We must unite across countries and organizations to comprehensively prevent and counter violent extremism and radicalization that leads to terrorism (VERLT), said participants today during the opening of the OSCE-wide Counter-Terrorism Conference online from 20 to 21 April.
“Terrorism is cruelty in its purest form. Innocent people are the target and the sites of attack are difficult to predict. The aim is to instill fear in the population, and to destabilize our societies at the expense of peace and security,” said Ann Linde, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. “That is why the OSCE participating States need to unite and never give up in their ambitions to prevent and combat terrorism, as well as to stand up for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”
This year’s annual OSCE-wide Counter-Terrorism Conference, organized by Sweden’s 2021 OSCE Chairpersonship with the support of the Action against Terrorism Unit of the OSCE Transnational Threats Department, has had more than 500 registered participants from across the OSCE area.
Over the two-day Conference, high-level representatives and experts from governments, state agencies, the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations, as well as representatives from the public and private sector, civil society, and academia will engage in dialogue and mutual learning. Together they will share good practices and lessons learned and explore ways to reinforce a comprehensive approach to preventing and countering terrorism and VERLT.
“Terrorism remains one of the most significant threats to security, social and economic development, and the enjoyment of human rights,” said Helga Maria Schmid, OSCE Secretary General, emphasizing the OSCE’s commitment to providing a “substantive and comprehensive contribution” to countering terrorism. “But we can only succeed in concert with others,” she added. “That’s why we have once again brought a plurality of voices to this meeting to exchange ideas and to strengthen our ability to act together, in line with international human rights obligations.”
Turning to the changing landscape of terrorism, Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), said terrorist threats are evolving, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of far-right violent extremism, and the increased abuse of the internet for terrorist purposes. Underscoring the UN Secretary-General’s call for a sustained, reinvigorated and networked multilateral response to prevent and counter terrorism, Voronkov in this context stressed the importance of the strong OSCE-UNOCT partnership, as well as the efforts of the UN Global Counter Terrorism Coordination Compact. He also recognized how a number of OSCE participating States have repatriated nationals from Syria and Iraq who have been affected by terrorism, and reiterated the UN Secretary-General’s call to follow their example.
Andrey Novikov, Head of the Commonwealth of Independent States Anti-Terrorism Center, said the risk of terrorist threats remains high in Central Asia and called for continued cooperation in the region and across the OSCE area.
Over the course of the Conference, participants will explore how to address violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism, tools for preventing terrorism and VERLT online within a human rights framework, and how to break the cycle and move away from violent extremism. They will also take part in three side events organized by OSCE participating States, academic and research institutions, and civil society organizations from different regions across the OSCE area.