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OSCE Counterterrorism Cooperation

Anne Witkowsky, Acting Principal Deputy Coordinator of the Bureau of Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State, delivering the keynote speech at an OSCE meeting on terrorism, alongside Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UNODC, Vienna, 12 November 20

“The international community has made great strides over the past decade in tactical counterterrorism."

“The international community has made great strides over the past decade in tactical counterterrorism – taking individuals off the streets, disrupting cells, and thwarting conspiracies,” said U.S. Acting Principal Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism Anne Witkowsky.

Speaking at an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, conference on counterterrorism, Ms. Witkowsky said in order to be effective over the long term, national and collective efforts must focus on strategic counterterrorism by addressing factors that encourage violent extremism. Strategic counterterrorism also requires the international community to help build governments’ criminal justice capabilities, which are central to a successful counterterrorism approach.

Ms. Witkowsky stressed that effective counterterrorism policies are not incompatible with respect for human rights. Indeed, counterterrorism efforts can best succeed, she said, when they are grounded in human rights obligations and the rule of law.

No country can effectively address the threat of terrorism alone. International partnerships have been central to successes in the areas of transportation security, economic development, law enforcement, and the rule of law. These partnerships strengthen the capacity of states to counter terrorism and violent extremism within their own borders and regions.

Criminal justice institutions must play a larger part in the effort to counter terrorism; not only to bring terrorists to justice, but also to prevent terrorist attacks in the first place.

On the multilateral front, the United States remains committed to the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The United States has also helped to launch the Global Counterterrorism Forum, which is focused on developing tools that can help interested states to support a rule of law-based approach to bringing terrorists and their supporters to justice within national criminal justice systems.

The OSCE has played an important role in building support among its member states for the U.N. Counter-Terrorism Strategy and by promoting the sharing of best practices, such as the Global Counterterrorism Forum good practices on rule of law, which can bring greater coherence to international capacity-building efforts and maximize the contributions of international assistance to help local and national leaders mitigate the conditions in which terrorism thrives.

In the years ahead, OSCE policies and programs need to place greater focus on learning how national and local governments and civil society can prevent terrorism and terrorism-related acts by promoting the rule of law, strengthening their cooperation in bringing terrorists to justice, and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.