On 22 – 24 May 2023, the OSCE Secretariat’s Transnational Threats Department conducted a national table-top exercise in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on countering the use of the internet for terrorist purposes while respecting human rights. The exercise was organized together with the OSCE Centre in Ashgabat.
The three-day event brought together over 25 participants from Turkmenistan’s governmental agencies, law enforcement, civil society, the media, academia and the private sector, and was facilitated by experts from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, SecDev and the UN-led Tech Against Terrorism initiative.
Participants discussed challenges in countering terrorist use of the internet and in improving the efficiency of national efforts to tackle these challenges. With the current National Strategy and Action Plan on Prevention of Violent Extremism and Countering Terrorism running until 2024, this event also offered an opportunity to discuss how the OSCE could support the possible development of a new strategy.
“The OSCE, as the largest regional security organization, was one of the first international organizations to take a comprehensive approach to countering the use of the internet for terrorist purposes while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said John MacGregor, Head of the OSCE Centre in Ashgabat.
“It is noteworthy that back in 2002, the OSCE participating States committed themselves to taking the necessary measures to prevent the misuse of information technologies for terrorist purposes and since then have adopted a number of important decisions and declarations,” added MacGregor.
Luigi Ferrari, Ambassador of Italy to Turkmenistan and Michael Bierhoff, Ambassador of Germany to Turkmenistan, also presented their opening remarks.
During the exercise, participants engaged in interactive and scenario-based discussions to enhance their knowledge on countering terrorism-related online threats prevalent in Central Asia and on practical human rights-centred approaches to tackling these issues. Experts presented good practices in addressing challenges emanating from the use of the internet by terrorists while respecting the right to privacy and the freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religion or belief.
The event also served as a platform for networking and exchanging experiences among participants and led to a development of a Policy Response and Recommendation Paper aimed at improving the efficiency of related national efforts. These recommendations will then be shared with the national authorities to help formulate relevant human rights-compliant and gender-mainstreamed policies and frameworks for preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorism online, to be integrated in broader national strategies and action plans.
“The recommendations will have an added value as they will also help the OSCE Centre in Ashgabat prioritize its efforts in providing practical assistance to Turkmenistan in the fight against the threat of countering the use of the internet by terrorists,” stated MacGregor.
The event was organized in the framework of the OSCE extra-budgetary project “Preventing and countering the use of the internet for terrorist purposes in Central Asia” with the financial support of Austria, Germany and Italy. ///OSCE Ashgabat, 24 May 2023 [photo credit – OSCE/Lusine Apresyan]