USG Miguel Moratinos
High Representative for UNAOC
at the Side Event on
‘International Hub on Behavioural Insights to Counter-Terrorism:
Fostering resiliency and human rights through a behavioural insights approach’
Malaga, 9 May 2022
Your Excellency, Mr. Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General, Office of the United Nations of Counter-terrorism,
Allow me to begin by thanking Under-Secretary-General Vladimir Voronkov for inviting me to participate in today’s side event of the “International Hub on Behavioural Insights to Counter Terrorism focusing on Fostering resiliency and human rights through a behavioural insights approach”. I had the privilege of participating in the soft opening of the International Hub in December 2020. Today, the center is up and running in Doha.
So I wish to congratulate you my dear friend Vladimir once again for this great achievement.
The concept itself is a forward-looking approach into means of countering and preventing violent extremism conducive to terrorism based on science and research.
Let us agree that no one is born a terrorist.
Nor that all terrorists are essentially religious extremists.
Therefore, it is important to understand the precursors of a terrorist’s actions and the characteristics of a terrorist’s mind.
It will help us understand why and how people become radicalized to violence and where and when we can intervene most effectively to uproot the radicalization process. The Hub will enable counter-terrorism experts to identify risk and resilience factors and develop empirically validated interventions for policymakers and practitioners.
And it will support the efforts of governments, international and regional organizations, as well as civil society through science-based information and research, capacity-building and good practices on behavioural approaches to counter-terrorism. It will also support the overall United Nations’ collective work in the behavioural insights domain.
Therefore, the Guidance Note on building resiliency in PCVE/CT using behavioural approach developed by the BI and the code of conduct will provide a useful and substantive framework that will inform a human-rights-centric approach in the global counter-terrorism efforts. It will also add a new dimension to preventive diplomacy strategies.
During the past two years and specifically during the pandemic, terrorist and radical groups sought to exploit divisions, local conflicts, governance failures, and grievances to promote their twisted ideologies and recruit more people.
We also saw a surge in the misuse of digital technology, cyberattacks, and bioterrorism.
Misuse of digital technology does not mean that we cast it aside. Instead, we should harness the power of these new technological advances to deliver positive solutions.
We, therefore, need to closely monitor evolving trends and threats and be innovative in our responses.
We also need to monitor and analyze the psycho-social, economic and political repercussions associated with a post-pandemic era. In doing so, we will be able to predict and pre-empt endeavors by terrorists and radicals who seek to exploit such vulnerabilities.
We must ensure that we have the right tools to stay ahead of terrorists and radical groups.
We need to apply behavioral science to analyze online hate speech and xenophobic narratives.
Access to data that has been removed is crucial in analyzing the push and pull factors of terrorism as well as in monitoring how it evolved in the mindset of a would-be terrorist or extremist.
As we do so, all such measures should be based on international law and human rights law.
We need to work with grassroots and youth who have a better understanding of their communities.
Based on reports, marginalization and a lack of a sense of belonging are among the root causes of radicalization particularly among youth. It plays into the theory of “Us versus Them”.
This also means that poverty, lack of education, and the absence of democracy are not the only root causes that drive terrorists to plot and carry out acts of terror. Many terrorist attacks were committed by individuals who were educated – they were not necessarily poor and they lived in democratic societies.
At this point, behavioral science is uniquely situated to try to figure out what other factors are at play. A challenge will be putting these pieces into a coherent theory.
As we look into the root causes of violent extremism conducive to terrorism, it’s equally important to explore opportunities and pathways conducive to inclusion which will lead to acceptance and mutual respect.
The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations is mandated to address the root causes of polarization and violent extremism conducive to terrorism.
As co-chairs of the UNOCT’s working group of preventing and countering violent extremism, we deploy a number of tools from our toolbox to address those drivers.
For example the sports tool.
We are very proud of our partnership with UNOCT in the United Nations Global Programme on the Security of Major Sporting Events, and Promotion of Sport and its Values as a Tool to Prevent Violent Extremism.
Sports proved to be an excellent tool that creates a sense of belonging to the community and reduces prejudices, particularly among underprivileged communities.
In fact, we believe that all forms of human expressions such as arts, music, and film are universal languages that break barriers and taboos.
We also provide capacity-building programs to youth-led organizations and faith actors as a viable preventive tool.
Concluding, I congratulate you once again for this integrative approach to countering terrorism that will help in both the understanding of terrorism and the development of ways to counter it. It complements existing security governance strategies in combatting violent extremism conducive to terrorism.
I and my team stand ready to support this new initiative and collaborate with you in its implementation.
I thank you.