"Fostering Prevention means countering Terrorism"
Bern, 21.09.2016 - New York, 21.09.2016 - Statement by the Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly (Global Counterterrorism Forum / 7th Ministerial Plenary Meeting) - Check against delivery
Foreign Minister Mezouar
Foreign Minister Koenders
Ladies and gentlemen
Since the GCTF last gathered here in New York last year, the world has known an increasing number of terrorist attacks all over the globe. Terrorism has brought destruction, fear and anger to many places in the world. The rising number of victims has reminded us tragically that it affects us all. We are here today to take action; we owe it to all the victims of terrorism and to their families.
One of our most important obligations is to protect our citizens and defend their freedoms. We also have a responsibility towards the countless children, women and men fleeing conflict and terrorism and seeking shelter in our countries from these horrors. And we must bring help and relief to all those enduring a humanitarian crisis.
For Switzerland, countering terrorism effectively and lastingly means stepping up efforts in security, but also, and first of all, tackling the problem at its root. We need to prevent violent extremism that leads to terrorism. To achieve this, the promotion of the respect of the rule of law, of human rights and – in armed conflicts – of international humanitarian law is essential.
We must capture the phenomenon in its entirety and complexity. Switzerland therefore welcomes the new documents under the Initiative to Address the Life Cycle of Radicalisation to Violence.
I am particularly pleased that the Neuchâtel Memorandum on Good Practices for Juvenile Justice in a Counterterrorism Context will officially be adopted today. I would like to thank the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law for its excellent support in developing this important instrument. The Neuchâtel Memorandum reminds us that we all need to promote the establishment of laws and institutions specifically applicable to children. We are not talking about a soft option. But the juvenile justice system must serve the dual purpose of preserving public safety whilst upholding the rights of all children.
This document is a first step. We now must implement it and translate it into concrete action. I am happy to announce that Switzerland is for instance further collaborating on this topic with the UNODC. The project developed by the UNODC aims at elaborating strategies to prevent and respond to the association of children with terrorist groups. This will be followed by a course of training for criminal justice and child protection practitioners in selected countries of the Sahel.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We need to put prevention at the heart of our action. The UN Secretary-General’s call for a new prevention agenda has made it clear. With this in mind, my country has developed a foreign policy action plan on preventing violent extremism. We are currently implementing it.
For example, Switzerland is supporting a project in a fragile area of Tunis aimed at improving young people's involvement in local governance. Another example: we are working with various partners to support a reform to the judicial system in Lebanon, where our goal is to prevent radicalisation in prisons by providing appropriate training to prison authorities.
By implementing our action plan, we are also tackling the problem of violent extremism online. The United Kingdom and Switzerland are spearheading a joint initiative in this field. We will examine the role of governments in challenging the appeal of violent extremist propaganda through strategic communication. This includes also supporting civil society groups to use alternative narratives. We will also explore attempts to limit the availability of violent extremist propaganda within the limits of the right to privacy as well as freedom of opinion and expression.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I listened yesterday to civil society organisations from Bangladesh and Nigeria which are implementing the first projects funded by the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF).
Switzerland is a strong supporter of the GCERF because it offers positive alternatives to what violent extremist groups claim to offer. We need to strengthen this approach. For this reason, Switzerland has supported the GCERF since its inception and will continue to do so in the future.
My country will continue to counter and prevent terrorism with determination. We owe this to every child, every young person, to every woman and every man, who is a victim of the terrible fragility in our world, and to everyone who might become a victim in the future. We need to continue to strengthen our efforts and give hope for the future to new generations.
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