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9 May, 2016

UN Chief’s Action Plan exposes travel industry’s flawed response to security concerns

A Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism authored by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has exposed how the travel & tourism has long pursued a flawed and imbalanced strategy towards safety & security issues. The Plan also offers some concrete suggestions to “refocus priorities”, presenting a very important challenge to the travel & tourism industry to follow suit.

The Plan of Action was presented in the UN General Assembly’s debate on the “Culture of Peace” within the framework of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy on 15 January 2016. It’s over-arching theme focusses on the core need for prevention rather than cure, as manifested in the title of the report itself. In presenting the report, Mr. Ban said:

“Addressing this challenge goes to the heart of the United Nations. And it compels us to act in a way that solves – rather than multiplies — the problem. Many years of experience have proven that short-sighted policies, failed leadership, heavy-handed approaches, a single-minded focus only on security measures and an utter disregard for human rights have often made things worse.

“Let us never forget: Terrorist groups are not just seeking to unleash violent action, but to provoke a harsh reaction. We all lose by responding to ruthless terror with mindless policy – policies that turn people against each another, alienate already marginalized groups, and play into the hands of the enemy. We need cool heads and common sense. We must never be ruled by fear – or provoked by those who strive to exploit it.

“Countering violent extremism should not be counter-productive.”

Click here to see the full text of Mr. Ban’s comments: http://www.un.org/sg/statements/index.asp?nid=9388

In the Plan of Action itself, writing in the first person, Mr. Ban elaborates thus:

“The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, adopted unanimously (in Sept 2006) by the General Assembly by its resolution 60/288, explicitly addresses prevention and foresees balanced implementation across all four of its pillars:

(1) Tackling conditions conducive to terrorism;

(2) Preventing and combating terrorism;

(3) Building countries’ capacity to combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the United Nations system in that regard; and

(4) Ensuring respect for human rights for all and the rule of law while countering terrorism.

“Over the last decade, there has been a strong emphasis on the implementation of measures under Pillar 2 of the Global Strategy, while Pillars 1 and 4 have often been overlooked.

“Ahead of the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Strategy, in 2016, I am launching this Plan of Action, with a focus on preventive measures for addressing violent extremism, including by reinvigorating those measures covered under pillars 1 and 4 of the Strategy, ensuring a more comprehensive implementation of the Strategy in view of the lessons learned over the past decade and the challenges that may lie ahead.

“In doing so, we must be principled and strategic and must calibrate our response carefully. We must refocus our priorities, strengthen our application of justice, and rebuild the social compact between the governing and governed. We need to pay attention to why individuals are attracted to violent extremist groups. I am convinced that the creation of open, equitable, inclusive and pluralist societies, based on the full respect of human rights and with economic opportunities for all, represents the most tangible and meaningful alternative to violent extremism and the most promising strategy for rendering it unattractive.”

According to the UN, the Plan was developed through an extensive United Nations inter-agency process and is based on the outcomes of high-level meetings of the General Assembly and Security Council, interactive briefings to Member States and outcomes of international and regional meetings. The UN calls it “an appeal for concerted action by the international community.” It provides more than 70 recommendations to Member States and the UN System to prevent the further spread of violent extremism.

In an interesting break from the norm, the Plan of Action does not singularly cite Muslims as an example of violent extremism. Instead, it says, “In killing 77 people in 2011, the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik was explicitly aiming at destabilizing Norway’s tolerant society by dividing local communities and provoking an overreaction.”

On Pillar 1, about factors conducive to violent extremism, the Plan identifies five conditions which “are common among a wide variety of countries and regions and which lead, sometimes in isolation and sometimes in combination with other factors, to radicalization and violent extremism.” These are: Lack of socioeconomic opportunities; Marginalization and discrimination; Poor governance, violations of human rights and the rule of law; Prolonged and unresolved conflicts; and Radicalization in prisons.

It then goes into “processes of radicalization” – identifying the contextual factors, personal experiences and collective grievances – that trigger violent extremism. Finally, it makes a number of very specific recommendations on how to “refocus the priorities” and implement the plan.

Says Mr. Ban: “Both the General Assembly and the Security Council have acknowledged that violent extremism has reached a level of threat and sophistication that requires concerted action beyond law enforcement, military or security measures to address development, good governance, human rights and humanitarian concerns. Strengthening the rule of law, repealing discriminatory legislation and implementing policies and laws that combat discrimination, marginalization and exclusion in law and in practice must be an essential component of any response to the threat posed by violent extremism.”

In recommendations on funding of the Action Plan, one of Mr. Ban’s most powerful comments says, “Investment in prevention is far more cost-effective than allocating resources to mitigating consequences.”

Says Mr. Ban, “To transform our commitment into lasting change, we need to make more efficient use of existing funds and consider how, based on the interdependence of political, social and economic drivers of violent extremism, we can create synergies in our resource allocation. Moreover, within the peace and security sector, there is a growing understanding that many preventive measures, traditionally understood to be part of development efforts, can help address these drivers. The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals explicitly include goals and targets related to preventing violence and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies.”

The report can be downloaded in full here: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/70/674.

In the actual debate itself, the UN General Assembly became a victim of divergent political views, definitions and the inevitable blame-game (the various comments of the delegates can be read here: http://www.un.org/press/en/2016/ga11760.doc.htm). On 12 February 2016, the General Assembly adopted a resolution that “welcomes the initiative by the Secretary-General, and takes note of his Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism”. It offered to “give further consideration” to the Plan in the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy review to be conducted in June 2016 as well as in other relevant forums.

In other words, the Plan was not formally approved. But, Mr. Ban added in his comments, “Some Member States have already pledged to help transform the Plan from ideas to reality.

Can the travel & tourism industry do the same? How will it respond to the challenge? Read my column, The Irritant, here: https://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2016/05/how-will-travel-tourism-respond-to-the-plan-of-action-to-prevent-violent-extremism/


Is it about time for Travel & Tourism to focus on causes rather than symptoms of violent extremism?

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