UNESCO's Role in UN’s Action to Counter and Prevent Violent Extremism

On 30 September, at UNHQ in New York, UNESCO Director-General briefs US government officials on UNESCO’s role in the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF).

On the margins of the high-level week of the 70th UN General Assembly, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, joined other CTITF entities to address the joint work of the UN in countering and preventing violent extremism at a meeting with high-level officials from the US Government’s State Department.  

The delegation from the United States was led by Assistant Secretary of State Bathsheba Crocker, Bureau of International Organizations Affairs in the US State Department; Ambassador Jacob Walles, Special Advisor on Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) and Raffi Gregorian, Director, from the Bureau of Counterterrorism in the US State Department; as well as the Deputy Assistant Secretaries from the US State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations; Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Bureau of South and Central Asia; and Bureau of African Affairs. The Directors of USAID and the National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC) and a number of other officials were also part of the delegation.

‎Irina Bokova outlined UNESCO’s commitment and action in educating youth to keep them away from radicalizing forces, underscoring the value of protecting cultural heritage from destruction and keeping cultural properties from trafficking. 

She reiterated the calls she had made the day before in President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on countering ISIL and violent extremism, where she was the only UN Official to be given the floor along with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon -- focusing on UNESCO's action to promote education as a force to prevent and counter violent extremism, through education for global citizenship, human rights and peace.

The discussion covered the Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) that UN Secretary-General shall present to the UN General Assembly in November 2015, currently being finalized, in which UNESCO played a leading role as co-chair of the CTITF working group on “conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism” bringing its expertise in preventive education.  

In this regard, participants exchanged on ways to best implement the plan’s strategy and recommendations through a one-UN approach. Particular attention was given to ways to integrate countering violent extremism (CVE) and PVE into UN development programming and projects.

Participants welcomed the initiative by the US delegation to UNESCO and other partners to hold a high-level meeting at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris with Ministers of Education from around the world on the margins of the ‘Education Commission’ of the upcoming General Conference of UNESCO (November 2015), dedicated to “Preventing Violent Extremism through Education”.

Other than UNESCO, the UN entities represented in the meeting were UNODC, UN/DPA, UNDP, the UN Security Council’s Al-Qaida Monitoring Team and Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), as well as the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General and the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force – UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UN CTITF-UNCCT).