What's In Blue

Posted Mon 22 May 2017

Resolution on International Framework on Countering Narratives of Terrorist Groups

On Wednesday (24 May), the Security Council will adopt a resolution on a comprehensive international framework on countering the narratives of terrorist groups.

The resolution is a follow-up to an Egyptian initiative which started with a debate on countering the narratives and ideologies of terrorism held on 11 May 2016 (S/PV.7690) and the presidential statement adopted at the meeting focusing on this issue (S/PRST/2016/6). In the statement, the Council emphasised the need for global action to counter the activities of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Al-Qaida and their associates to incite and recruit people to commit terrorist acts. It called for developing an understanding of how these groups motivate others to commit terrorist acts or recruit them; developing the most effective means to counter terrorist propaganda, incitement and recruitment, including through the Internet, in compliance with international law; and educating people regarding counter-terrorist narratives.

Accordingly, the presidential statement requested the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), in close consultations with the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), to present a proposal to the Security Council by 30 April 2017 for a “comprehensive international framework” to counter terrorist narratives. After extensive deliberations in the Committee, the framework was sent by the Chair of the CTC, Ambassador Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta (Egypt), to the Council on 26 April (S/2017/375). The framework identifies three core elements: law enforcement measures in accordance with international law, including human rights law, and previous Council and General Assembly resolutions; close cooperation and partnerships between the public and private sectors, in particular given the wide use of information and communication technologies by terrorists to spread their ideas; and the need to develop coherent counter-narratives aimed at exposing the flaws of terrorist narratives and promoting alternative and peaceful points of view.

The draft resolution welcomes the CTC document containing a proposal for a comprehensive international framework and provides guidelines for the international framework on counter-narratives proposed by the Committee. The main focus of the negotiations focused on the balance between security measures to prevent terrorists from disseminating information and issues of human rights, particularly freedom of expression. The provisions of the draft reflect this balancing act.

After several weeks of negotiations, it became evident to Council members that it would not be possible for them to agree on where exactly that balance lay and to go into further details on matters of substance, given the divergence of views on the issue. (This has been the case for some time. In October 2016, for example, a Russian draft resolution on ‘extremist terrorist ideology’ failed to gain traction in light of the views of several Council members that addressing ideas, rather than actions, infringes on human rights.)

The draft resolution aims to provide a structural framework and general considerations, leaving it to member states to implement the framework in their domestic jurisdictions in accordance with their own understanding of the way to resolve the tension between certain security measures and human rights. It urges member states to take measures to address all drivers of extremism conducive to terrorism, while stressing that measures to combat terrorism, including to counter terrorist narratives, must be in accordance with international law, in particular human rights law, refugee law, and international humanitarian law. It stresses that a successful approach to counter-narratives depends on engagement and cooperation between a wide range of actors, such as religious leaders, youth and women. It further stresses that counter-narratives should aim not only to rebut terrorist messaging, but also to present positive narratives and address the concerns of those most susceptible to terrorist rhetoric.

Regarding specific action to be taken, the draft resolution directs the CTC, with the support of CTED, to include reporting on counter-terrorist narratives within its country assessment reports, identify good practices in the field, and assist states in building their own capacity to develop counter-narratives. Initially, Egypt wanted to establish a new body to monitor implementation, which would include the involvement of non-Council members, but several Council members did not see the merit in adding to the current framework of UN bodies working on counter-terrorism issues and foresaw structural difficulties in establishing such a body. Instead, the draft resolution requests the CTC to provide at least one annual open briefing to member states on the issue of counter-narratives.

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