Last week the Secretary General of the United Nations released a report entitled “Uniting Against Terrorism: Recommendations for a Global Counter-terrorism Strategy.”
Before reading the document, I was prepared to be underwhelmed; but it exceeded expectations, and puts forward a thoughtful roadmap about a global counterterrorism strategy. It largely omits the offensive military aspect of a counterterrorism strategy, but I was pleased to see that it didn’t stop at the “soft power” recommendations, and contains solid recommendations related to the disruption and prevention of terrorist activity:
- Denying financial support
- Denying access to weapons, including weapons of mass destruction
- Denying access to recruits and communication by countering terrorist use of the Internet
- Denying terrorists access to travel
- Denying terrorists access to their targets and the desired impact of their attacks
Recommendation #44 in the report is especially noteworthy, calling out the connections between terrorist activities and the global small arms trade. The United Nations has played an important role over the past decade in pointing out the contribution of small arms trade to ethnic conflict in places like western Africa, and I think it makes a lot of sense to point out how these efforts can aid the fight against terrorism.
Chapter 5 of the report discusses necessary steps to improve state capacity on counterterrorism, and lists seven areas where capacities need to be improved on a global basis:
- Promoting the rule of law, respect for human rights, and effective criminal justice systems
- Promoting quality education and religious and cultural tolerance
- Countering the financing of terrorism
- Ensuring transport security
- Harnessing the power of the Internet to counter terrorism
- Improving the protection of soft targets and the response to attacks on them
- Strengthening State capacity to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological materials, and ensuring better preparedness for an attack with such materials.
The report contains two annexes, the Inventory of United Nations counter-terrorism activities and a list of UN conventions and protocols that are related to counterterrorism – both useful reference documents. Overall, a solid report, and a sign that the United Nations is looking to play a more engaged role in the global system of counterterrorism.