A View From the CT Foxhole: Michele Coninsx, Executive Director of the U.N. Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED).

Author:Cruickshank, Paul
 
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CTC: What role does the United Nations' Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) play in counterter-rorism efforts?

Coninsx: CTED carries out the policy decisions of the Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC), which comprises all 15 members of the United Nations Security Council. CTED's main tasks are to assess the counterterrorism measures in the 193 U.N. member countries; to analyze the CT trends, developments, and gaps in these countries; and where needed, render expertise to the member states.

We do it through visits to countries. We have carried out 140 visits in 100 countries in the past few years, with 26 visits planned this year. The number of counterterrorism measures agreed [to] by the international community--[for] which we are mandated to provide expertise--has expanded significantly. As we know, over the last four years, there was an avalanche of Security Council resolutions because the nature of the terrorist threat was evolving very quickly.

To mention some of them: 2354, counter-narratives; 2309, aviation security; 2341, on protection of critical infrastructure. The main resolutions for us are 2395--our Bible for the future--and 2396 on relocating and returning foreign terrorist fighters.

When we go on a comprehensive country visit, we go there with a team of experts, which covers all of these issues, from legal aspects, counterterrorism strategies, the border security aspect, to civil society engagement. Everything's covered, including cross-cutting issues such as empowerment of women and human rights-related issues. Although we go there with our own experts, part of the exercise is to get other players involved from the U.N. family. One example is the U.N. Office of Counter-Terrorism (OCT), which is responsible for capacity-building and technical assistance. Since taking over as executive director and as mandated by Resolution 2395, we've deepened the cooperation between CTED and OCT. We work more and more, hand in hand. The two leaders meet every week. Other examples are the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for their expertise in aviation security; Interpol for their law enforcement and border control expertise; U.N. Women; the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).

That means that we have very targeted questions and use the same methodology for every single visit, so that we ensure total objectivity and a really good diagnosis of the CT gaps. In the next step, we come up with recommendations and then submit them to the Security Council, and on the basis of that report--once it is accepted by the visited country and the Security Council--work can start on addressing the gaps and delivering the right targeted approach. The actual implementation is not conducted by ourselves but by other entities, coordinated by OCT.

We are the barometer. We make recommendations, but other U.N. entities take over and deliver technical assistance and capacity building. It's a new approach, which ensures follow-up and allows us to see how we're having impact. Assessment, assessment, assessment really is our core business and, coupled to that also, analysis of trends and provision of expertise.

We have a team dedicated to verifying the latest trends, developments, and biggest concerns. And this analysis is based not only [on] our assessments, but also our liaison with outside experts, including those who are part of our Global Research Network.

It's all about impact, and really making a difference as clearly set out in resolution 2395--identifying the lessons learned in one country and what we see as a best practice, which has already been implemented in one country. We then try to verify whether it's really something that could be applied in other countries, and then spread the good practices and lessons learned. This is an integral part of our set of tasks.

CTC: How does the Global Research Network operate?

Coninsx: The Global Research Network (GRN) is probably best described as a living, virtual network of academic institutions and researchers. (1) Terrorism and counterterrorism responses are increasingly affecting such a wide range of countries. Although the GRN comes together physically in meetings and briefings and workshops, the idea is that we can proactively reach out to trusted researchers around the world who are producing evidence-based research. Our growing Rolodex allows us to be aware of the research being done and who we need to engage with, and that allows us to connect research work with policymakers here at the United Nations. (a)

CTC: You have spoken about the work your directorate does. Looking at the big picture, how important have U.N. efforts been as a whole in confronting terrorism and protecting against this threat in the years since 9/11?

Coninsx: It's been clear for many years that the transnational character of terrorism requires a transnational response. Significant progress has been made in this regard. On the 13th of June 2001, I convened the first meeting of Pro-Eurojust (provisional Eurojust) with seven European Union member states involved in investigations into an al-Qa 'ida network. It was at that moment quite difficult to have this coordination set up because no one wanted to share anything with anybody. What we didn't know at that moment is that we were really hammering on an existing network, which was connected to the 9/11 attacks.

At the time, Eurojust (b) didn't yet exist, and Europol (c) was not working at the same pace as it's working [at] right now. There was no regional coordination mechanism at the E.U. level. That was the first hint that having good local and national...

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