Despite the world’s best efforts, “terrorism is on the march” and the violent ideas that fuel it are spreading, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today, telling delegations gathered for a global dialogue in Madrid that a unified, multi-dimensional and rights-based response is required to wipe out the scourge.
“Violent extremism poses a direct threat to international peace and security,” Mr. Ban said at the Club de Madrid’s ‘Madrid+10: the Global Dialogue on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism.’
“Extremist groups – such as Da'esh [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL], Al Shabaab and Boko Haram – undermine universal values of dignity and the worth of the human person. They reject the call of the United Nations Charter to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours.”
Noting that terrorism is a global threat, he said that he commended the lead Spain had taken against terrorism and violent extremism, its support for the victims of terrorism, and its Presidency of the UN Security Council this month.
“Spain has suffered terrorism from within its society, and attacks inspired from beyond its borders,” he continued. “We will never forget the train bombings in Madrid on 11 March, 2004, that killed 191 people and wounded 1,800 more.”
The Secretary-General referred to the Club de Madrid’s establishment of the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security a year after the bombings, where political leaders and civil society developed the Madrid Agenda to confront terrorism through a global democratic framework.
Also at the summit, he said, the key elements of what would become the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy were announced by the then-Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan. The strategy was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006.
“Yet, despite all our efforts, terrorism is on the march,” he said. “The violent extremist ideas that fuel it are spreading, added that it “threatens to reverse important development progress.”He also noted that violent extremists are responsible for “egregious human rights violations, including mass executions, mutilations, torture, rape, the selling of women and sexual slavery” and that their actions “have contributed to the highest number of refugees and displaced persons since the Second World War.”
The Secretary-General also said that international response to combat violent extremism should be “unified and multi-dimensional” and that “conflict prevention is one of the best tools for preventing violent extremism.”
He turned his remarks to the underlying causes of the phenomenon, noting that the young men – and also women – who are recruited are often “frustrated with the few avenues available to them to pursue productive lives and find their place in society, adding that many of them were “galvanized and then radicalized by what they see around them or on social media.”
“We must show them another way, a better way,” he said, noting the importance of upholding human rights and providing peaceful channels for the resolution of grievances, as well as highlighting the importance of good governance to stop the spread of terrorism in the long-term.
Mr. Ban said that he would be presenting his Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism in the months ahead, which will call for governments, society and the UN to address the drivers of violent extremism at global, regional, national and local levels. The plan, he said, will also put forward recommendations on how to support Member States, noting that one important priority will be youth engagement.
“Young people are the main targets for recruitment by violent extremist groups,” he said. “But they can be our best allies to promote understanding.”
He also mentioned other initiatives, such as engaging with religious leaders, as well as the United States-led countering violent extremism process that culminated in September with the Leaders’ Summit convened by President Barack Obama on the margins of the General Assembly.
During his visit to Spain, the Secretary-General also received a Medal of Honour from the Carlos III University of Madrid, which he accepted, he said, on behalf of past and present UN staff members around the world.