"Countering terrorism is not . . . a task that any one country or small group of countries can take on alone. . . [I]t is a shared global challenge, and our efforts in this regard are only as strong as our shared commitment," said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Esther Brimmer at a recent workshop on rehabilitation and disengagement of violent extremists held in Lucca, Italy.
Assistant Secretary Brimmer proposed three strategic priorities to enable collective counterterrorism efforts to succeed in the long term.
The first is to work multilaterally and otherwise to emphasize building state capacity, and to address the root causes of violent extremism. "We must assist the governments of developing or fragile states in addressing deprivations that can drive individuals toward extremist outlets for their frustration," Assistant Secretary Brimmer said. "Without better security, education, and jobs, we will face an uphill battle in stopping people from becoming terrorists in the first place."
The second is to address the state weaknesses that terrorism thrives on, and to ensure that all states can effectively counter the threats they face. Multilateral engagement plays a critical role in achieving this goal. "[O]ur work in this area must support and strengthen the rule of law and universal human rights," Assistant Secretary Brimmer said. "[I]t is by respecting and protecting universal rights – including free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, equality, and the right to democratic governance – that governments best inoculate their citizens against the siren call of violent extremism as a response to political repression."
The third is to strengthen and expand the full range of partnerships, and to better coordinate collective efforts and share expertise. "[T]he United States views the United Nations as a key partner in efforts to combat and prevent terrorism," Assistant Secretary Brimmer said. "[W]e remain committed to deepening and broadening our partnerships with the UN as well as with other governments, multilateral organizations, civil society, and the private sector."
This spring, a remarkable transformation is taking place across North Africa and the Middle East. "The changes of government and the largely peaceful groundswell of demands for universal freedoms hold tremendous promise," Assistant Secretary Brimmer concluded. "Just as we must support democratic transitions . . . so too must we engage the aspirations of these populations for security, stability, and the promise of a better tomorrow."