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The Rome Conference for Libya

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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Photo: State Department

As many as twenty-four countries gathered on February 2 last to finally decide how, to what extent and where to start opposing the Daesh/Isis expansion to Syria-Iraq and particularly to Libya.

Those countries included Turkey, accused by various sources of being part of the problem and not of the solution, as well as Saudi Arabia, which has never hidden its support for some Islamist factions in Syria and Iraq having connections with the Caliphate.

They also included Qatar, the Emirate which directly supports – in opposition to Saudi Arabia – the Muslim Brotherhood and some groups of the insurgency against President Assad in Syria.

Also the United States, however, supported and sometimes trained the Syrian group linked to Al Qaeda, the Jabat Al Nusra Front, with a view to combating Isis, as also recommended by General Petraeus, mindful of his surge in Iraq against Al Qaeda, organized with the mobilization of Al Anbar Sunni tribes.

Using the enemy against the enemy is an old formula of the 15th century alchemy and ruses, but I fear that strategic thinking is another thing.

Furthermore, according to some reports obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Hillary Clinton – when she was Secretary of State – was supposed to have supported and armed Qaedist and Muslim Brotherhood to combat Isis-Daesh both in Libya and in the crisis region stretching from Iraq to the Syrian coast.

Therefore, within the narrow scope of the war waged against the Caliphate, the meeting held on February 2 last at the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs – officially called “Ministerial Meeting of the Global Coalition against Daesh/Isis in the Small Group format” – is not a “coalition of the willing”, but rather a coalition of those who do not want to take actions or which take them so late as to jeopardize any action taken to oppose Isis/Daesh both in Libya and Syria.

In fact, the meeting was not attended by the country which has really taken decisions in the region threatened by Al Baghdadi, namely Russia, which has so far launched thousands of air strikes against the Caliphate, thus reducing its territorial size significantly.

The same holds true for Assad’s Syrian Baathist regime, with the Syrian Arab Army strengthened by the Russian contribution, or even for China which, while refusing to participate in any coalition, supports with weapons, equipment and intelligence the Russian effort that has so far avoided Al Baghdadi’ strategic point: reaching the Mediterranean coast and directly threatening the Atlantic Alliance and the “moderate” Arab countries.

Moreover, the US-led operation Inherent Resolve has so far launched over 20,300 attacks on Isis targets.

Hence why is Daesh/Isis still a terrible threat? Obviously because its territory is limited to the minimum required to manage the operations and also because the Caliph Al Baghdadi has been extraordinarily good at handling complex and differentiated relations between his Islamic supporters.

He has played the enemy with the friend and his enemies with each other.

“Allah (himself) does mock at them, and he leaves them alone in their inordinacy, blindly wandering on” (Surah Al-Baqarah, The Cow, verse 15)

Nevertheless the Caliph Al Baghdadi’s Islamic State has already lost about 14% of its original territory, mainly thanks to the Russian-Syrian and Iranian-Iraqi actions, but still rules essential cities for the passage of fighters, means and resources throughout the region: Mosul, Sinjar, Qaim, a large part of Fallujah, the suburbs of Ramadi and the refineries of Baiji.

Turkey has only waged its regional war, especially against the PKK Kurds, sometimes covertly by supporting the Caliphate so as to combat the Kurds and has then managed some Islamist groups with a view to opposing Russia.

In that region, every country has waged the war it liked most.

In fact, the Turkish leaders’ goal is the de facto annexation of the Syrian Sunni area which accounts for 74% of the population and, starting from there, the hegemonic reunification of Central Asia, by using the many Turkmen minorities , up to reaching China’s borders.

A return to the past of the Turkish civilization – turning from a tribe moving from Northeast Asia towards the sea and the region of the old Argonauts’ Golden Fleece into a civilization returning from the Mediterranean to its Asian roots.

Many years ago Carl Schmitt had that insight while thinking of rebuilding the great land empires against the North American and British “thalassocracies”.

Conversely, Saudi Arabia’s goal is to destroy a regime such as the Baathist and Alawite one, linked to Iran. Hence Saudi Arabia wants to regionalize and isolate Iran from the Mediterranean – since Iran has not a necessary buffer like Syria, which is useful to control and manage all oil and non-oil trade originating from Iran towards the Mediterranean and the European Union.

And to think that it was the wisdom of Louis Massignon, a distinguished Arabist and agent of the Deuxiéme Bureau, the Second Bureau of the General Staff (France’s external military intelligence agency) to favor the Alawites (also known, in ancient times, as nusayri, Islamic Gnostics influenced by early Christianity) and to support the quasi-Shi’ite Alawites in managing power in Syria, obviously to prevent the Sunni dominance.

And while Iran and its allies follow, for various reasons, the “party of Ali”, the Shi’a, and Saudi Arabia is closed to the north by a Yemen now run by the Houthi, who are also Shi’ites – while in the Eastern provinces of the Wahhabi Kingdom and in Bahrain the Shi’ite uprising of the workers of the largest Saudi Arabia’s oil fields and gas deposits will break out – on the other side of the Persian Gulf, Iran will manage the uprising thus becoming the absolute master of the Shatt el Arab.

For the Islamic Republic of Iran, managing the maritime, military and economic passageway of the sea crossing where over 70% of world seaborne trade transits is a vital objective. It is the culmination of a no longer regional – and even directly religious – hegemony.

Furthermore, together with the P5+1, the United States have accepted the military Denuclearization Plan of Iran, the Russian pivotal ally in the Middle East.

However, regardless of the actual substance of the JCPOA treaty reached by the P5+1 with Iran, this should make the United States think that the strategic equation of the region must be changed.

This means using Iran to oppose the jihadists and achieve a strategic rebalancing with Saudi Arabia, in exchange for a “new deal” with Israel and the creation of a corridor of alliances between the Iranian Shi’ites, Russia, China and the other nations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Instead of being tied down to “the Saudi lobby”, the United States could start playing at many tables, thus having greater strategic autonomy and putting stronger pressure on the Greater Middle East.

Hence a large containment action, which would ease tensions in that strategic region and put in place – in addition to SCO – a new possible loose alliance linked to the European Union and the United States.

This is the only way to better manage the next land and maritime Silk Way designed by President Xi Jinping.

But our ruling classes are still hostages to what the 17th century libertines called “the old thinking” and swing between a global strategy of generic economic agreements and the return of the old Cold War, while the global jihad is knocking at our doors and, indeed, has already cruelly entered our homes.

Hence is there someone who can really think of using “moderate” Islamists in the new Cold War? And to what end, given the expansion of China and its economic dominance?

Apart from the Russian Federation and the Sunni countries, in addition to Iran, which actively supports, also with ground forces, Assad’s regime and Russia itself, none of the twenty-four countries gathered at the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs has clear ideas on what to really do against Daesh/Isis both in Syria and Libya.

Obviously the United States want to avoid the Russian mainmise on the Syrian-Iraqi region, but this logically means that they must somehow support a few Islamist groups that claim they are fighting against the Caliphate. Tertium non datur.

It is worth recalling that some US military trainers were precisely those who set up – with moderate “Islamists” somehow linked to the Muslim Brotherhood – the real “Kominform” of the jihad, a sort of 30th Brigade which, in a first phase, after its passage from Jordan, refused to fight against the Al-Qaeda faction in Syria. Later on some members of the Brigade even defected to Isis, starting from Turkey. Hence the result was exactly the opposite of the one initially planned.

Basically the United States do not want a Syrian-Iraqi area where Russia can “give cards” and master the game in view of a new bilateral confrontation between the United States and Russia. But, apart from the old needs of the “military-industrial complex” that also President Eisenhower feared, what is the strategic logic of a new world bipolar structure, with China which is going to be the first global economy?

In fact the US Forces in Europe are increasing in number (by several thousands) and efficiency, so as to “strengthen” the Eastern European countries’ resistance against Russian influence.

A dangerous bipartition of European security, which is either unitary or does not exist.

But here the strategic equation becomes trivial: either Russia is opposed at global level – and hence the Caliphate’s wound in Syria and Iraq is left open – or a new type of relationship between NATO and the Russian Federation is redefined so as to have a political project and sufficient human and material resources to eradicate the jihad from Syria and Libya.

Once again, tertium non datur.

It is also worth recalling that the magnitude of terrorist attacks will certainly increase, along with their apparent randomness and their distribution throughout the world.

It is a war for infra-Islamic hegemony between the jihad and the Koranic “apostate” areas, but the end point is also domination over Western countries and over their immigrant populations, as well as over the “infidels.”

And we must not forget that this is the real stake.

In the case of Libya, we are faced once again with an almost total lack of strategic and geopolitical vision.

Meanwhile, the various Libyan factions have no interest in coming together to then accept military aid from Italy, Great Britain, Holland, the United States and France.

Indeed, it is now likely for the tripartite territory of post-Gaddafi’s Libya to remain what it is today: Fezzan, Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and the areas of the Toubu and the Tuaregh, with further internal differentiations.

It is true that some Europeans maintain we could intervene also without the official request for a joint Libyan government, but obviously our alliance with one single Libyan force on the field would automatically mean that the others are at war against us.

As is well-known, the Parliament of Tobruk – which is the only internationally recognized one – has not accepted the list of Ministers proposed by Al Serraj, the candidate as Prime Minister of the “national unity government”.

The official excuse regards the excessive length of the list of Ministers – as many as thirty-two – but the essence and the substance of the political conflict is different.

It regards the tough opposition of General Khalifa Haftar, the Head of Operation Dignity and Supreme Commander of the Army of the same Parliament in Tobruk.

Meanwhile Caliph Al Baghdadi’s “sword jihad” is organizing itself along the coast; it targets oil infrastructure and therefore aims at biting the jugular vein of the European system.

It does so through oil and, in particular, the jihad strategic point is the management of the over ten million migrants who will leave Mesopotamia to come to Europe according to the pace and time-schedule set by the jihadists.

And Turkey will demand a high price by using its three million refugees as an indirect strategic weapon against the European Union, the Middle East and Libya.

A demographic bomb intended, at first, to destroy the EU Welfare State and later to destabilize our democracies.

Obviously, behind the superficial idea of a “surgical” action in Libya, there is mainly the EU governments’ desire to reduce the tension and concern of their publics, still worried by the para-terrorist attacks in Paris and in many other nations: just think of the 635 women in Cologne who reported to the police the rape attempts and the other offenses perpetrated by over a thousand Maghreb Arabs.

But “feelings” and psychology do not define a strategy.

And the jihadists in Libya already range between 2,800 and 3,500 – including 1,600 in the Sirte region, in the Libyan “oil crescent”.

The Daesh/Isis members are not so many, but quite enough to trigger off a mesh of power similar to the Syrian-Iraqi one: the management of some cities and points of contact between them, without expanding on a desert territory which is useless to retain.

The Caliph Al Baghdadi is the Islamist and jihadist revival of Lawrence of Arabia: the British lieutenant was not interested in land. For him the desert was to be militarily intended as sea: only the lines and routes, and not the entire and huge expanse of water, are to be controlled.

I would define the Isis/Daesh war as an interdiction war – hence the issue does not lie in “eating” the territory away, but in developing a strategy and a tactic which are equal and opposite.

We must organize the resistance and protection of the cities that Isis needs to conquer, as well as the very tough management of connection and communication lines, and finally make the enemy drown into the void stretching between our nerve centers and their lines.

Furthermore, considering that the Isis/Daesh strategy is asymmetrical and “hybrid”, we, too, should do the same.

We can and we must use against Daesh/Isis what is improperly called “terrorism” (which is, in fact, the jihad) so as to destabilize it, intimidate and frighten its militants and especially eradicate its covers among civilians, as well as finally restrict the terrorists’ scope of action.

Wars en dentelles or the old cry of the French captains during the Thirty Years’ War, Messieurs les Anglais, tirez les premiers!, are no longer possible.

I dare not even imagine what will be written on the Rules of Engagement (ROE) of a possible Euro-American action on the Libyan territory.

I am reminded of the Italian ROE in the first phase of our engagement in Afghanistan, which seemed written by Monsignor della Casa, the author of the famous treatise Il Galateo overo de’ costumi.

As experienced by Russia during its actions in Ukraine, in modern warfare we cannot make too many differences between civilians and the military, between soldiers and uniformed officers and guerrillas, between psywar actions and real war operations.

Moreover, what should Western troops do in Libya?

Should they curb or wipe out the excessive power of Isis, which can rely on de facto alliances which would remain in place, like the one with “Libyan Dawn”, which is also the enemy of General Haftar’s forces?

Should they carry out the usual UN “State-building” activity, although many local people do not want a State but only their political system? Furthermore, who would participate in this State-building activity?

The forces which are now fighting each other bloodily or the usual “moderate jihadists” revived for the occasion?

Should our troops perhaps organize the protection of cities from ISIS (which is not only a military, but also a political problem) or the protection of oil infrastructure, without considering the network of people traffickers?

In short, there is a fact which has become clear: the West can no longer wage war, hence it will never be able to achieve real peace.

And here we are at war on a ground and with actions defined by our enemy – an opponent we have left basically undisturbed for three years.

Therefore the strategic asymmetry plays completely against us.

And I do not even rule out the possibility that some of the governments which want to take action have already thought of negotiating with some Libyan Islamist forces, with a view to avoiding the worst and minimizing the presence of our military in the country

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

Terrorism

Stateless and Leftover ISIS Brides

Sagar N

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While the World is busy fighting the pandemic and the economic devastation caused by it, one of the important problem that has been pushed to dormancy, is the status of the ISIS(Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) brides. The Pandemic has crippled the capacity of the law enforcement and exploiting this the ISIS executed attacks in Maldives, Iraq, and the Philippines. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that terrorists are exploiting the COVID-19 Pandemic. Albeit the ISIS has been defeated, approximately ten thousand of them are in ISIS detention centres in Northern Syria under Kurds. Most of these detention centres are filled by women and children, who are relatives or widows of the ISIS fighters. With their native states denouncing them, the status of the stateless women and children is unclear.

As it stands today states’ counter-terrorism approach has been primarily targeting male militants but women also have played a role in strengthening these terrorist organizations. Women involvement in militant organizations has increased as they perform several activities like birthing next-generation militants/jihadists, managing the logistics and recruiting the new members to the organizations. The world did not recognize women as key players in terrorist organizations until the 1980s when females held major roles in guerilla wars of southern America. Women have either willingly or unwillingly held a variety of roles in these extremist organizations and Islamist terrorist organizations like Hamas and al-Qaeda women do simply provide moral support.

According to the media reports since the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2006 female suicide attacks have been increased and they have been extensively part of ISIS. The ISIS had a female brigade which they called as Al-Khansaa which was established to perform search activities in the state. Both foreign and domestic recruits in the Islamic state have participated in brutal torture. A recently acquired logbook from a guesthouse in Syria provides important information about 1100 females who joined the organization, the western women who are called as ‘the muhajirat’.

When the people from rest of the world joined organizations such as ISIS, they burnt their passports and rejected their national identity. Especially women from western countries who were radicalized online based on their phenomenon ‘ISIS brides/Jihadi brides’ to marry terrorists. Since Islamic State isnot recognized by the world these marriages are not legally valid, apart from this a number of these brides have experienced sexual torture and extreme violence.

While the erstwhile members of the extremist organizations like ISIS and others are left adrift the one challenging question remaining is should states and their societies keep them and reengage or rehabilitate or prosecute them. How firmly the idea of their erstwhile organization is stuck in their minds and especially the followers who crossed the world to join remains a concern to many. The U.S backed Kurdish forces across turkey border hold thousands of these left-behind women and children in their centre. Hundreds of foreign women and children who were once part of an aspirant state, The caliphate are now floating around the concentration camps in Syria, Turkey and Kurdish detention centres and prisons. Many are waiting to return to their origin countries. They pose a unique challenge to their native states like whether to include them or not and even if they include how to integrate adults who at least for a time part of these terrorist organizations and what to do with children who are too young to understand the politics and obstacles keeping them in camps and detention centres where resources are scarce. Women present a problem because its hard to know what kind of crimes they have committed beyond the membership of the terrorist organization.

It is no secret that women also have been part of insurgency across the world, like in ISIS,LTTE,PIRA and PFLP. The responsibility of women in ISIS includes wife to ISIS soldiers, birthing the next generation of jihad and advancing ISIS’ global reach through online recruiting. The International Center for Study of Radicalization (ICAR) estimates that out of 40000 people joined ISIS from 80 different countries nearly 8000 are women and children. After the defeat of ISIS and such extreme organization those who are left behind possess the ideological commitment and practical skills which again a threat upon return to home countries.

The states across the world are either revoking the citizenship or ignore their responsibility. The most famous case of Shamima  Begum a UK citizen married to an ISIS fighter whose citizenship was revoked by the UK government. In other cases like HodaMuthana of the USA and Iman Osman of Tunisia have been the same case. As recently as Tooba Gondal an ISIS bride who now in a detention camp in northern Syria begged to go home in the UK in a public apology.

The American president Donald Trump issued a statement saying women who joined ISIS cannot return. The NATO deputy head said “…returning ISIS fighters and brides must face full rigours of the law”. Revoking the citizenship and making someone stateless is illegal under international law and it is also important to know how gendered these cases are because the UK have successfully prosecuted Mohammad Uddin and the USA has also done it so. Stripping off their citizenship itself a punishment before proper trail and the only good out of it would state can take their hands off in dealing with cases. Samantha Elhassani the only American who repatriated from Iraq so far and pleaded guilty for supporting ISIS. Meanwhile, France is trying to route its citizens who joined the ISIS and extradited few who are under trial in Bagdad.

As experts and political analysts say “countries should take responsibility for their own citizens” because failure to do so will also make the long term situation more dangerous as jihadists will try to a hideout and turn into militant groups for their protection. The children, the second-generation ISIS need cultural centres and rehabilitation centres and this is an international problem. These women known as jihadists brides suffer from a post-traumatic stress disorder and many are pregnant or multiple children born in ISIS territory.

In some countries travelling abroad to join the insurgencies in North Africa and Syria was not always a criminal act, Sweden criminalized such act recently but to prosecute them proof of offences committed in the conflict zone is difficult to collect and most countries in the world do not allow the pre-trial detention for more than 14 days. With problems of different national Lawson extradition and capital punishment and to prosecute them in conflict countries is also a challenge for states. Since Kurdish forces have signalled that they cannot bring all the prisoners into justice the home countries will have to act or else it might create a long term dangerous situation. With the civil war in Syria is about to end it is time to address these issues because since there are more ISIS fighters in Kurdish prisons and detention centres they could be influenced to join rebels who are fighting the regime of Assad in last standing province of Idlib.

If the governments reject the repatriation applications then they will be signalling that their action is essential for national security and thus asserting that failed or poorly resourced states are better equipped to handle potential extremists. The criminal system in Iraq is corrupt and human rights violations have been reported and which creates the risk of further radicalization. One should not forget that even citizenship of Osama bin laden was also stripped but which did not stop him from forming al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. If the citizens commit crimes and forget their responsibility then the states must bring them to justice instead of stripping citizenship. The states must come with a solution for this problem before its too late, setting up an international tribunal to deal with these cases would be a great start but these tribunals are time-consuming and expensive.

States must act as a responsible actor in the international system. Jihadist terrorism is a global problem and states must act together to deal with it because with nearly 40000 fighters joining caliphate from across the world it only shows how global and deeply rooted the phenomenon is. Instead of stripping their citizens’ citizenship, states must find a way to act together for the peace and security of the international community.

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Terrorism

COVID-19: Game-changer for international peace and security

Newsroom

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In Iraq, children look over a wall at clouds of smoke from burning oil wells, the result of oil fires set by ISIL. © UNICEF/Lindsay Mackenzie

The world has “entered a volatile and unstable new phase” in terms of the impact of COVID-19 on peace and security, the UN chief told a virtual meeting with world leaders on Wednesday.

Speaking at one of a series of international meetings among heads of State to enhance global cooperation in fighting terrorism and violent extremism, as part of the Aqaba Process, Secretary-General António Guterres said the pandemic was more than a global health crisis.

“It is a game-changer for international peace and security”, he spelled out, emphasizing that the process can play a key role in “promoting unity and aligning thinking” on how to beat back the pandemic.

Warning lights flashing

Mr. Guterres maintained that the coronavirus has exposed the basic fragility of humankind, laid bare systemic and entrenched inequalities, and thrust into the spotlight, geopolitical challenges and security threats.

“The warning lights are flashing”, he said, pointing out that as the virus is “exacerbating grievances, undermining social cohesion and fueling conflicts”, it is also likely to “act as a catalyst in the spread of terrorism and violent extremism”.

Moreover, international tensions are being driven by supply chain disruptions, protectionism and growing nationalism – with rising unemployment, food insecurity and climate change, helping to fuel political unrest.

A generation in crosshairs

The UN chief also noted that a generation of students is missing school.

“A whole generation…has seen its education disrupted”, he stated. “Many young people are experiencing a second global recession in their short lives.”

He explained that they feel left out, neglected and disillusioned by their prospects in an uncertain world.

Wanted: Global solidarity 

The pandemic has highlighted vulnerabilities to emerging threats such as bioterrorism and cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure.

“The world faces grave security challenges that no single country or organization can address alone”, upheld the Secretary-General, “there is an urgent need for global unity and solidarity”.

Recalling the UN’s Virtual Counter-Terrorism Week in July, he reminded that participants called for a “reinvigorated commitment to multilateralism to combat terrorism and violent extremism”.

However, a lack of international cooperation to tackle the pandemic has been “startling”, Mr. Guterres said, highlighting national self-interest, transactional information sharing and manifestations of authoritarianism. 

‘Put people first’

The UN chief stressed that “we must not return to the status quo ante“.

He outlined the need to put people first, by enhancing information sharing and technical cooperation “to prevent terrorists exploiting the pandemic for their own nefarious goals” and thinking “long-term solutions rather than short-term fixes”.

“This includes upholding the rights and needs of victims of terrorism…[and] the repatriation of foreign terrorist fighters, especially women and children,  and their dependents to their countries of origin”, he elaborated.

Closing window 

Meanwhile, the risk of COVID-19 is exacerbating the already dire security and humanitarian situation in Syrian and Iraqi camps housing refugees and the displaced.

“The window of opportunity is closing so we must seize the moment”, the UN chief said. “We cannot ignore our responsibilities and leave children to fend for themselves and at the mercy of terrorist exploitation”.

He also expressed confidence that the Aqaba Process will continue to “strengthen international counter-terrorism cooperation, identify and fill capacity gaps, and address evolving security threats associated with the pandemic”, and offered the UN’s “full support”.

Post-COVID rebuilding 

The Secretary-General also addressed the Centenary Summit of the International Organization of Employers (IOE) on how private and public sector cooperation can help drive post-COVID change. 

He lauded the IOE’s “significant contributions” to global policymaking for economic and social progress, job creation and a mutually beneficial business environment, calling it “an important pillar of the International Labour Organization (ILO) since its earliest days”.  

“Today, our primary task is to defeat the pandemic and rebuild lives, livelihoods, businesses, and economies”, he told the virtual Summit.

In building back, he underscored that workers and small business be protected, and everyone be given the opportunity to fulfil their potential. 

Businesses input

The UN chief urged businesses to engage with the multilateral system to create a “conducive global environment for decent work, investment, and sustainability”; and with the UN at the national level, to help ensure that multilateralism “works on the ground”.    

He also encouraged them to actively participate in national and global public-private dialogue and initiatives, stressing, “there must be space for them to do so”. 

Tripartite cooperation

ILO chief Guy Ryder highlighted the need for “conscious policy decisions and tripartite cooperation to overcome transformational challenges”, such as technological change and climate change, as well as COVID-19. 

Mr. Ryder also flagged that employers must continue to collaborate in social dialogue and maintain their commitment to both multilateralism and the ILO.

The IOE represents more than 50 million companies and is a key partner in the international multilateral system for over 100 years as the voice of business at the ILO, across the UN, the G20 richest countries and other emerging forums.

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Terrorism

Traumas of terrorism cannot be erased, but victims’ voices must never be forgotten

Newsroom

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In remembering and honouring all victims of terrorism, Secretary-General António Guterres said the UN stands by those who grieve and those who “continue to endure the physical and psychological wounds of terrorist atrocities”.

“Traumatic memories cannot be erased, but we can help victims and survivors by seeking truth, justice and reparation, amplifying their voices and upholding their human rights”, he stressed.

Keep spotlight on victims, even amid pandemic

This year’s commemoration takes place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, when vital services for victims, such as criminal justice processes and psychosocial support, have been interrupted, delayed or ended as Governments focus attention and resources on fighting the pandemic.

Moreover, many memorials and commemorations have been cancelled or moved online, hampering the ability of victims to find solace and comfort together. 

And the current restrictions have also forced the first-ever UN Global Congress of Victims of Terrorism has to be postponed until next year.

“But it is important that we keep a spotlight on this important issue,” stressed the UN chief.

“Remembering the victims of terrorism and doing more to support them is essential to help them rebuild their lives and heal”, said Mr. Guterres, including work with parliamentarians and governments to draft and adopt legislation and national strategies to help victims.

The Secretary-General vowed that “the UN stands in solidarity with all victims of terrorism – today and every day” and underscored the need to “ensure that those who have suffered are always heard and never forgotten”.

Terrorism unjustifiable

General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande saluted the resilience of terrorist survivors and called the day “an opportunity to honour the memories of the innocent civilians who have lost their lives as a result of terrorist acts around the world”.

“Terrorism, in all forms and manifestations, can never be justified”, he stated. “Acts of terrorism everywhere must be strongly condemned”.
The UN commits to combating terrorism and the Assembly has adopted resolutions to curb the scourge while working to establish and maintain peace and security globally. 

Strengthen assistance

Mechanisms for survivors must be strengthened to safeguard a “full recovery, rehabilitation and re-integration into society through long-term multi-dimensional support”, stated the UN official.

“Together we can ensure that you live a full life defined by dignity and freedom. You are not alone in this journey. You are not forgotten”, concluded the Assembly president.

‘Human dimension’ 

Closing the event, Vladimir Voronkov, chief of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, maintained that victims represent “the very human dimension of terrorism”.

While terrorists try to depersonalize victims by reducing them to mere numbers or statistics, Mr. Voronkov maintained that “we have a responsibility to do the exact opposite”.

“We must see victims’ hopes, dreams and daily lives that have been shattered by terrorist violence – a shattering that carries on long after the attack is over”, he stated. “We must ensure their human rights are upheld and their needs are met”.

Reaffirming humanity

While acknowledging the “terrible reality of terrorism”, Mr. Voronkov flagged that the survivors shine as “examples of resilience, and beacons of hope, courage and solidarity in the face of adversity”.

In reaffirming “our common humanity”, he urged everyone to raise awareness of victims needs and rights.

“Let us commit to showing them that they are not alone and will never be forgotten”, concluded the Counter-Terrorism chief.

Survivors remember

At the virtual event, survivors shared their stories while under lockdown, agreeing that the long-term impacts of surviving any kind of an attack is that the traumatic experience never really goes away.

Tahir from Pakistan lost his wife in attack against the UN World Food Programme (WFP) office in Islamabad.  

“If you have an accident, you know how to cope with it. Terminal illness, you know how to cope with it. But there is no coping mechanism for a person who dies in an act of terror”, he said.

Meanwhile Nigeel’s father perished in the 1998 US Embassy attack in Kenya, when he was just months years old. 

The 22 year-old shared: “When you are growing, it really doesn’t have a heavy impact on you, but as life starts to unfold, mostly I’ll find myself asking if I do this and my dad was around, would he be proud of me?”

And Julie, from Australia, lost her 21-year-old daughter in the 2017 London Bridge attack.

“The Australian police came to our house and said ‘we have a body, still not confirmed’, so they recommended that we fly to London”, she recalled. “I can’t describe how devastating as a parent to lose a child in these circumstances is for the rest of your life”.

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More can be done to ensure a green recovery from COVID-19 crisis

Many countries are making “green” recovery measures a central part of stimulus packages to drive sustainable, inclusive, resilient economic growth...

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