our world.

The Fight against Sexual Exploitation

Op-ed by Parfait Onanga-Anyanga

A few days ago, I woke up to yet another horrible allegation against peacekeepers serving in the UN Mission in Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the peacekeeping operation that I lead.  I read that Peacekeepers had allegedly raped a 14 year old girl in a small town located in the remote central regions of this massive country.  As I began to react to this deeply shocking news, we learned of another series of new allegations dating back to 2014 and 2015, brought to my attention by colleagues from UNICEF and UNHCR.

I have no words strong enough to describe the distress I feel when confronted with these appalling allegations.  Confronted with these horrors, I am personally overwhelmed by deep feelings of despair and anger. My colleagues in MINUSCA and at UN HQ feel just as I do. And yet as awful as this scourge may be, it is my job to put an end to it in my mission. Walking away is not an option and I am committed to giving this my all. We must not stop our efforts until we can ensure that all the perpetrators are identified, the victims get all the care they deserve and, perhaps most importantly, those responsible are brought to justice.

Since I joined this mission in late August 2015, I have committed myself and MINUSCA to a policy of transparency and accountability.  I have traveled thousands of miles around this country, going from camp to camp and from city to city, reiterating a stern message that Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) is entirely unacceptable and reminding all our UN personnel, both uniformed and civilian, of our obligations to protect the people of the Central African Republic.  This journey led us to some harrowing encounters with family members of survivors of sexual assault by armed groups and by international peacekeepers, both UN and non UN. And while I am incredibly disappointed that the Mission I am so privileged to lead is registering the highest number of SEA cases among all UN Peacekeeping missions, I have also been encouraged by the positive feedback I have received from victims, from the population and national authorities but also from UN member States on the strong and principled posture the Mission has adopted to tackle this important issue.

This will be a collective effort. Over the past few weeks, my spirits were lifted by the recent adoption of resolution 2272 (2016) by the UN Security Council, on March 11th, which fully backs the Secretary-General’s strong leadership in rooting out SEA from UN Peacekeeping missions. Under this new resolution, should troop or police contributing countries (TCCs/PCCs) not prosecute their own alleged perpetrators within a six months period, the Secretary-General will be entitled to repatriate entire units as he recently did with troops from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and from the Republic of Congo. Another source of hope in making a more effective impact in the fight against SEA came from the Secretary-General’s recent appointment of Ms. Jane Holl Lute, on 8 February, as his Special Coordinator on improving the United Nations’ response to sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers.

On our side, I have made the fight against SEA one of the Mission’s top priorities. A SEA Taskforce has been established. MINUSCA Force and Police are conducting patrols around MINUSCA camps to monitor the off-duty activities of uniformed personnel. Under my direct leadership, Regional SEA Joint Prevention Teams are being established in our three regional headquarters and in other field offices with a significant presence of our troops. These are steps in the right direction but we may have more dark days before we see light at the end of the tunnel.

Above all, we must put the victims at the heart of all our efforts. We put a premium on their care by making emergency assistance available, while closely coordinating with all relevant UN and non UN offices and agencies for longer-term support, such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNICEF, UNFPA or Mercy Corps and others. I know the path to achieving that objective will not be easy because of the very nature of the environment in which we operate but we remain committed to the fight.

I make one point in all my conversations, whether with our military and police or with representatives of local populations: the days of silence are over; now is the time to come forward and to stand up.   Now is the time for the rights of victims to come first. The fight against SEA is first and foremost a fight for human rights. Victims must not suffer the double horror of abuse and exclusion when, after being assaulted, they are asked to go through the horrendous pain of rejection by their own communities because of the enduring burden of cultural stigma.  I will continue to fight this fight for every woman and every child, girl or boy, so that no 14 year old child–the same age as my daughter Eliwa–in this country is a victim of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Parfait Onanga-Anyanga is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the Central African Republic

(This article has previously been carried by Newsweek)

5 years too long: Why the world’s biggest humanitarian disaster must end

By Yacoub El Hillo and Kevin Kennedy*

The worst humanitarian crisis of our time has lasted too long as millions of Syrians have experienced widespread violence, destruction and displacement.  Since March 2011, hundreds of thousands have been killed, over a million wounded and half the population has been displaced or sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Schools, hospitals and other infrastructure have been reduced to rubble, and over 2 million children and adolescents are out of school. Four out of five Syrians now live in poverty.

In a country that was once known as the “cradle of civilization”, sieges are increasingly used as a tactic of war. In 2016, on average nearly half a million people have been trapped in their towns, deprived of essential aid and surrounded by armed groups. Millions more live in areas where aid seldom reaches.  Summary executions, arbitrary detention and horrific human rights violations are a regular feature of this crisis.

On 12 February, a landmark agreement was reached in Munich where a cessation of hostilities was agreed upon as well as accelerated delivery of aid to those most in need.  Despite ruptures, the agreement has mostly been respected offering a glimmer of hope to millions of Syrians.  It has presented a short respite for people who have repeatedly told us that all they want is to be safe and for their families to be protected from violence in a war that has endured far too long.  In towns across parts of Syria, there are signs of that hope as families are once again walking in the streets and children playing in parks.

At this moment, we must also take stock of what we have accomplished and where we have fallen short. Over the course of the last five years, the United Nations, the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement and the Non-Governmental organizations have delivered health services, medicine, food, clean water, sanitation and shelter to millions of people. It has come at a high cost as 85 humanitarian workers have lost their lives and hundreds of medical workers have been killed. Syrians themselves have played the lead role in alleviating the suffering of people in need – as first-line responders on the ground or hosting fellow Syrians fleeing conflict despite their own difficult circumstances.

Given the momentum started in Munich, we now have a unique opportunity that must not be lost. Humanitarian organizations are ramping up their operations but require access to all people in need on a sustained, unconditional and unimpeded basis. Sieges must be lifted and people allowed freedom of movement. The cessation of hostilities must be maintained and fully observed.   Most importantly, the political process must continue and achieve a permanent end to hostilities.

Five years of human suffering on an immense scale must be brought to an end. The Syrian people must have their dignity and security restored and have the opportunity to reconcile and rebuild.

[ENDS]

*Yacoub El Hillo is the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria and Kevin Kennedy is the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria

Social Protection is Key to Tackle Asia-Pacific’s Inequality Trap

Op-ed by Shamshad Akhtar

Rising inequality threatens to derail, from the start, successful implementation of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Asia-Pacific region. Stronger, more equitable social protection will be critical in overcoming these challenges.

New research by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) indicates that inequality, related to both outcomes and opportunities, is on the rise in the countries of Asia and the Pacific – and where it has not risen it has remained unacceptably high. This is having an adverse impact on sustainable development.

Growing disparities in income and wealth, as well as unequal opportunities, reinforce each other, creating an “inequality trap” that disproportionately affects women and the most vulnerable members of society, including the poor, youth, persons with disabilities, migrants and older persons.

This stands in sharp contrast to both the shared growth that defined the rise of the ‘Asian Tigers’ in the 1960s, and more recent trends in other parts of the developing world, in particular Latin America, where income inequality has been decreasing over in recent decades.

Over the past 20 years, the rich in Asia and the Pacific have grown richer, at the expense of the poor. Inequalities in regional opportunities also abound, with nearly 80 per cent of the population lacking access to affordable health care, and as many as 18 million children out of school. Access to these basic social services are considerably lower among low-income groups and rural communities.

In the context of the 2030 Agenda, inequality casts deep shadows on all three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental.

Economically, inequality threatens regional dynamism, is destructive to the sustainability of growth, and makes it more difficult to reduce poverty through growth. Had Asia-Pacific inequality not increased, an additional almost 200 million people would have been lifted out of poverty in the three largest countries in the region over the last two decades.

Inequality undermines social cohesion and solidarity. A growing divide between the rich and the poor is often a factor in rising levels of crime and social unrest, undermining trust and weakening bonds of solidarity. In extreme cases, especially where inequality manifests along ethnic lines, it can lead to polarization, radicalization and even failure of the State.

Environmental sustainability is also hampered by inequalities, which create resentments and disincentives and, in turn, generate pervasive free-riding and overuse of resources, with unsustainable environmental outcomes. For instance, evidence from India and Nepal suggests that inequalities in local rural communities actually intensify deforestation.

This is why tackling inequality must be central to the sustainable development agenda. Perfect equality of wealth and income is not attainable but, when it comes to inequalities of opportunity, such as access to health and education, Asia-Pacific governments should not settle for less than a perfectly “level playing field.”

It is encouraging to see that, in addition to traditional cash transfers, Asia-Pacific countries are introducing innovative measures to reduce inequalities, such as health equity funds, impact investing in education, universal health coverage and expanding access to old-age pensions.

Building on this momentum, countries could also develop sets of complementary policies to tackle inequality in all its forms:

First, national taxation systems could be strengthened. There is ample room to expanding the tax base and strengthen compliance frameworks across the region. This is an effective way of broadening fiscal space to finance redistributive mechanisms, while building solidarity across socioeconomic groups and generations.

Second, productive and decent work should be even more strongly promoted. Forward-looking macroeconomic policies, coupled with active labour market programmes and policies that encourage diversification, including industrial upgrading and productivity growth are critical. Such approaches will ensure that economic growth generates more and better employment for people working in vulnerable conditions, while avoiding a “race to the bottom” triggered by unfettered international competition.

Third, social protection should be enhanced to ensure that everyone has access to quality essential services. Transformative social protection policies need to be anchored in national legislation and aim beyond providing short-term safety nets, to lift people out of poverty and vulnerability. Complementing their redistributive role, well-designed and implemented cash transfers are an important vehicle of inclusive, pro-poor growth. Good practices from around the region illustrate that comprehensive social protection systems are feasible and affordable but necessitate political will. Strengthening the evidence base on inequalities and social protection will also further facilitate the development and implementation of effective policies and programmes. Innovative financing schemes, especially in partnership with the private sector, will be essential in this regard.

These three policy measures benefit all, from individuals and communities, to public institutions and private actors. They constitute a shared responsibility to inspire new partnerships and creative approaches, as we move to implement the 2030 Agenda.

Asia-Pacific inequality cannot be ignored. To do so jeopardizes the future we want of a more prosperous, inclusive and sustainable Asia-Pacific region.

Download ESCAP’s new publication: “Time for Equality: The Role of Social Protection in Reducing Inequalities in Asia and the Pacific” at http://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/SDD%20Time%20for%20Equality%20report_final.pdf.

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar is an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. She has also been the UN’s Sherpa for the G20 and served as Governor of the Central Bank of Pakistan and Vice-President of the MENA Region of the World Bank.

 

An Agenda for Humanity

Op-ed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

More people desperately need humanitarian assistance than at any time since the founding of the United Nations.  More warring parties are brazenly violating international humanitarian law.  More resources than ever are needed to meet sharply escalating humanitarian needs.  Yet we face the largest-ever funding shortfalls.

For these reasons and more, I am convening the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, on 23 and 24 May in Istanbul.  I am urging global leaders, international organizations and others to commit to deliver more and better for those in greatest need.  There is no time to lose.

Climate change is affecting lives and livelihoods across our fragile planet.  Brutal and seemingly intractable conflicts, violent extremism, transnational crime and growing inequality are devastating the lives of millions of men, women and children and are destabilizing entire regions.  More people have been forced to flee their homes than at any time since the Second World War.

Around the world, more than 125 million people need humanitarian assistance.  If they were all in one country, it would be the eleventh largest nation on Earth, and one of the fastest growing.

Today’s complex challenges cross borders.  No single country or organization can address them alone.  We need to restore trust in the ability of our national, regional and international institutions to confront these challenges.

A sense of shared humanity must shape our politics and drive financial decisions.  In advance of the Summit, I have set out an Agenda for Humanity as a framework for action, change and mutual accountability.  It has five core responsibilities.

First, leaders must intensify efforts to find political solutions to prevent and end conflict.  The enormous human and economic cost makes conflict the biggest obstacle to human development.  We must move from managing crises to preventing them.

Second, countries must uphold the norms that safeguard humanity.   This means complying with international humanitarian and human rights law, and stopping the bombing and shelling of civilian targets and areas.  It also means committing to national and international justice and ending impunity.

Third, we must leave no one behind – and we must reach those who are furthest behind, first.  This means transforming the lives of the most vulnerable, including those living in conflict and in chronic poverty, and those living with the risk of natural hazards and rising sea levels..  We must reduce forced displacement, provide more regular and lawful opportunities for migration, empower women and girls and ensure quality education for all.  We cannot meet the Sustainable Development Goals, agreed by world leaders last September, if we do not reach these people.

The fourth core responsibility is to move from delivering aid to ending need.  We need to close the humanitarian-development divide for good.  We must also anticipate crises, not wait for them to happen.  We must strengthen local leadership and capacity, reduce vulnerability, and increase the resilience of people and communities, who will always be the first and last responders in crises.

Fifth, we must find smart and innovative ways of mobilizing funds.  This will require diversifying and expanding the resource base and using a wider variety of financing tools.  I have proposed a new international financing platform with the World Bank to identify mechanisms to finance our response to protracted crises.

The Agenda for Humanity provides key actions and strategic shifts which the world requires to reduce humanitarian needs and contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  I urge world leaders to come to the World Humanitarian Summit committed to promote sustainable human progress and a life of dignity and security for all.

Mr. Ban’s report, “One Humanity: Shared Responsibility,” was published on 9 February 2016.

Uniting to Prevent Violent Extremism

Op-Ed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Violent extremism is a direct assault on the United Nations Charter and a grave threat to international peace and security.

Terrorist groups such as Daesh, Boko Haram and others have brazenly kidnapped young girls, systematically denied women’s rights, destroyed cultural institutions, warped the peaceful values of religions, and brutally murdered thousands of innocents around the world.

These groups have become a magnet for foreign terrorist fighters, who are easy prey to simplistic appeals and siren songs.

The threat of violent extremism is not limited to any one religion, nationality or ethnic group.  Today, the vast majority of victims worldwide are Muslims.

Addressing this challenge requires a unified response, and compels us to act in a way that solves – rather than multiplies — the problem.

Many years of experience have proven that short-sighted policies, failed leadership, heavy-handed approaches, a single-minded focus only on security measures and an utter disregard for human rights have often made things worse.

Let us never forget:  Terrorist groups are not just seeking to unleash violent action, but to provoke a harsh reaction.

We need cool heads and common sense.  We must never be ruled by fear – or provoked by those who strive to exploit it.

Countering violent extremism should not be counter-productive.

This month, I presented to the United Nations General Assembly a Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which takes a practical and comprehensive approach to address the drivers of this menace.  It focuses on violent extremism which can be conducive to terrorism.

The Plan puts forward more than 70 recommendations for concerted action at the global, regional and national levels, based on five inter-related points:

Number one, we must put prevention first

The international community has every right to defend against this threat using lawful means, but we must pay particular attention to addressing the causes of violent extremism if this problem is to be resolved in the long run.

There is no single pathway to violent extremism.  But we know that extremism flourishes when human rights are violated,  political space is shrunk, aspirations for inclusion are ignored, and too many people – especially young people – lack prospects and meaning in their lives.

As we see in Syria and Libya and elsewhere, violent extremists make unresolved and prolonged conflicts even more intractable.

We also know the critical elements for success:  Good governance.  The rule of law.  Political participation.  Quality education and decent jobs.  Full respect for human rights.

We need to make a special effort to reach out to young people and recognize their potential as peacebuilders.  The protection and empowerment of women must also be central to our response.

Second, principled leadership and effective institutions

Poisonous ideologies do not emerge from thin air.  Oppression, corruption and injustice are greenhouses for resentment.  Extremists are adept at cultivating alienation.

That is why I have been urging leaders to work harder to build inclusive institutions that are truly accountable to people.  I will continue to call on leaders to listen carefully to the grievances of their people and then act to address them.

Third, preventing extremism and promoting human rights go hand-in-hand

All too often, national counter-terrorism strategies have lacked basic elements of due process and respect for the rule of law.

Sweeping definitions of terrorism or violent extremism are often used to criminalize the legitimate actions of opposition groups, civil society organizations and human rights defenders.  Governments should not use these types of sweeping definitions as a pretext to attack or silence one’s critics.

Once again, violent extremists deliberately seek to incite such over-reactions.  We must not fall into the trap.

Fourth, an all-out approach

The Plan proposes an “all of Government” approach.

We must break down the silos between the peace and security, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian actors at the national, regional and global levels—including at the United Nations.

The Plan also recognizes that there are no “one size fits all” solutions.  We must also engage all of society – religious leaders, women leaders, youth groups leaders in the arts, music and sports, as well as the media and private sector.

Fifth, UN engagement

I intend to strengthen a UN system-wide approach to supporting Member States’ efforts to address the drivers of violent extremism.

Above all, the Plan is an urgent call to unity and action that seeks to address this scourge in all its complexity.

Together, let us pledge to forge a new global partnership to prevent violent extremism.

 

The transformation to a more sustainable and just world begins now

OP-ED by Mogens Lykketoft, President of the United Nations General Assembly

Deadly conflicts, horrific terrorist attacks and a worsening global humanitarian crisis have dominated 2015. Yet this year also saw a number of major international breakthroughs, most recently with the Climate Agreement in Paris, writes Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly.  But for these agreements to bring us closer to a more peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world, 2016 must be all about action and implementation.

Ask anyone for their abiding memory of 2015 and they will most likely recall a negative one.

Some will recall the horrifying stories of death and destruction caused by conflicts around the world, most notably in Syria where over 250,000 people have lost their lives and almost 11 million people have been displaced. Others will recall a sense of grief, fear and anger after violent extremists attacked, tortured, kidnapped and executed innocent civilians around the world. Others still might recall a simple but disturbing fact they heard in passing – that 2015 was the hottest year on record or that over 15,000 children continue to die annually, mostly from preventable diseases.

Yet, despite all of this, 2015 was also a year of progress and breakthroughs.

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