“It is estimated that an average of 15,000 to 20,000 people are killed or injured by landmines each year worldwide. Initially, it was hoped that an agreement banning the production, sale, stockpiling and use of landmines could be reached in the U.N. Conference on Disarmament, a traditional forum for negotiation.  However, frustrated by the international community’s inability to conclude a truly comprehensive agreement, a coalition of like-minded states and non-governmental organizations vowed to go it alone and pursue their own fast-track diplomacy. The Ottawa Process, as it was dubbed, broke new ground in public diplomacy by allowing non-state actors to participate directly in the negotiations. It was a case of “unconventional diplomacy.” Thanks to this concerted effort, in little more than a year, 123 countries signed a comprehensive treaty ban on landmines.”[1]

In December 1997 the “Ottawa Process” set the record for the fastest treaty to be ratified by such a large number of countries (as of April 2010, 156 countries had signed). To this day, it is a success story that demonstrates the possibilities when national leaders caucus with civil society groups in all phases of a plan; from development to implementation to review.

That is why in today’s battle against violent extremism, the passing of counterterrorism measures (CTMs) that restrict or bar civil society groups makes no sense. Through their first-hand experience of working in conflict zones and among marginalized communities, civil society actors have gained valuable insight about the causes and alleviation of insecurity. The familiarity of civil society groups on a range of social and economic issues has been the catalyst for significant improvements in the quality of life and security for people around the world.
These groups should be embraced, not restricted with counterproductive legislative and regulatory measures that jeopardize their abilities to meet the needs of vulnerable populations in the world’s hot spots.
A May 2011 report from the Fourth Freedom Forum and the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies traces the many harmful impacts of overly broad counterterrorism measures adopted since 9/11.  Friend not Foe: Opening Spaces for Civil Society Engagement to Prevent Violent Extremism emphasizes the positive contributions civil society make in reducing the conditions that give rise to terrorists.   More about the report can be found here.
It’s time for governments to recognize and protect the work of these groups and eliminate counterproductive CTMs that hinder their missions.
[1] from Julian Davis’ paper: The Campaign to Ban Landmines: Public Diplomacy, Middle Power Leadership and an Unconventional Negotiating Process.  Available at: http://jha.ac/articles/a134.htm