By: António Guterres
Terrorism is a persistent and evolving global menace. No country is immune. Social media, encrypted communications and the dark web are being used to spread propaganda, radicalize new recruits and plan atrocities. The threat ranges from the crude tactics of lone actors to sophisticated coordinated attacks and the horrific prospect of terrorists using chemical, biological or radioactive weapons.
Our response needs to be equally agile and multifaceted. That is why I convened the first-ever United Nations High-level Conference on Counter-Terrorism in New York. Heads of national counter-terrorism agencies and representatives from international institutions and civil society discussed how to improve international cooperation and build new partnerships.
The conference focussed on four key areas. First, it considered how governments, security agencies and law-enforcement bodies can improve the exchange of critical information and strategies to detect, disrupt and prosecute terrorist networks. Second, the conference discussed how the United Nations could do more to assist countries around the world affected by terrorism.
Third, it tried to address, the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters. With the military defeat of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, large numbers of these ideologically-driven mercenaries are relocating to other theatres of conflict or returning home, passing on their battlefield expertise, recruiting new followers and planning further attacks.
Fourth, I intended the conference to focus on how we can prevent terrorism and violent extremism. Improved security will never be enough. We need to address the underlying conditions that make people susceptible to toxic ideologies.
Terrorism is a transnational threat that cannot be defeated by any single government or organization. It needs a concerted multilateral response at global, regional and national levels. It is essential to strengthen counter-terrorism structures and institutions. But we must also address root causes by promoting education, tackling youth unemployment and addressing marginalization. That means engaging with local communities, religious organizations and the media. Civil society is central to our broader counter-terrorism strategies.
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