Building International Networks to Counter Terrorism

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Building International Networks to Counter Terrorism

This fall, the United States joined the Council of Europe's (CoE’s) 24/7 counterterrorism networks.

These networks on Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Victims of Terrorism provide additional pathways, beyond established platforms like INTERPOL and bilateral information sharing arrangements, for timely and coordinated communication between designated government points of contact. The CoE networks help countries know whom to contact, at any time of day or night, when they have urgent counterterrorism information to share or request. The networks connect relevant authorities to counterparts for sharing threat information or helping a victim of terrorism access another country’s criminal justice system. The United States is represented by the Terrorist Screening Center on the Foreign Terrorist Fighters Network, and by the Department of Justice on the Victims of Terrorism Network.  

The CoE is an international organization focusing on human rights and rule of law issues. Among other programs, the CoE helps member states develop legal standards to prevent and suppress acts of terrorism through criminal laws and other measures. The United States participates in the CoE as an observer. Network membership is open to all countries and international organizations regardless of CoE membership, or whether they are signatories to relevant CoE conventions.  

The CoE coordinates with countries and other multilateral organizations and entities such as the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Organization for American States, and the European Union. By bringing together counterterrorism representatives from across Europe and partners to work together, the CoE embodies why multilateral diplomacy is critical for counterterrorism - because no country can fight terrorism alone. 

Relatedly, in September, the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism supported the establishment of the Inter-American Counterterrorism Network under the auspices of the Organization for American States’ Inter-American Committee for Counterterrorism (OAS/CICTE). This information-sharing network, the only one of its kind in the Americas, will operate on a 24/7 basis among OAS member states in the Western Hemisphere, and will serve as a counterpart to the CoE’s 24/7 Network of Points of Contact on Foreign Terrorist Fighters. The Inter-American Counterterrorism Network responds to a request for help from countries in the region to solve this simple yet critical problem:  knowing whom to call, at any time. 

Effective counterterrorism engagement calls for comprehensive and varied approaches, using all possible tools and platforms available, to ensure our safety and security against the most dangerous transnational threat facing all of us today.  Engaged and interactive information-sharing networks reinforce a culture of information sharing that facilitates international communication and coordination, while helping to ensure the U.S. government and the international community are proactively and effectively collaborating to prevent terrorism and help those affected by it. 

While many multilateral counterterrorism efforts require complex negotiations and extensive resources, the beauty of this effort lies in its simplicity. Governments must be able to coordinate both routinely and quickly, especially in times of an emergency, and we are helping to make sure of that – day or night. 

About the Author: Jennifer Mitchell is a Foreign Affairs Officer in the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism.