The symposium that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will convene tomorrow for victims of terrorism promises to be an historic event that will put a human face on the survivors of the scourge, a senior United Nations official said today.
“While the United Nations has convened meetings for victims of various kinds of atrocities in the past, we have never and no one has ever brought together an international, global meeting addressing the issue of victims of terrorism,” Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General and Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, told reporters today.
The symposium, to be held at UN Headquarters in New York, will have 18 victims of terror and 10 experts from around the world as participants, and Mr. Orr stressed that the event seeks to achieve three goals.
He said the forum will serve as an opportunity to put a human face on the suffering of survivors and their families. “Terror not only dehumanizes its victims, but also the societies it affects,” the official noted. “We have all heard the voices of terrorists; too seldom do we hear the stories of their victims.”
It also seeks to spark a change in the “often-strained dynamics” between governments, who at times react defensively to criticism for not doing enough to help victims, and the victims themselves who often feel their needs are not sufficiently addressed.
Finally, the symposium “will also provide a starting point for building a grand coalition against terrorism,” Mr. Orr said.
Last week, Member States of the General Assembly reaffirmed their support for the landmark 2006 Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which includes provisions for victims of terrorism.
“It will take strong partnerships between governments, civil society, and most importantly, the voices of victims of terrorism to move us ahead,” the Assistant Secretary-General said.
He strongly underscored that the symposium is not intended to be a political event, but rather it is “solely designed to focus on concrete ways to better support victims of around the world.”
The 18 victims who will take part in tomorrow’s event are intended to be a microcosm of victims worldwide, and include Ingrid Betancourt, who was recently released from six years in captivity in Colombia, and Ashraf Al-Khaled, whose wedding in Amman, Jordan, was marred by terrorist bombings in November 2005.
Responding to journalists’ questions as to how victims can be invited to such a symposium when the term “terrorism” itself has yet to be defined, Mr. Orr said that there are 16 international conventions and protocols that provide a solid base for identifying acts of terrorism. Those invited to participate have “suffered from an act of terrorism as defined under these international legal instruments,” he said.
Also asked to attend the day-long forum are all Member States, regional and sub-regional organizations and civil society representatives. Two panels will be held, one on identifying crucial issues for governments, victims and civil society, and the other will allow participants to discuss best practices and avenues for bolstered cooperation.