UN chief: Fight extremism with education, social media

United Nations: The nature of terrorism, including the increased radicalisation of individuals through social media, has changed over the last decade and violent extremism can only be eradicated by including preventive measures, the United Nations chief said in a report to the 193-member General Assembly. Ban Ki-moon’s study calls on member states to employ conflict resolution, empower youth, develop educational opportunities and embrace human rights in the battle against terrorism.

The report is part of the General Assembly’s two-year review that ends yesterday of the UN’s 10-year-old global counter-terrorism strategy. “We need to pay more attention to why individuals are attracted to violent extremist groups,” Ban wrote. In September 2006, the General Assembly adopted a strategy to support national, regional and international efforts to battle terrorism. Its basic tenets included prevention, the building up of countries’ capacities to fight terrorism, strengthening the UN’s role, as well as ensuring the rule of law.

Members adopted by consensus a resolution yesterday incorporating many of Ban’s suggestions as the world body seeks to adapt to developments in international terrorism and violent extremism over the past decade.

Ban noted that in recent years terrorist groups such as the Islamic State, Al-Qaida and Boko Haram “have shaped our image of violent extremism and the debate on how to address the threat.” He said in recent years these groups have effectively used social media to communicate their “ideas and exploits.” Catherine Calothy, an anti-terrorism official in France’s ministry of foreign affairs, welcomed the recommendations for preventing radicalisation.

She said she hoped for a swift military defeat of (the Islamic State), but said the phenomenon of radicalization would continue. “Prevention is an issue that no state can ignore,” she said. Ban said young people should be empowered by supporting their participation in activities that prevent violent extremism and engage them in decision making at national and international levels, especially those from under-represented groups.

He also pointed to the importance of education and jobs and called on member nations to develop communications strategies to counter the social media messages of violent extremists.Britain’s Ambassador to the United Nations Matthew Rycroft applauded the resolution and said it raises the “global ambition to do more together” to fight terrorism after a decade in which the UN as a whole could have been more effective. “Collectively we could have done more,” he said.

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