Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism

Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism

There is a growing global consensus on the fact that Member States' efforts to detect, disrupt, pursue, detain and/or prosecute terrorists cannot defeat violent extremism without interventions to counter the ideologies that stimulate the flow of recruits into these criminal organizations.

Many Member States have expressed a desire to learn and share information about each other’s experiences, lessons learned and good practices in this respect. The UNICRI action in this field is conceived to meet the need to identify innovative means to prevent and counter radicalization and terrorist recruitment, and provide Member States with actionable knowledge to strengthen national capacity.

UNICRI’s work on countering radicalization and violent extremism

UNICRI is member of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact. The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact is an agreed framework between the Secretary-General and the heads of United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force entities. It aims to strengthen a common action approach to coordination and coherence in the counter-terrorism and prevention of violent extremism (PVE) work of the United Nations system, and to strengthen support to Member States, at their request, in the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and other relevant United Nations resolutions and mandates.

The UNICRI Counter-Terrorism Programme is established as a response to the desire of many Member States to improve knowledge and information-sharing regarding each others’ experiences, lessons learned, and good practices. UNICRI contributed to the Rome Memorandum on Good Practices for Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders adopted by the GCTF Ministerial Meeting in Istanbul in June 2012.

The Memorandum constitutes the first international ‘soft law’ instrument in addressing the threat of terrorism radicalization and recruitment in prison settings. Its guiding principles serve as a sound foundation for policies on prison issues worldwide particularly with respect to the rehabilitation of violent extremists.

Relevant activities

Rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for violent extremist offenders in prisons

UNICRI assists requesting Member States to design, plan, develop and implement rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for violent extremist offenders in prisons.  The initiative supports the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (GA Resolution 60/288). UNICRI's work is focusing on the fourth pillar of the Strategy on measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism. The initiative is based on the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the guidelines of the GCTF Rome Memorandum on Good Practices for Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders.

UNICRI adopts a multidisciplinary approach involving national and international experts from different thematic areas (correctional management, prison reform, psychology, religious counseling, reintegration and after-care, counter-terrorism). It is of key importance that the process is lead by the requesting Member State and that the national authorities must have ownership of the entire process, from the need assessment to the implementation phase.

Foreign Terrorist Fighters

The United Nations Security Council adopted on 24 September 2014 its landmark resolution 2178 which calls upon all Member States “to cooperate in efforts to address the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, including by preventing the radicalization to terrorism and recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters, (…) and developing and implementing prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration strategies for returning foreign terrorist fighters.”

In this context, UNICRI jointly organized with the Global Counter Terrorism Forum the Expert Workshops "Reintegrating Returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters: Challenges and Lessons Learned" (Rome, Italy 11 -12 December 2014). The workshop gathered together experts, practitioners and policy makers from more than 25 countries as well as representatives of civil society and international organizations. The discussions highlighted the need for a comprehensive and coordinated approach, including the involvement of different levels of policy makers (from local to international) and different actors; the need for cooperation and information sharing; as well as the need to take into consideration the differences and the specific challenges faced by different regions.

A Regional Technical Workshop entitled "Responding to the Threat of Returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters" was jointly organized by UNICRI and the Republic of the Philippines  (Manila 3-5 August 2015). The workshop provided a platform for a regional exchange of experiences, best practices and information with regard to the threat posed by returning FTFs and the existing responses implemented so far. Particular attention has been devoted to challenges for effective rehabilitation and reintegration programmes and for engaging key actors such as families, civil society and the full range of government entities. UNICRI will work with the interested countries in preparing a technical report on risks, capabilities and rehabilitation approaches, contributing to the efforts taken by the countries in developing an action agenda, to better respond to the call of the UN Security Council Resolution 2178.

Countering Radicalisation and Violent Extremism in the Sahel-Maghreb Region

The project started in July 2015 and will run for four years. Activities will focus on Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso. The main aim of the project is to launch, implement and evaluate innovative projects aimed at preventing and countering radicalization, terrorist recruitment and violent extremism in the regions of the Sahel and Maghreb. Key component is the involvement of civil society actors, including NGOs, victims of terrorism, media, cultural associations, women and youth organizations.

In addition, the project will facilitate the sharing of experiences, guidelines and good practices in the region and among the different stakeholders. It will support cross border cooperation and the establishment of synergies and mutual understanding between civil society groups and institutions. The programme combines the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy, the EU Strategy for Combating Radicalization and Recruitment to Terrorism, the EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel and the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

Study on Juvenile Justice in a Counter-terrorism Context

Anti-terrorist legislation and law enforcement measures have not given sufficient consideration to the fact that some of the suspected or alleged “terrorists” are under the age of 18. Due consideration should be paid to the vulnerability of children and juveniles when developing counter terrorism policies and legislation seeking to integrate international standards of juvenile justice into national counter-terrorism frameworks.  The aim of the project is to support of the adoption of evidence-based policies in counter terrorism in light of international and national juvenile justice standards  UNICRI has produced a research paper aimed at providing an overview of the rules, regulations, standards, jurisprudence and administrative practices concerning children and juveniles in counter-terrorism contexts, both at the international level as well as in a sample of countries of different legal traditions (common law, civil law, Islamic law).

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