Today, I had the pleasure of joining Secretary Kerry and Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu as they kicked off the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) Fifth Ministerial Plenary.
In the three short years since its launch in 2011, the Forum -- which includes 29 founding member countries and the EU – has become the “go-to” international venue for civilian-led counterterrorism cooperation. And though we’ve made real progress with our strategic counterterrorism priorities of building partner capacity and countering violent extremism, a great deal of work remains to be done. Evolving terrorist threats, like those posed by ISIL, require innovative strategies, creative diplomacy, and even stronger partnerships.
In this vein, the Forum focused on three key counterterrorism issues at today’s ministerial to meet these challenges. GCTF members heavily focused on how best to address the foreign terrorist fighters (FTF) phenomenon, a critical issue that President Obama will address at the UN Security Council meeting tomorrow on this issue of growing U.S. and global concern. The concern of the increasing use of kidnapping for ransom (KFR) was also a key area of focus at this year’s GCTF ministerial. Lastly, GCTF members focused on, and will continue to focus on, how to build political will and utilize more resources to counter violent extremism (CVE).
The growing number of individuals becoming radicalized to violence and travelling across borders to engage in terrorism is a major trend that will affect the threat landscape in the years to come. It’s estimated that more than 15,000 foreign terrorist fighters have gone to Syria from more than 80 countries.
The Forum identified the FTF challenge as a priority last September, and under the leadership of Morocco and the Netherlands, it has undertaken efforts to address the challenge. The Forum, with its technical focus and informal and practical nature, has already added value to global efforts to address the FTF threat.
Today, the Forum adopted The Hague-Marrakech Memorandum on Good Practices for a More Effective Response to the FTF Phenomenon. These good practices have helped shape the content of the resolution the UN Security Council is expected to adopt tomorrow, and have already inspired the UN and other partners to develop FTF training and other capacity building initiatives. These good practices are intended to inform and guide interested governments in their development of comprehensive policies to address the FTF challenge, specifically in regard to: (1) radicalization to violent extremism; (2) recruitment and facilitation; (3) travel and fighting; and (4) return and reintegration.
As we continue to build this coalition to address the threat posed by ISIL, we will focus on further strengthening the civilian institutions that are essential to preventing and responding to such threats within a rule of law framework, and expanding the effort to delegitimize and counter the violent ideology that fuels much of today’s terrorist violence.
About the Author: Ambassador Tina Kaidanow serves as Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism, at the U.S. Department of State.
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