posted on Thu 22 Jun 2017 9:05 AM
Arria-formula Meeting: Preventing Terrorism and Violent Extremism in the Horn of Africa

Today (22 June), Council members are scheduled to hold an Arria-formula meeting on “preventing terrorism and violent extremism in the Horn of Africa: Enhancing partnership for regional efforts.” The meeting is co-hosted by Ethiopia and Italy with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The Permanent Representatives of Ethiopia and Italy, as well as experts from UNODC and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), are expected to brief at the meeting. In addition to Council members and IGAD states, the meeting is open to IGAD Partnership Forum Member States (which include IGAD development partners), as well as other relevant bodies (e.g., the UNODC and the UNDP).

A concept note produced in advance of the meeting states that member states will have the opportunity to discuss national plans to prevent and counter violent extremism in East Africa and the Horn of Africa, to share lessons learned and best practices with regard to addressing this problem, and to reflect on the challenges in rehabilitating and reintegrating terrorists and violent extremists. The note adds that in their interventions member states will be able to describe how the comprehensive implementation of international, sub-regional and national initiatives can help to prevent and counter violent extremism; how the risks posed by violent extremist groups in the sub-region can be assessed and managed more effectively; and how the UN, IGAD and concerned member states can align their efforts in an integrated manner to address these threats.

The terrorist threat is a significant one in the Horn of Africa. While Al-Shabaab has been a long-standing problem there, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) extended its presence into Somalia in 2015. As the Secretary-General noted in his 31 May report on “the threat posed by ISIL to international peace and security and the range of United Nations efforts in support of Member States in countering the threat,” member states have underscored that the threat of ISIL affiliates in east Africa extends beyond Somalia “into the neighboring states where they seek to recruit, establish bases, and conduct attacks” (S/2017/467).

In recent years, the Council has focused considerable energy on preventing terrorism and countering violent extremism. In resolution 2178, adopted on 24 September 2014, the Council called for states to cooperate to prevent foreign terrorist fighters from crossing their borders, to disrupt and prevent financial support to terrorists, and to cooperate in sharing lessons learned to counter violent extremism. In resolution 2354, adopted on 24 May, the Council welcomed the guidelines and practices outlined in the Counter-terrorism Committee’s “Comprehensive Framework to Counter Terrorist Narratives” of 28 April (S/2017/375), which had been requested by the Council in an 11 May 2016 presidential statement (S/PRST/2016/6). The “Comprehensive Framework” focuses on how legal and law enforcement measures, public-private partnerships, and the creation of counter-narratives could be used to combat terrorist narratives.

At today’s meeting, participants may note that preventing terrorism in the Horn of Africa and countering violent extremism is an effort that needs to be tackled at the international, national, regional and sub-regional levels. While terrorism and the propagation of extremist narratives are threats with broad cross-border implications, some members may emphasise the responsibilities of individual member states to do their best to combat them and to collaborate with other member states in implementing strategies to address them. Some members may further underscore that combatting terrorism requires a comprehensive approach that employs a broad range of security, political, legal, economic and other tools.