URG Board Member, Nazila Ghanea, addresses Human Rights Council during panel discussion on preventing violent extremism

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On 17th March 2016, URG Board member Nazila Ghanea participated in the Human Rights Council “Panel discussion on preventing violent extremism,” alongside Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the UN; Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights; Gastón Garatea, Professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and former Chair of the National Bureau for the Fight against Poverty; Mehreen Farooq, Senior Fellow at the World Organization for Resource Development and Education; and  Ahmed Abbadi, Secretary-General of La Rabita Mohammadia des Oulémas and Professor at Cadi Ayyad University of Marrakesh.

The Panel was organised pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 30/15, adopted in 2nd October 2016 by a vote of 37[1] to 3,[2] with 7 abstentions.[3]

Speaking on the panel, Nazila Ghanea, also co-author of URG’s policy report, “Combatting Religious Intolerance: the implementation of resolution 16/18,” emphasized the importance of all actions taken to prevent or counter violent extremism being “in full compliance with the international law obligations of states, including international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law. “These safeguards for legality are crucial” she noted, “otherwise the very actions aiming at PVE themselves risk fuelling further violent extremism.”

She underlined the importance of promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief, as “an excellent bulwark against violent extremism,” and noted that “non-discrimination” must be a “touchstone for all PVE endeavours,” expressing concern that “otherwise the very actions aiming at PVE risk stimulating and fuelling yet further violent extremism.”

Nazila Ghanea drew attention to two important existing standards mentioned in resolution 30/15, which can guide PVE: resolution 16/18 and the Rabat Plan of Action. With regards to the Rabat Plan of Action, she noted the importance of The Rabat Plan of Action’s “three part test for restrictions” – legality, proportionality and necessity – for all PVE initiatives.

Finally, she expressed concern over the “elasticity of the term violent extremism” (quoting Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson’s latest report), and noted the need to develop a “working definition of the term.” She helpfully reminded participants of other cases in which progress on measures to be taken was made before/in parallel to the definition of the key terms: in the case of the rights of “minorities” and “indigenous peoples.”

Other panelists commented on the importance of an inclusive, “whole-of-society” approach to CVE, including, and drawing of the expertise and understanding of, civil society and local communities. The Moderator, and other panelists, noted the value in a “bottom up” approach, and the need to tailor actions “according to the contexts of a given community.”

A number of panelists and state participants also noted the importance of the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights for effective PVE strategies, noting a link between, inter alia, poverty and exclusion, and extremism.

There was significant concern among some panelists, states and NGO participants over the misuse of CVE policy and practice to target human rights defenders and media, and silence dissent (including online).

Ban Ki-moon, and other participants, noted he recently launched “Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism,” which, he noted, “stresses that human rights and the rule of law should be central whether we are countering violent extremism or trying to prevent it.”

Albania (speaking on behalf of the Platform on Human Rights Education and Training, comprising Costa Rica, Italy, Morocco, Philippines, Senegal, Slovenia, Switzerland and Thailand) stressed the need to “provide young women and men across the world with access to quality education,” to “develop their critical thinking, foster their capacity for innovation, with media literacy to reject hatred […]” This was also a theme of a number of interventions. Nazila Ghanea commented on the need to develop suitable approaches and messages when dealing with the issue of violent extremism with children, noting that security framework approaches are inappropriate.

For an informal summary report of the full discussion, click here.

Read Nazila Ghanea’s full statement here. Watch the full panel discussion online here.


[1] Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Maldives, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Paraguay, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Viet Nam.

[2] Russian Federation, South Africa, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of).

[3] Bolivia (Plurinational State of), China, Cuba, El Salvador, Kazakhstan, Namibia, Pakistan].

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