Washington, DC - The Seventh Ministerial Plenary Meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), co-chaired by the Netherlands and Morocco, took place today in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken represented the United States and presented the results of the U.S. and Turkey co-led “Initiative to Address the Lifecycle of Radicalization to Violence” (“Lifecycle Initiative”), and introduced a short video that showcased the Lifecycle Initiative’s related web-based toolkit.
Founded in 2011, the GCTF is a multilateral counterterrorism platform focusing on identifying critical civilian counterterrorism needs, mobilizing the necessary expertise and resources to address such needs, and enhancing global cooperation. The Forum, with its 30 members (29 countries and the European Union), regularly convenes key policymakers and practitioners from nations around the world, as well as experts from the UN and other multilateral bodies. With its primary focus on countering violent extremism (CVE) and strengthening criminal justice and other rule of law institutions that deal with terrorism, the GCTF aims to diminish terrorist recruitment and increase countries’ capabilities for dealing with terrorist threats within their borders and regions.
The GCTF has been at the center of much of the progress made by the international community countering ISIL and al-Qa’ida, and their affiliates. On the foreign terrorist fighter challenge, for example, it was the GCTF that first developed The Hague-Marrakech Memorandum on Good Practices for Addressing the Foreign Terrorist Fighter Phenomenon. Over the last year, the flow of foreign terrorist fighters has declined significantly. This important development is owed to a number of factors, notably ISIL’s repeated military defeats and consequent loss of territory and resources, but also the aggressive efforts of governments to implement the provisions of UNSCR 2178 that make it more difficult for foreign terrorist fighters to transit to and return from Syria and Iraq. Our partners have increased information sharing, enhanced border security, strengthened legal regimes, and adopted national strategies to counter violent extremism. As an example of our own progress in this area, the United States has information sharing arrangements with 56 international partners to help identify, track, and deter known and suspected terrorists. At least 26 partners share financial information that could provide actionable leads to prosecute or target foreign terrorist fighters. At least 31 countries use enhanced traveler screening measures. In addition, approximately 60 countries have laws in place to provide the ability to prosecute and penalize FTF activities, and at least 50 countries have prosecuted or arrested foreign terrorist fighters or their facilitators.
One year ago in New York at the GCTF Ministerial, Secretary Kerry helped launch the “Initiative to Address the Life Cycle of Radicalization to Violence.” Under this initiative the GCTF’s working groups developed an additional set of tools that, combined with extensive GCTF material, can be applied across the full life cycle of radicalization to violence: from the front end, where governments and communities are attempting to prevent susceptible individuals from being attracted to the ideologies promoted by DA’ESH/ISIL and other terrorist groups; to the back end, where governments and communities need to assess the risk posed by violent, radicalized individuals and determine their long-term disposition and possible rehabilitation and reintegration into society, either in or out of the criminal justice system. Today (September 21) at the seventh GCTF Ministerial, the GCTF adopted six new Lifecycle Initiative documents and welcomed the launch of the web-based Lifecycle Toolkit, the development of which is being funded by the United States. In consultation with, and with the approval of the Congress, the United States also intends to provide $5 million towards the development of training material and capacity-building programs in support of the Lifecycle Initiative.
At the Ministerial, the United States also presented two new initiatives. The first, in partnership with Turkey, is the initiative on “The Protection of Soft Targets in a Counterterrorism Context.” Under the auspices of the GCTF, the potentially life-saving soft targets initiative has two objectives: to raise awareness, identify needs, and leverage the expertise and experience of governments and industry to better protect potential soft targets – like restaurants, sports arenas, hotels and so forth from extremist attack – whether by organized groups or by individuals intent on doing harm both to their neighbors and to themselves. The initiative would also aim to develop a set of internationally-recognized, non-binding good practices, which can serve as the basis for international engagement, assistance, and training to enhance the security and resilience of sites that are potential soft targets. The United States will provide $1 million to help fund the GCTF effort.
The second initiative is a “Dialogue on Countering Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Radicalization to Violence in Central Asia.” This idea grew out of discussions with all five governments in that region and reflects the high priority that both they – and members of the Forum -- attach to the issue. The Central Asia initiative will seek to counter the challenges of foreign terrorist fighters and radicalization to violence in Central Asia. The dialogue will bring together policymakers and subject-matter experts from Central Asia and abroad to share perspectives on the threat of foreign terrorist fighters, including best practices and regional approaches for countering the radicalization, departure, and return of fighters. The dialogue will also work to implement The Hague-Marrakech Memorandum on Good Practices for a More Effective Response to the Foreign Terrorist Fighter Phenomenon.
The GCTF Ministerial also saw the formal launch of the International Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism Capacity-Building Clearinghouse Mechanism (ICCM), another web-based tool that provides donors and recipients with an up-to-date database of recent/ongoing counterterrorism and CVE capacity-building assistance efforts. Kenya, Nigeria, and Tunisia are serving as the pilot countries for the ICCM, which will help identify gaps in programming and de-conflict overlapping programs, allowing donors and recipients to optimize assistance. The mechanism will then mobilize and coordinate donor resources as an international counterterrorism/CVE capacity-building clearinghouse to address identified needs, based on non-binding recommendations.