A number of programs were launched at the 7th Ministerial Plenary Meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), co-chaired by the Netherlands and Morocco. The meeting was held on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York this month. Morocco was represented by its Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, and Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken represented the United States.
In their opening remarks, ministers from various countries reported on their GCTF programs. Secretary Blinken presented the results of the “Initiative to Address the Lifecycle of Radicalization to Violence” (“Lifecycle Initiative”) co-led by the US and Turkey..
The GCTF, founded in 2011, brings together several programs focused particularly on “identifying critical civilian counterterrorism needs, mobilizing the necessary expertise and resources to address such needs, and enhancing global cooperation.” It regularly brings together experts from the UN and other multilateral agencies, policymakers, and practitioners with experience in many regions of the world. The leadership of the GCTF is its Forum, made up of 20 countries and the EU, working together to reduce conditions that favor terrorism recruitment and to expand their capabilities for responding to terrorist threats both locally and regionally.
Initiatives include countering violent extremism efforts (CVE) and strengthening criminal justice and other rule of law institutions that deal with terrorism. For example, in light of the reduced territory under the control of ISIS and other radical groups, countries are paying increased attention to the threats posed by those returning from Syria and Iraq. Continued regional cooperation among countries that have experienced terrorist recruitment within their borders or terrorists transiting their country is critical to successfully addressing this problem.
The Hague-Marrakech Memorandum on Good Practices for Addressing the Foreign Terrorist Fighter Phenomenon includes programs to reduce the freedom of movement of terrorist fighters, measures that enhance information-sharing on terrorist financing, technologies to enhance border security, and more effective airport screening efforts. In addition, as previously reported, “Earlier [this month] in Geneva, Morocco and the US launched a “Group of Friends” on the prevention of and fight against violent extremism.”
The GCTF plays a critical role in creating a global strategy that takes into consideration that countries must address the range of forces that make terrorism so threatening, from supporting community efforts to reduce the attractiveness of radicalism to vulnerable individuals, to developing effective measures to deal with radicals who return to their home countries.
Two new programs are particularly relevant given recent terrorist attacks in the US and Europe, and elsewhere in Africa and South Asia. One aims to raise awareness, identify needs, and leverage the expertise and experience of governments and industry to better protect potential soft targets. The other will work to implement The Hague-Marrakech Memorandum.
In these ongoing efforts, the US counts on friends like Morocco who are on the front lines of threats from terrorism and are increasingly targeted by ISIS and other extremists who would upset the stability and security needed to build prosperity for their people.