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Posted Tue 27 Jul 2021

Arria-formula Meeting on Counter-Terrorism and Gender

Tomorrow (28 July), Security Council members will hold a virtual Arria-formula meeting on “preventing terrorism and violent extremism through tackling gender stereotypes, masculinities, and structural gender inequality”. The meeting is being organised by Mexico in cooperation with Estonia, Norway, the UK, and the US. The expected briefers are Assistant Secretary-General Michèle Coninsx, Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED); David Duriesmith, lecturer in gender and politics at the University of Sheffield; and Fauziya Abdi Ali, President of Women in International Security Kenya, an organisation dedicated to advancing the leadership and professional development of women in the field of international peace and security.

The meeting will be broadcast on UNTV at 3pm EST.

Mexico has prepared a concept note ahead of tomorrow’s meeting, which states that its objective is to discuss and analyse how a focus on masculinities, gender stereotypes, and gender inequality can facilitate a comprehensive gender-based approach by the Security Council when it considers the prevention of terrorism and violent extremism. The concept note observes that the Council has been actively engaged with the agendas on women, peace and security and counter-terrorism for many years, but has not incorporated masculinities into its work on these issues. It notes that terrorist groups deliberately exploit ideas and stereotypes about masculinities in their propaganda and recruitment efforts, and suggests that this is one reason for the Council to explore the link between masculinities and counter-terrorism.

According to the concept note, tomorrow’s meeting aims to address the gap created by the absence of references to masculinities and gender stereotypes in the UN’s counter-terrorism agenda and to foster a discussion which can inform future reports by the Secretary-General on these issues. The concept note also refers to civil society consultations that have taken place in relation to masculinities and counter-terrorism, including a November 2020 discussion series hosted by CTED and the International Peace Institute that analysed how a focus on masculinities could allow for a more comprehensive approach to integrating gender considerations into counter-terrorism measures.

Normative developments in the women, peace and security agenda in recent years have contributed to a push to incorporate a gender perspective into the UN’s counter-terrorism measures. Resolution 2395 of 21 December 2017, which renewed CTED’s mandate until 31 December 2021, called on CTED to “integrate gender as a cross-cutting issue throughout its activities”. It also urged CTED, in cooperation with UN Women, to “conduct and gather gender-sensitive research and data collection on the drivers of radicalisation to terrorism for women, and the impacts of counter-terrorism strategies on women’s human rights and women’s organisations”.

Some experts argue, however, that the move to incorporate a gender perspective into the counter-terrorism agenda has focused too closely on women. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, has suggested that “[in] the institutional architecture of counter-terrorism…engagement with gender remains as short-form for women…We have yet to address masculinities and the hegemonic masculinities that produce and sustain violence, both public and private, in the context of violence and extremism”. Ní Aoláin made these comments during a January 2019 roundtable on women’s rights, human rights, and counter-terrorism that was hosted by the Council on Foreign Affairs. Similarly, a February 2021 CTED fact sheet on gender and counter-terrorism noted that “a gender perspective not only means focusing on the roles of women but also on men, masculinities and structural gender inequality” and “a gender-sensitive approach should also take into account notions of masculinity and gender stereotypes in the mobilisation and recruitment of men”.

The concept note poses several questions to help guide the discussion at tomorrow’s meeting:

  • How do racially, ethnically or ideologically motivated individuals and groups who resort to violence, terrorist tactics and terrorist groups use and exploit gender roles, including interpretations of masculinities, to further their objectives?
  • How can a comprehensive UN gender-sensitive approach to counter-terrorism and prevention of violent extremism agendas, that includes addressing gender stereotypes and interpretations of masculinity, contribute to prevent the mobilisation and recruitment of men?
  • How can the notion of “masculinities” be fully incorporated in the UN gender agenda, in particular on women, peace, and security, counter-terrorism and prevention of violent extremism, to foster a positive impact on peace and security?

During her briefing, Coninsx might describe the steps that CTED is taking to incorporate gender into its work in accordance with its mandate. Duriesmith is expected to address the need to develop a better understanding of masculinity and the relationship between such an understanding and the prevention of violent extremism. Ali, who has over 10 years’ experience working on security and governance reform, may offer a practitioner’s perspective regarding these issues.