U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has unveiled a global counterterrorism strategy that places renewed emphasis on the victims of terror attacks. The General Assembly is slated to debate the strategy next week.
The Secretary-General Tuesday signaled a shift in the world body's approach to counterterrorism.
Last year, in a speech marking the anniversary of the Madrid train bombings, Mr. Annan said groups use terror tactics because they think those tactics are effective, or at least, that those in whose name they claim to act, will approve. That belief, he said, was the true "root cause" of terrorism.
But in a global counterterrorism strategy document sent to the General Assembly Tuesday, the secretary-general backtracked from that statement. He noted there have been ongoing discussions among member states about whether terrorism can at all be traced to "so-called root causes".
He asked member states to recognize that terrorist acts do not occur in a social or political vacuum.
Speaking to the Assembly, Mr. Annan said an effective counterterrorism strategy must address the conditions terrorists exploit.
"We need to launch a global campaign of governments, the U.N., civil society and the private sector, with the message that terrorism is unacceptable in any form, and that there are far better and more effective ways for those with genuine grievances to seek redress," said Kofi Annan. "One of the clearest and most powerful ways we can do that is by refocusing our attention on the victims."
Mr. Annan also called on governments to respect human rights in their anti-terrorist activities. He said that includes the rights of victims, suspects, and those affected by the consequences of terrorism.
"States must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with their obligations under international law, in particular human rights law, refugee law and international humanitarian law," he said. "Any strategy that compromises human rights will play right into the hands of the terrorists."
Mr. Annan stressed the need for innovative solutions to prevent the use of biological weapons, and to halt the increasing use by terrorists of the internet.
He also urged the General Assembly to quickly approve a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
Adoption of the convention has been held up for years, partially because of a disagreement over the definition of terrorism. But the Secretary-General urged member states not to allow the lack of a consensus on a definition to block approval of the overall counterterrorism strategy.
Last September's summit of world leaders asked Mr. Annan to draw up a global counterterrorism blueprint. The General Assembly is due to begin consultations on Mr. Annan's recommendations May 11.