GA: Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism

Statement by Ambassador Geir O. Pedersen on the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, 12 February 2016.

| General Assembly Hall

Mr. President,

Norway welcomes and strongly supports the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.

Violent extremism can never be legitimized, regardless of political, ideological or religious motivations. Nor should violent extremism be associated with any particular religion, nationality or system of belief.

As the report highlights, in 2011, the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, inspired by right-wing extremist ideology, killed 77 people, mostly youth. It is a heart-breaking but also pertinent reminder about how violent extremism all too often leads to carnage and death amongst our most vulnerable.

It also illustrates with uncomfortable clarity that violent extremism recognizes no borders, no cultures, no religions, or ethnic groups. It is a phenomenon that affects us all, and it can only be tackled by us all. No country is immune.

The threat from groups such as ISIL, Boko Haram and al-Shaabab continues to rise as these groups commits atrocities and attack innocent people in all corners of the world. Violent extremist groups are finding new ways to carry out their attacks, spread their propaganda, finance their activities, and recruit people to their ranks.

The unprecedented high number of foreign terrorist fighters traveling to areas of conflict and instability is of particular concern. Not only are they wreaking further havoc on already fragile countries and areas, but they also pose a threat upon returning to their home countries or travel to other areas of instability, with an aim of  radicalizing others.

The international community must adopt to the changing landscape of violent extremism. This is why the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism is timely and much needed.

The Plan builds on the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by consensus by the General Assembly in 2006. It focuses on national, regional and UN activities that can become drivers for change.

Furthermore, the Plan appropriately seeks to highlight and strengthen pillars one and four of the Strategy regarding tackling conditions conducive to terrorism and ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law. The Plan of Action is a crucial part of the Secretary General’s ambition to re-energize the United Nations’ prevention agenda.

Mr. President,

I would like to highlight three areas of the plan that Norway finds to be of particular importance.

First, national action plans on preventing violent extremism are important tools for setting priorities to comprehensively and effectively tackle local drivers of violent extremism.

Norway adopted its first plan of action to prevent violent extremism in 2010. It has since been revised, and the current plan is a dynamic document that is updated regularly to respond to the rapid changing landscape of threat, including the issue of returning foreign terrorist fighters. The plan of action takes a whole-of-government approach with nine different ministries involved. This broad approach has provided the plan with legitimacy, credibility and ensured its effectiveness. 

Second, the action plan seeks to empower important groups such as communities, cities, civil society, youth and women. Even though governments have the primary responsibility for preventing violent extremism, governments need to work closely with other groups, including civil society. Such groups are not only important partners when implementing concrete projects, but their voices and experiences provide valuable input to policy direction and the formulation of national action plans.

At the CVE conference in Oslo in June last year, Norway initiated the launch of two civil society networks. Firstly, YouthCAN – a network of youth working against violent extremism – including producing counter- or alternative narratives. Secondly, Norway supports the alliance of women’s organizations working against violent extremism. 

Third, national action plans must recognize the importance of dialogue, conflict prevention, good governance, rule of law and human rights. This is particularly important in areas of conflict and instability. Also, as highlighted in the plan, national developments efforts must seek to progress the Sustainable Development Goals, amongst others Goal 16 on promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies.

Poverty alone is not the sole cause of violent extremism. Nevertheless, marginalization, whether economic, social or political, is often an important element in the process of radicalization resulting in violent extremism.

We need a comprehensive approach to address the conditions conducive to violent extremism. We must address both the push and pull factors. However, as we take a broad approach to preventing violent extremism, we must at the same time stay focused. We must ensure that our interventions are PVE ‘specific’, addressing the heart of the matter, and not only PVE ‘relevant’.

Mr. President,

The Secretary General’s plan is a call to action. We, as Member States, have the primary responsibility for implementing the Plan of Action. We must form new partnerships with civil society, youth and women.

We also need a strong United Nations to show global leadership. We need a UN that is fit for purpose and have sufficient resources to do its part. The Review of the Global Strategy later this year provides us with a unique opportunity. Not only to discuss national and regional implementation of the Global Strategy and the action plan. It also provided an opportunity to ensure that the UN is adequately equipped to provide the requisite strong, cohesive and high-level leadership to effectively coordinate its efforts to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism.

In conclusion, Mr. President,

The United Nations has a particular responsibility for coordinating global efforts against violent extremism. Norway believes that the UN’s role in this should be further strengthened. The Plan of Action, if properly implemented, is an important step in the right direction.

Thank you.