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Updating the UN’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy

From the attacks on September 11, 2001, to the Christchurch Mosque shootings, the threat from terrorism is persistent. No country is immune. No single government or organization can defeat terrorism alone. Updating the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy will strengthen counter-terrorism structures, broaden representation, and address new threats. An updated UN strategy will unite the international community and reaffirm its commitment to counter terrorism.

The UN plays an important role in establishing norms and frameworks for the cooperation of its member states. In 2006, the UN General Assembly established the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Its purpose is to enhance national, regional, and international efforts to counter terrorism. It urges its members to develop and promote strategic efforts to counter violent extremism. Yet the strategy falls short.

The strategy has failed to provide successful action plans, proper representation, leadership, or budget. It has failed to engage the participation of member states. It lacks diverse representation from civil society organizations and multilateral entities and fails to address current challenges and emerging threats.

Several steps are needed to breathe new life into the UN strategy.

First, establishing an oversight committee is an important structural reform. It will provide for proper monitoring and implementation of the strategy by member states. It will provide member states a forum to discuss their needs and priorities in combatting terrorism. Those needs include training member states’ law enforcement officials to combat terrorist threats. Addressing member states’ needs will strengthen coordination, cooperation, and the strategy’s success.

Second, diverse representation will build support for counter-terrorism efforts. Participation from civil society organizations and multilateral entities at the regional, national, and international level will promote and strengthen the strategy. These organizations can collaborate with the UN Counter-Terrorism Compact Working Group to enhance coordination and achieve concrete results. Projects could include critical infrastructure protection, border management, and capacity-building activities to combat hate speech by violent extremists and terrorists.

Third, addressing new threats such as human rights, racism, and violent extremism will make the strategy applicable to today’s counter-terrorism priorities. The UN can work to improve information sharing with governments, security agencies, and law enforcement. Energizing international cooperation will encourage greater member state participation and help prevent future terrorism.

Even with improvements, there are still concerns about whether the UN’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy will be successful. Terrorism certainly won’t go away overnight. Yet the power of the strategy is to bring states together. Through constant review of the strategy by an oversight committee, member states will evaluate what is working and what needs to change.

No single country, government, or organization can tackle the threat of terrorism. The United Nations has the sole responsibility to unite its member states to build a world of peace and security, dignity, and opportunity for all people. It is time to update the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Steps to strengthen its oversight structure, broaden participation and address new threats are needed now. Through uniting against the threat of terrorism, the UN and its member states can contribute to a more peaceful world.