United Nations member states and the Secretary-General should ensure that the 7th review of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (GCTS), adopted today by the United Nations General Assembly, leads to strong, independent oversight and impartial about the impact of UN counterterrorism activities. on human rights, including with regard to gender equality and children’s rights; as well as on the rule of law; humanitarian action; and civic space, 20 members of the Civil Society Coalition for Human Rights and Counterterrorism said today.
The Strategy serves as a guide both to Member States and to the United Nations counterterrorism architecture, which has developed considerably since the attacks of September 11, 2001. It plays a key role in influencing the counterterrorism policies and practices of the United Nations. Member States. Overwhelming evidence has shown that many UN member states violate a range of human rights, including the rights of women and children, as well as restrict humanitarian action and suppress civil society organizations and human rights defenders in the name of the fight against terrorism.
While the new GCTS retains or adds several important human rights protections, many member states have rejected other critical terms supporting human rights, gender equality and civic space.
Alarmingly, some Member States have attempted to modify or delete texts from earlier versions which would have created stronger guarantees for human rights and civil society. In doing so, they, among other concerns, significantly weakened a critical proposal for the establishment of an independent oversight mechanism to monitor and assess the impact of the United Nations’ entire counterterrorism architecture on the state. of law, good governance, human rights and gender equality. Instead of establishing independent oversight, the final draft simply asks the Secretary General to report by February 2023 on the need for such cross-cutting internal advice or monitoring and evaluation.
Given the importance of this proposal, we urge the Secretary-General to prioritize such an assessment in the coming months and not to wait until February 2023. The assessment process should be at scale of the United Nations system and inclusive, involving the meaningful participation of civil society. We further call on the Secretary-General to explore creative solutions to ensure the establishment of an independent and impartial mechanism, with broad oversight powers, over United Nations counter-terrorism policies and programs.
The new STAG also requests the Secretary-General to assess and report by 2022 on options for increasing resources and granting new powers for the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office, the lead agency for counter-terrorism efforts of the United Nations, and implementing partners. We are gravely concerned about the prospect of providing additional resources to the United Nations counter-terrorism system without increasing genuinely broad and independent oversight. Accordingly, we call on the Secretary-General to assess the demand for increased counterterrorism resources alongside the demand for independent oversight, and to undertake those assessments simultaneously.
We appreciate the efforts of the co-facilitators to include civil society groups in the review process, which resulted in much greater engagement than in the last review in 2018. Nevertheless, civil society participation was still there. well below the best practices of the United Nations system. We ask that future strategy reviews include several avenues that ensure meaningful engagement for civil society groups. In addition, we call for greater opportunities for a wider cross-section of civil society to participate meaningfully in future high-level United Nations conferences on counterterrorism. While it appears that participation has increased for Counter Terrorism Week 2021, we believe the organizers could have invited many more civil society organizations to participate and be part of panelists at official events. and side events.
While the United Nations counterterrorism architecture has grown dramatically in recent years, civil society has too often been sidelined and the resources to uphold human rights protections have been overlooked. Despite some shortcomings, the 7th GCTS is an opportunity to redress these dangerous imbalances. However, the failure of states to agree on urgent counterterrorism reforms reveals deep divisions and puts the UN at serious risk of being involved in human rights violations and attacks against it. civil society, contrary to the fundamental objectives of the institution and to international law.