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Foreign terrorist fighters: “no country can tackle this challenge alone”

 UNESCO March Charlie Hebdo UNESCO C.Darmouni

01 June 2015 – Amidst the increasing number of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) populating the front lines of the world's conflict zones, the UN and the Security Council have renewed their resolve to address this growing threat to international peace and security.

In the UN Secretary-General’s briefing to the UN Security-Council, he stated that between mid-2014 and March 2015 there has been an estimated 70 per cent increase in FTFs worldwide, joining the ranks of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da'esh, and other terrorist groups.

Notable increase in foreign terrorist fighter numbers

According to UN monitoring teams, more than 25,000 such fighters from over 100 Member States are estimated to have travelled to Syria and Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, Yemen and Libya.

That is a notable increase in numbers from the last release of such data in November when the Organization observed that over 15,000 fighters from more than 80 countries were flocking to join radical groups.

“No country can tackle this challenge alone,” Mr Ban affirmed. “Member States have to enhance their cooperation and exchange information, develop effective border controls and strengthen their criminal justice systems, in accordance with the rule of law and human rights standards.”

The Secretary-General discussed the conditions that need to be met for counter-terrorism efforts, which includes full compliance with international human rights law, refugee law and humanitarian law.

Looking to the core issue, Mr Ban asserted: “Ultimately, we have to address the conditions conducive to young men and women being lured by violent extremism. Radicalization is the essential precursor to individuals becoming FTFs.”


Emerging from the Black Hole – the UN’s fight against youth radicalization

Recently, the UN News Centre ran a feature story on youth radicalization and international terrorism.

It quotes Peter Neumann, Director of the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), who stated: “What many [FTFs], if not most of them, had in common is that they didn’t feel they had a stake in their societies.”

The radicalization of young people in Europe and beyond is thus rooted in socio-economic stimuli, or lack thereof.

In this context, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, said: “You’re dealing with a large population of young people who are suffering today from complex challenges, from failures in development, from lack of peace and security.”

In addressing this, Mr Alhendawi states: “I don’t buy the argument that all the people with ISIL are ideologically motivated. There are many pull-and-push factors there because the youth lack prospects and have a sense of hopelessness and are being offered a promise to be part of something.”

“That’s what I call the Black Hole in our peacebuilding efforts,” he continued.

To address this hole, he stated: “We really have to address the core problems which are making a large generation of young people feel hopeless, marginalized, excluded from public life and we have to bring them back. I think, to this end, the UN has a role to play.”

Specifying these core problems, Jean-Paul Laborde, head of the UN Counter-terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED), states: “Lack of employment; very often exclusion; difficulties of comprehension – that’s what I think we have to look at. What, in the past, we have called the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.”

More information

For an in-depth look into the UN’s role in counter-terrorism, read the UN News Centre feature story and consult the CTED website or Twitter.

Additional information on the theme of terrorism prevention can also be found on the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Terrorism Prevention Branch’s website.

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