Ashgabat, 16 June 2017 (nCa) — The United Nations and Central Asia had on 13 June 2017 in Ashgabat an action-oriented round of dialogue on countering and preventing terrorism. It was chaired by Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General.
The outcome document – Ashgabat Declaration – demonstrates the clear-eyed and level-headed approach the region has developed for dealing with terrorism. This is in part, the result of close cooperation with the various agencies of the United Nations, particularly the UNRCCA.
It is important to note that the Ashgabat Declaration, the complete text of which is given at the end of this analysis, makes clear distinction between terrorism and extremism.
To explain this, one can say that all terrorism is extremism but all extremism is not terrorism. As a matter of fact, extremism is the path that leads to terrorism. — If we can neutralize the seed of extremism before it starts sprouting, we can prevent terrorism without paying any cost in blood and tears.
Ashgabat Declaration, therefore, gives a roadmap for preventing the emergence of extremism that in turn can guarantee the preclusion of terrorism.
In paragraph 5, it is acknowledged that the primary responsibility to implement the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy remains with the Member States. In other words, each country must own what is happening inside its borders and be the primary responder to the situations leading to extremism and terrorism.
The core of the Ashgabat Declaration in terms of sub-components for dealing with emergence and rise of extremism is paragraph 8. It defines the areas where each country, on its own and also in any possible numbers of bilateral and multilateral formats, can take steps to ensure elimination and deterrence of extremism:
- Dialogue and conflict prevention
- Addressing the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon
- Promotion of youth engagement
- Skills development and employment facilitation
- Countering terrorist narrative
- Countering misuse of information technology
- Sharing of information and best practices
All of these are inter-related, showing the regional awareness and comprehension of the phenomenon.
In very simplified terms, we can say that the foreign terrorist fighter is either a mercenary or an angry, motivated person, usually a mix of both. We will deal with this in some detail in our recently started series on ISIS.
In the context of Central Asia, a region that remained under communism for 70 years, it is important that the terrorist narrative be partly countered by imparting the basic religious education to the youth. In the vacuum that exists because of no religious knowledge, the extreme and illogical interpretations masquerade as Islam.
In the area of youth engagement, it will be admirable but inadequate to stop at just giving them the necessary education and skills for the job market. They need to get the satisfaction of being heard and understood. The generation gap this time around is far wider than ever.
Disrupting the flow of information in the name of counter-terrorism will obviously give rise to negative consequences. /// nCa
Here is the complete text of the Ashgabat Declaration:
- We, the representatives of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan, have convened at the ministerial level on the initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General and the Government of Turkmenistan on 13 June 2017, in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, for the “High-Level United Nations-Central Asia Dialogue on Implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia.” The High-Level Dialogue reviewed progress and defined future strategic priorities for the implementation of the United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia, including through the Joint Plan of Action, which was adopted in this city on 30 November 2011.
- We strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and recognize that the prevention of terrorism is one of the most important components of ensuring national and regional security. We also affirm that terrorism should not be associated with any religion, nationality, culture, civilization or ethnic group.
- We welcome the important role of the United Nations in international counter-terrorism efforts, as well as the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and Security Council with regard to countering terrorism.
- We welcome the recent initiative of the Secretary-General to reform the United Nations counter-terrorism architecture by establishing a new Office of Counter-Terrorism, and we look forward to working closely with this new office. We also recognize the valuable support of the United Nations Centre (UNCCT) of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) Office and UNRCCA in the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action, as well as the expertise provided by other international, regional and sub-regional organizations operating in Central Asia. We also note with appreciation that this year marks the tenth anniversary of the establishment of UNRCCA.
- We agree to further strengthen our cooperation and coordination with the United Nations and other relevant entities, with a view to ensuring the effective implementation of the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and General Assembly with regard to countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism. While the primary responsibility to implement the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy remains with us as Member States of the United Nations, we appeal for increased engagement by our bilateral partners, as well as international and regional organizations in support of its implementation.
- We note that Central Asia is the first region where comprehensive, integrated and balanced implementation of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy was started. To this end, we recognize with satisfaction the achievements of the first two phases of the joint UNCCT-UNRCCA project “Towards the Implementation of the Joint Plan of Action for the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia,” which is funded by the European Union and Norway, and have agreed that on this very strong foundation, and as a way forward, we will continue to support a balanced implementation of the four pillars of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy through a third phase of this project.
- We request for the continues support of the United Nations, in particular, through its Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, to help further implementation of the Joint Plan of Action, by coordinating efforts, helping build capacity, and supporting a platform for regular exchanges of information on progress towards implementation.
- We intend to exert all necessary efforts to counter new threats identified in the fifth review resolution of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, including the recommendations of the United Nations Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, through promoting dialogue and conflict prevention, addressing the foreign terrorism fighter, phenomenon, promoting youth engagement, skills development and employment facilitation, countering terrorist narrative and the misuse of information technology, as well as sharing of information and best practices.
- We further call for greater coherence by partners, United Nations entities, as well as other regional and international organizations supporting our activities, including thorugh the use of Matrix of Activities of regional and international organizations in supporting the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action in Central Asia, jointly prepared by CTITF and UNRCCA, to coordinate their work.
- We also express our gratitude to the Government of Turkmenistan for their initiative and warm welcome in hosting the “High-Level United Nations-Central Asia Dialogue on Implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia” in Ashgabat.
- Adopted on 13th of June 2017 by the participants of the “High-Level United Nations-Central Asia Dialogue on Implementing the United National Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia,” in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
Ashgabat, 13 June 2017