Violent extremism is an affront to the very purposes and principles of the United Nations, the Head of the world body’s Geneva headquarters said today, urging government delegations and experts gathered there to back the comprehensive approach needed to proactively address the drivers of the scourge, including through support of the Secretary-General’s action plan on the issue.
“[Violent extremism] not only challenges international peace and security, but undermines the crucial work that Member States and the UN family are conducting to uphold human rights, take humanitarian action and promote sustainable development, said Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).
As the world had witnessed terrorist attacks in Belgium, Cote d’Ivoire, Iraq, Mali, Pakistan, Turkey and other places over the past weeks there could be no doubt, he said, about the relevance of the topic of the two-day Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism – The Way Forward, co-hosted by the Government of Switzerland and the United Nations.
Building on the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism and the formal debate of the UN General Assembly on 12 and 16 February 2016, the Geneva Conference aims to provide an opportunity for the international community to share experiences and good practices in addressing the drivers of violent extremism and to build support for the Plan of Action.
The first day of the conference will be dedicated to a meeting of senior experts on key issues related to the prevention of violent extremism. The second day will feature a high-level segment. Heads of international and regional organizations and heads of UN agencies will also participate in the discussions on action at the national, regional and global level during the day. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be among the top-level officials addressing the conference.
For his part, Mr. Møller stressed that: “Violent extremism has become a hallmark of our time. It affects all of us, everywhere.” As such, he said the he UN is well suited to support Member States in adopting the comprehensive approach that is needed to proactively address the drivers of violent extremism.
UN agencies and other international organizations in Geneva work at the crossroads of peace, rights and wellbeing and are at the core of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “Providing sustainable development opportunities, reducing inequalities, safeguarding human rights and providing a hub for mediation and peace negotiations, help to create a context and change realities on the ground that are better suited to resist extremism,” he said.
Further, the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action provides an important framework to address the issue at hand. The Plan has been welcomed by the General Assembly, showing the positive commitment of the international community to unite and act against this threat.
“To put the Plan into action, contributions from all actors are needed. The Secretary-General has put forward a multidimensional and ‘All of UN’ approach, explained Mr. Møller. Additionally, while recognizing the importance of the principle of national ownership to effectively address violent extremism, the Plan calls on all relevant actors – governments, civil society, academia, community and religious leaders – to act in unison through an “all-of-Government” and “all-of-Society” approach.
During a press conference after the morning session of the conference, Jehanghir Khan, Director, UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Platform (CTITF) and the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) said there is unprecedented attention to the spread of terrorism and violent extremism. “And so this is a clear and present concern, you may say a clear and present danger, and the need for international cooperation has never been more than now.”
He went on to stress that not only is the Secretary-General’s plan a call to action it is a call to unity. “We need to demonstrate to terrorists and violent extremists […] that the world is united, not just rhetorically but united behind the plan of action the [Secretary-General] has put forward,” and which included 70 “very concrete” recommendations.