On Mar. 9, 2023, the Global Center on Cooperative Security hosted the event, “Civil Society Reflections on the 2023 Report of the Secretary-General on Activities of the United Nations System in Implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy,” held at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber at the United Nations (UN) headquarters and virtually. During the high-level event, Charity & Security Network’s (C&SN)’s Associate Director, Policy & Advocacy, Ashleigh Subramanian-Montgomery delivered remarks from the floor (1:25:05 – 1:29:20) highlighting the negative impacts overly broad and vague UN counter-terrorism measures have on civil society and calling for action from UN Member States to address this.
The Report of the Secretary-General provides UN Member States an overview of the UN’s progress and accomplishments towards implementing the UN Global Counter-terrorism Strategy (GCTS) (A/RES/60/288). First adopted by the General Assembly (GA) in 2006, the biennial GCTS operates as a “living document attuned to Member States’ counter-terrorism priorities”, and serves as “a unique global instrument to enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter terrorism.” The release of the Report of the Secretary General kicks off negotiations amongst Member States regarding priorities for the 8th Review of the GCTS, ahead of its upcoming adoption by the GA in June 2023. This will provide updates to the 7th Review (A/RES/75/291) from June 2021.
During Subramanian-Montgomery’s intervention from the floor she urged Member States, in their negotiations ahead of the adoption of the 8th GCTS, to: “Be brave in your asks. Be bold in your asks. And remember that your asks are not only for the UN, not only for Member States, and not even only for civil society – your asks are for those whose faces you will likely never see, and whose voices you will likely never hear, but whose lives will undoubtedly be impacted by how the UN chooses to implement counter-terrorism. Ask for them. We have months to go before we sleep. The time is now. Ask for them.”
Thank you to the Global Center for hosting this high-level event, to the Permanent Representatives of Canada and Tunisia, Ambassadors Robert Rae and Tarek Ladeb, to fellow civil society colleagues, and to the honorable Special Rapporteur.
Today we are here to reflect on the Report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. We are all well aware of how overly broad and vague counter-terrorism measures negatively impact civil society and disrupt their operating environment. And we know that disruptions to civil society’s operating environment are really disruptions to the conditions conducive to combating terrorist threats.
As the Special Rapporteur has diligently noted throughout her mandate, counter-terrorism measures are inherently gendered, and while some progress has been made, counter-terrorism still lacks truly intersectional gender analysis and integration. As we sit in this very ECOSOC Chamber, all around us are meetings for the Commission on the Status of Women, the largest civil society gathering to advance women’s rights and gender equality. Yesterday was International Women’s Day. This month is Women’s History Month. If we don’t move from recognition and rhetoric to action and accountability for the women, girls, and sexual and gender minorities, who continue to be disproportionately impacted by counter-terrorism measures now, then when will we?
We don’t need the mere recognition of the importance of women’s leadership and expertise in countering terrorism, we need the women who experience the most marginalization to not only be in the rooms where decisions are being made, but to be the ones making these decisions.
We don’t need the expansion of counter-terrorism budgets, we need the expansion of protections from reprisals for civil society actors who engage with the UN. We don’t need more resources poured into the UN’s counter-terrorism architecture, we need the existing architecture to embody, embrace, and integrate intersectional gender, human rights, and rule of law-based approaches.
As our Member State colleagues go into upcoming and ongoing negotiations, I urge you to be brave in the language and demands you ask for in the lead-up to the adoption of the Eighth UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. When you make your asks, remember those most impacted by counter-terrorism, and the power you have to create change for them. It’s not a guarantee that all of your asks will make it into the final Strategy. But it is a guarantee that anything you don’t ask for, won’t make it in.
Be brave in your asks. Be bold in your asks. And remember that your asks are not only for the UN, not only for Member States, and not even only for civil society – your asks are for those whose faces you will likely never see, and whose voices you will likely never hear, but whose lives will undoubtedly be impacted by how the UN chooses to implement counter-terrorism. Ask for them. We have months to go before we sleep. The time is now. Ask for them.
C&SN urges Member States to utilize this three-month negotiation period to commit to securing language that supports advancing intersectional gender, human-rights, and rule of law (RoL)-based approaches in the 8th Review of the GCTS. As a member of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism, we support our fellow Coalition members’; the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin; and fellow civil society members’ calls for systematizing “oversight and accountability of ways in which United Nations counter-terrorism efforts incorporate relevant human rights, rule of law and gender equality standards” via an “independent internal oversight mechanism” (Report of the Secretary General, Annex II, Paragraph 38).