UN Counter-Terrorism Architecture Requires Independent Oversight

The UN Member States and the Secretary-General should ensure that the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the 7th review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (GCTS) leads to robust, independent, and impartial oversight of the impact of UN counter-terrorism activity on human rights, including gender equality and children’s rights; the rule of law; and humanitarian action and Twenty members of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism made the announcement today.

The Strategy acts as a road map for both member nations and the UN’s counter-terrorism framework, which has grown significantly since the September 11 attacks. It has a significant influence on the counter-terrorism policies and practices of Member States. Many UN Member States have been found to be violating a wide range of human rights, including women’s and children’s rights, as well as limiting humanitarian aid and suppressing civil society organizations and human rights defenders in the name of combating terrorism, according to overwhelming evidence.

Many Member States rejected additional crucial language supportive of human rights, gender equality, and civic space in the new GCTS, even though it keeps or adds some important human rights protections.

Some Member States went to great lengths to change or eliminate material from earlier draughts that would have provided better protection for human rights and civil society. They have weakened a crucial proposal for the development of an independent monitoring structure to monitor and analyze the impact of the entire UN counter-terrorism architecture on rule of law, good governance, human rights, and gender equality, among other concerns.

Rather than establishing independent oversight, the final draught only requests that the Secretary-General report by February 2023 on whether any cross-cutting internal advisory or monitoring and assessment is required. The assessment process should be UN-wide and inclusive, with genuine input from civil society. We further urge the Secretary-General to consider innovative ways to secure the formation of an independent and impartial structure to oversee UN counter-terrorism policies and programmes, with wide oversight powers.

The new GCTS also requests the Secretary-General to review and report on alternatives for raising finances and extending new authorities to the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, the principal UN counterterrorism agency, and implementing partners by 2022. Co-facilitators efforts to engage civil society groups in the review process resulted in considerably higher engagement than during the previous review in 2018. Nonetheless, civil society engagement fell well short of the finest practices of the UN system.

While attendance for the 2021 Counter-Terrorism Week looks to have increased, it is believed that organizers should have asked many more civil society organizations to come and participate as panellists at official programmes and side events.

While the UN’s counter-terrorism architecture has grown dramatically in recent years, civil society has been marginalised far too often, and resources to preserve human rights have been neglected. Despite certain flaws, the 7th GCTS offers a chance to correct these harmful imbalances. States’ failure to agree on urgently needed counter-terrorism measures, on the other hand, indicates deep divisions and puts the UN in grave danger of being implicated in human rights breaches and attacks on civil society, which would run opposite to the UN’s fundamental purposes and international law.

Photo Credit: https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/09/21/international-cooperation-welcomed-across-14-advanced-economies/