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UN Conference to Focus on Measures to Prevent Terrorism

FILE - U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon speaks during a press conference at Tunis-Carthage Airport in Tunis, Tunisia, March 29, 2016. A U.N. conference April 7-8 on terrorism will focus on measures to prevent violent extremism from gaining a foothold and spreading.

Attendees at a two-day U.N. conference on terrorism will focus on measures to prevent violent extremism from gaining a foothold and spreading, a U.N. official said Tuesday.

Jehangir Khan, the director of the U.N. Counter-Terrorism Center, said violent extremism is "mushrooming" and is a "clear and present danger" around the world.

"Everybody is potentially affected by violent extremism. Nobody is spared," Khan said, insisting that "the need for international cooperation has never been more than now."

Countering terrorism

Up to now, the international response to countering terrorism has been through military, security, and law-and-order measures. All those measures are necessary to deal with the threats posed by Islamic State, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups, he said.

However, Khan said measures to prevent violent extremism from gaining a foothold and spreading also are important.

"The security, military logic, while necessary, has shown its limits," he said, stressing that strategies aimed at preventing youths from radicalizing in the first place need to be given far more attention.

In January, Ban outlined a four-point plan of action, asking all countries to create national plans to address the growing threat of violent extremism.

Khan said Ban's recommendations reject all forms of discrimination, Islamophobia and xenophobia in its implementation.


Experts have warned that tough, sometimes brutal measures taken by some countries in the fight against extremism can be counter-productive by pushing more people to radicalize.

“The secretary-general, in his plan of action, has stated very clearly that violent extremism has no religion, has no ethnicity, has no culture. (It) is a global evil," Khan said.

He said the U.N. chief's plan of action is focused particularly on the roughly 1.8 billion young people in the world, who are vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist groups. He said youth are being directly targeted by terrorist groups and radicalized.

A screen grab of the United Nations website.
A screen grab of the United Nations website.

“They are a very positive asset, but they are at the same time, very vulnerable. We have even young children who are being recruited and blowing themselves up. And, linked with youth is what I call the new Molotov cocktail. This is the new Molotov cocktail," Khan said.

Focus on youth

Khan held up his smartphone and described how the device and many social media outlets are being used by violent extremists to mobilize young people to commit human rights and terrorist offenses.

He said Ban's plan of action also recommends a broad range of measures, from boosting education to promoting human rights.

More than 800 people are expected to attend the April 7-8 conference in Geneva.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be among the leaders addressing the high-level segment of the conference, which the U.N. and Swiss government are hosting.

VOA's Lisa Schlein in Geneva and AFP contributed to this report.