Data-driven Tools, Strategies Must Be at Heart of Building Peace, Security: UN Secretary-General

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the ninth meeting of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact, in New York:

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I am pleased to join you for this ninth meeting of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact.  Since its launch in 2018, this Compact has grown to 45 member and observer entities and has also started meaningful engagement with civil society and private sector partners.  Your work is more important than ever.

Terrorism remains a global scourge — an affront to humanity on every level.  It affects people of all ages, cultures, religions and nationalities.

For women and girls in particular, terrorism is often marked by sexual and gender-based violence.  For communities, terrorism makes it more difficult to break the chains of poverty, or create stable political and economic systems, or build resilience against climate disasters.  For people already facing grinding poverty, hunger and famine, terrorism makes life exponentially worse — as we see in the Sahel and elsewhere.

More broadly, terrorism takes a sledgehammer to our shared values, institutions and norms and standards.  Human rights.  The rule of law.  Equal and sustainable development.  And the peace and security that every country and region of the world deserves.

Terrorism finds its home in vacuums.  A vacuum of security.  A vacuum of effective political and civic institutions.  A vacuum of opportunity and hope.  A vacuum of respect for human rights, equality and dignity — especially for minorities and women and girls.  And a vacuum of guardrails for technology, where terror can spread at the touch of a button.

That’s why the proposed New Agenda for Peace must focus on a holistic and comprehensive approach to building more peaceful and stable societies in which terror has no home.  Through prevention, by addressing the economic and social conditions that can lead to terrorism in the first place.  Through inclusion, by ensuring that counter-terrorism strategies reflect a wide array of voices, communities and constituencies — especially minorities, women and young people.  And through placing human rights and the rule of law at the core of all counter-terrorism policies.

Terrorism represents the denial and destruction of human rights.  And so the fight against terrorism will never succeed if we perpetuate the same denial and destruction.

Combating terror must never be used as an excuse for trampling on people’s human rights.  We need to firmly ground all counter-terrorism policies and initiatives within human rights.  Because when we protect human rights, we are in fact tackling many of the root causes of terrorism.

But as this meeting reminds us, today’s rapidly evolving terrorism threat requires an equally nimble and adaptive response, grounded in data and evidence.  Data drives every aspect of economic, business and social life.  Combined with a lawless cyberspace, data also fuels the increasingly intertwined world of terror and crime.

While terrorists and criminals often pursue different agendas and strategies, they are both fuelled by crimes like drug smuggling, human trafficking and illicit financing.  Our counter-terror responses need to stay one step ahead.

But when it comes to the collection, analysis and strategic use of data, we are several steps behind.  We need to place data-driven tools and strategies at the heart of our approach to building peace and security — including counter-terrorism efforts.  And we need to use data and evidence to evaluate the effectiveness of terrorism prevention activities and policies — and especially, to ensure that human rights are upheld throughout.

This must include the essential rights and dignity of the victims of terrorism.  Not just by remembering those people who have been killed by terrorist acts.  But by supporting and helping to heal those who have been injured and displaced by terrorism.

In all that we do to prevent and end terrorism, we must keep the needs of victims front-and-centre.  And we must honour the memory of those whose lives have been so cruelly snatched away by this scourge by working to end it, once and for all.

Every step of the way, we need this Compact and its working groups to continue building close ties to Member States and other partners to gather, analyse and deploy data for insight, impact and integrity.

As we look to the upcoming review of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in June, let us strengthen multilateral collaboration and confront transnational terrorist threats that are more persistent, diverse and complex than ever.  I look forward to hearing your ideas on how we can gather more entities, groups and countries to this essential cause.


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