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Secretary-General, at Leaders’ Summit, Highlights New Plan for Collective Action to Combat Violent Extremism

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the Leaders’ Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, in New York today:

Thank you, President [Barack] Obama, for your strong leadership and very inspiring and visionary statement today.  I would like to also thank you for hosting this very important Leaders’ Summit this morning, after the very successful and meaningful White House Summit meeting on countering violent extremism in February, in Washington, D.C.

Since then, this process has sparked serious conversations around the world to address the menace at its roots.  Violent extremist groups — including Da’esh and Boko Haram — pose a direct threat to international security, mercilessly target women and girls and undermine universal values of peace, justice and human dignity.

That threat is growing.  Our most recent data shows a 70 per cent increase in foreign terrorist fighters from over 100 countries to regions in conflict.  Addressing this challenge goes to the heart of the mission of the United Nations and it requires a unified response.

We know violent extremism flourishes when human rights are violated, aspirations for inclusion are ignored and too many people — especially the world’s young people with their hopes and dreams — lack prospects and meaning in their lives.  We also know the crucial ingredients for success — good governance, the rule of law, open, pluralist societies, quality education and decent jobs, and full respect for human rights.

Security-focused counter-terrorism measures are crucial.  Yet, we can no longer have such efforts backfire by playing into the hands of those we are seeking to defeat, or by further alienating already marginalized groups or communities.

The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and Security Council resolution 2178 (2014), provide tools for addressing the scourge of violent extremism, including the growing flow of thousands of foreign terrorist fighters.

The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals also echo the voices of people and critically include a goal for peace, justice and strong institutions.  Our objective must be to go beyond countering violent extremism to preventing it in the first place.

On the basis of an emerging international consensus, I intend to present a comprehensive plan of action to prevent violent extremism early next year to the General Assembly.  I hope that each and every Member State participating in this [meeting] would closely coordinate and share your experience and your vision on how we can work together to combat and fight this extremism.  We will most welcome suggestions.

This plan, which is firmly based on the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, will provide specific recommendations to Member States on individual and collective actions to systematically address the drivers of violent extremism at every level.

It will also put forward recommendations on how the UN system can support Member States to prevent violent extremism, through an “All of UN” approach covering the many dimensions of our work.

Let me briefly highlight five keys to success.  First, Governments cannot do it alone.  We need to engage all of society — religious leaders, women leaders, leaders in the arts, music and sports.

Second, we need to make a special effort to reach young people where they live, share ideas and communicate.  Social media is central.  We need to offer a counterweight to the siren songs that promise adventure, but deliver horror — and that promise meaning, but create more misery.

Third, leaders must work harder to build truly accountable institutions.  I continue to urge leaders to listen very carefully to the grievances and aspirations of their people and address them.

Fourth and fundamentally, we must be guided by the moral compass of our common values.  Respect for international law and human rights is non-negotiable.  Without it, we are lost.

Fifth, and finally, let us not be ruled by fear — or provoked by those who strive to exploit it.

We have a major challenge before us, one that will not disappear overnight, but one that we can address concretely by forging societies of inclusion, ensuring lives of dignity and pursuing this essential endeavour inspired at all times by the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Thank you for your commitment.

For information media. Not an official record.