Speech by Lia van Broekhoven at CTITF Conference June 2013

Speech by Lia van Broekhoven (Human Security Collective) at the:


International Counter-Terrorism Focal Points Conference

on Addressing Conditions Conducive to the Spread of Terrorism

and Promoting Regional Cooperation


Organized by the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force Office (CTITF)

in partnership with the Government of Switzerland

13 – 14 June 2013, UNOG Geneva, Switzerland

Please see the links below for the Agenda and Concept note.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is pleasure to be here with you. I would like to thank the Swiss Government and CTITF for inviting me to this conference, and share with you my presentation on The role of Civil Society in assisting in the implementation of the Global Framework.


The better title would have been civil society engaging with the UN, governments and regional organizations in the implementation of UN the Global Counter terrorism Framework  

My talk is framed from a civil society perspective. Our foundation Human Security Collective previously a special program with the Dutch development organization Cordaid has been involved in engaging the UN and member states in the implementation of the global strategy for a number of years.


We convene, facilitate and coordinate in partnership with GPPAC and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies a platform of over 60 civil society organizations and networks that are active in development, conflict prevention, peace building, human rights worldwide: the civil society network for human security. In addition we have established together with US, Swiss, Dutch, Kenyan, UK based and international civil society groups a transnational FATF working group that engages the financial action task force and its member states.  The FATF is the international standard setter whose 40 AML/CFT standards and in particular the implementation of R8, which stipulates that Not for Profits are particularly vulnerable to terrorism financing, has greatly influenced, unfortunately in a negative sense and unwittingly, the ability of civil society to raise and mobilize funds.


Our principles are clear: civil society, associations of civilians, require operational and political space. Our strength is our independency. When citizens are free to associate, act and express themselves without fear of terrorist groups and government, security forces, societies will be better off. We believe in the diversity of civil society as it mirrors society itself,  which means that we do not always share values espoused by certain civil society actors. We strongly advocate that free discussions and contestations on political and societal ideas should be possible in the public sphere of any society. Ideally governments have the obligation to protect this space through respecting human rights and human dignity of all their citizens.


The civil society organizations that are partnering with us, have proven to be open to engagement with the UN global strategy and its implementation, particularly pillar 1. They address structural conditions conducive to terrorism: structural poverty, violent conflict, societal exclusion. They are working at grassroots levels, and a number of them are community based organizations. Their label is not and never will be CVE or CT, but  development, conflict prevention and peace building, quiet diplomacy, inter and intra-faith dialogue, human rights, women and youth leadership, anti corruption, internet freedom, humanitarian support. Civil society organizations show great courage as they operate in the area between violence of terrorist groups and the counter violence of government security forces. They are understandably cautious of being associated with governments as this can be reason for terrorist groups to harm them and the communities they are working with, and vice versa they are careful not be become perceived as partial to the cause of extremists as this will label them as a terrorist friend or associate by government.


In the past two years the CSNHS invited UN officials and member states to meetings which addressed the role of civil society in engaging the UN global strategy.  The meetings were organized by us, and we invited officials, some of you are here today,  to participate. I would like to believe that these types of meetings are fruitful and productive as you were taken out of your comfort zone, as I am taken out of mine when speaking in conferences like these.


Genuine engagement starts with the willingness to understand each other, to dialogue, to agree to disagree. Much I appreciate the conferences the UN and member states have organized to which they invite civil society, the implementation of effective countering terrorism and countering violent extremism measures need a different methodology. For instance, centers of excellence that intend to gather and disseminate best practices and provide trainings for government officials should include civil society actors to provide such trainings as well. I am referring to civil society different from think tanks and research institutes, much I as value their analyses and strategic thinking. I am referring to civil society groups and representatives that have a strong engagement with communities, have actually worked with communities and, security forces, law enforcement and (local) governments on the improvement of working practices that help mitigating extreme violence – at times broad based measures, such as policy discussions on citizens' security, and at times targeted measures, e.g. human rights training for police officers by women groups, oversight mechanisms for violations of human rights committed by security forces involved in anti terrorism operations. They can bank on lived reality, on practices that have been tried and tested, and actually are the ones that validate the UN strategy. They encourage human security thinking among all actors involved, and discuss the importance of national security based on respect for human rights and dignity.


Civil society meetings and training and capacity building methodologies are different in the sense that they draw from participatory and non formal learning and education. They embrace complexity and the need to think and act creatively, innovatively. In view of current developments in this multipolar world where we all face challenges concerning the balance between privacy and security, between democracy and security, between liberal and conservative values, new engagements and working arrangements are required. An active involvement of civil society enhances the development and implementation of these new avenues, we should explore together. HS collective has developed this type of training with young female and male leaders in the Mena region, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and upcoming West Africa. They are offered a chance to explore sustainable human security strategies they care about and want to implement. At the same time, the participatory based approach creates collective ownership of action plans.

In national contexts I can imagine that government officials involved at an operational level and civil society can benefit from this type of meetings and training. Existing good practices on how this can be carried out need to amplified.


Let me close by saying that the shrinking back of civil society space which is well documented in among others the annual report of Civicus and of the recent UN Special Rapporteur on the freedom of peaceful assembly and association is a grave concern to our networks and to other civil society constituencies, UN family members, and to a number of member states. I believe that in the past decade CTM and CT capacity building have actually empowered states, security forces, law enforcement, but disempowered associations of civilians, civil society in many parts of the world. It is time to repair this. We all will benefit from this repair, as closing off civil society will at the end of the day be counter productive to CVE. The push and pull factors that draw disenfranchised groups and communities to existing bad alternatives are not going to go away soon.


Peter Knoope (who facilitated the panel) questions and answers:


Pillay (UN High Commissioner on Human Rights) said that political space of civil society is required. How can governments do that?


Governments have to protect human rights and human dignity of all their citizens. Public space to discuss, contest ideas in a nonviolent way is vital for societies. Governments that repress, lead by intolerance, disrespect the rights of minorities, contribute to a climate of fear, actually feed existing resentments. One has to address legitimate grievances, one has to be willing to discuss ideas that one dislikes profoundly as suppressing or ignoring these will sooner or later lead to unrest, and violence.


Civil society is seen as an instrument for the implementation of the UN strategy. How can you prevent that civil society becomes an instrument of your policy?


By taking us seriously, by engaging civil society that you may feel not at ease with, but still has legimate ideas or grievances that need be addressed. By leaving one's comfort zone to better understand the others. By accepting that all citizens, whether in a government function, in the private sector, in a civil society organization, in a community has a potential to contribute to the welfare and well being of a society. By avoiding the tendency to label every type of opposing view as a terrorist threat.


Civil society space has been reduced, how to repair it, but without giving up a security agenda?


By recognizing that there are many issues (as expressed by government delegates in the session on the nexus security and development in particular) relevant but not specific to terrorism, which need be genuinely addressed in their own right and without undue security bias. See examples given in my presentation.


Exclusion is part of the problem. UNDP states no one should be left behind. So what does inclusion mean, who should be in and who should be out ?


This is a key issue, highly political and merits a longer discussion. There are many legitimate grievances of civilians that are unjustly labelled as terrorism, although the violent methods of certain groups to reach the goals that derive from these grievances, e.g. self-determination, territorial disputes, access to and control over natural resources and extractives need be condemned. The issue at hand here are political settlements and how to arrive at those whereby government and opposing groups reach a power sharing agreement. When political settlements do not belong in the repertoire of power sharing solutions because the violent groups are in fact criminals or criminal terrorists then you need to undermine their activities through a combination of using force whereby mechanisms to avoid impunity and uphold human rights are taken care of, and criminal law. 

Concept note



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