Tag Archives: International Cooperation

Standing in Solidarity with Victims and Survivors of Terrorism in the Era of COVID-19

Photo Credit: Agustín Santos Maraver (at podium), Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations, makes remarks at the launch of the photographic exhibition “Surviving Terrorism: The Power of Resilience” on the occasion of the International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism. 21 August 2019. United Nations, New York. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

About the Author

Vladimir Voronkov is Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and Executive Director of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre.

In December 2017, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 21 August as the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism (A/RES/72/165).  It was a momentous occasion for advocates of victims of terrorism and part of a series of developments at the international, regional and national level, which demonstrated that support to victims had finally moved beyond symbolic solidarity towards more action-focused initiatives to uphold their human rights and address their needs.

The International Day ensures that we pause every year to reflect, remember and reaffirm our commitment to supporting victims of terrorism, a group that all too often feels marginalized and overlooked. In the immediate aftermath of attacks, there is often an outpouring of grief, compassion and solidarity for victims, which may give the impression that their needs are being addressed. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In today’s fast-paced news cycle, media attention on the victims quickly diminishes, with a greater focus on the perpetrator of the attack. This imbalance means many victims are left nameless, faceless and without a platform to seek justice, recognition and support.

Despite the good progress we have made in recent years in advocating for victims of terrorism, much work remains to be done by Member States to ensure victims’ needs and rights are adequately prioritized. Many victims receive emergency treatment, counselling and compensation in the immediate aftermath of an attack, but becoming a victim of terrorism has life-long consequences that can reverberate across generations. General Assembly resolution 73/305 of June 2019 calls on Member States to establish national assistance plans for victims that address their long-term relief and rehabilitation needs and take into account a gender perspective. My Office is looking at how we can operationalize this call by supporting Member States’ efforts to deliver real and sustainable improvements in addressing the long-term needs of victims and their families. For example, we are working with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Inter-Parliamentary Union to develop model legal provisions to ensure that victims’ rights and needs are enshrined in national legal frameworks. This is an important step forward in our efforts to enable victims to participate in judicial processes, gain better access to basic medical (including psychosocial) services, and receive adequate compensation and reparations.

The new scourge of COVID-19 may dominate today’s headlines but global challenges such as terrorism continue to destroy lives and communities.

The COVID-19 crisis has added a new layer of complexity and concern for victims of terrorism. Many victims may find that the threats engendered by the pandemic can trigger traumatic reactions similar to those associated with a terrorist attack, including a shattering of their sense of safety and protection. At the same time, there are concerns that in understandably focusing on fighting the pandemic, Member States have diverted their attention and resources away from protecting, supporting, and remembering victims. This has had a detrimental impact on victims’ access to justice and the legal, financial, and psychosocial support available to them.

Secretary-General António Guterres attends the launch of the multimedia exhibition “Surviving Terrorism: Victims’ Voices” on the occasion of the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism (21 August). Mr. Guterres (second from left) greets Imrana Alhaji Buba, victim of terrorism from Nigeria, whose experience is highlighted in the exhibit. At left is Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism. 17 August 2018. United Nations, New York. UN Photo/Mark Garten.

My Office continues to stand with victims of terrorism, particularly during this trying time, and we have called for tangible actions by Member States to ensure that victims’ rights and needs remain a priority. Nevertheless, we have heard from our partners, especially victims’ associations, that victims fear they are being forgotten and their voices cast aside. For this reason, the third commemoration of the International Day on 21 August 2020 will focus on honouring those who have lost their lives and remembering those who have survived. At a time when so many remembrance ceremonies and memorials have been cancelled or moved online, depriving victims of much-needed in-person support and comfort, the International Day will be an opportunity for the world to come together and stand in solidarity with all victims and survivors.

We have a moral duty and a responsibility to build on the progress made in recent years and increase our support to victims of terrorism, especially in times of crisis. At the international level, this progress can be seen in resolution 73/305, adopted last year, which calls for strengthened international cooperation to support victims of terrorism. It also recognizes the vital role that civil society organizations play in supporting the recovery of victims, which has unfortunately been disrupted by the pandemic as funding dries up and services are suspended or forced online. To ensure that victims are well-supported during and beyond the COVID-19 crisis, there needs to be decisive action at international and national levels, combining the resources and expertise of Member States, the private sector and civil society, including victims’ associations, human rights organizations and academia. The Group of Friends of Victims of Terrorism, an initiative of more than 40 Member State permanent missions to the United Nations in New York, and the establishment of a Civil Society Unit in my Office—the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism—are good examples of this strengthened collaboration.

The new scourge of COVID-19 may dominate today’s headlines but global challenges such as terrorism continue to destroy lives and communities. We owe it to every victim and survivor of terrorism to protect and promote their human rights, amplify their voices and uphold their dignity so they can heal, recover and rebuild their lives. Despite the many challenges we face during these uncertain times, supporting and remembering victims will always remain a top priority for my Office and for the whole United Nations. Only by acknowledging the tragic and devastating human impact of terrorism can we work towards the promotion of peace and a world without the scourge of terrorism.

19 August 2020

The UN Chronicle  is not an official record. It is privileged to host senior United Nations officials as well as distinguished contributors from outside the United Nations system whose views are not necessarily those of the United Nations. Similarly, the boundaries and names shown, and the designations used, in maps or articles do not necessarily imply endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

Reflections on the Charter of the United Nations on its 75th Anniversary

by Mona Juul, seventy-fifth President of the Economic and Social Council and Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations.

This year we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Charter of the United Nations, written and signed during a period of great global change. Today, the world is again shifting beneath our feet. Yet, the Charter remains a firm foundation for our joint efforts.

These uncertain times of global disruption shine a light on the interdependences of our world. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the inequality it has exposed, are a global challenge that we must solve through global solutions. These solutions call for more, not less, cooperation across national borders.

Global cooperation is the enduring promise of the Charter of the United Nations. I am honoured to preside over the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the principal organs of the United Nations, at its 75th anniversary.

In January 1946, 18 members gathered for the inaugural meeting of ECOSOC under the leadership of its first President, Sir Ramaswami Mudaliar of India. ECOSOC was vested with a powerful mandate, to promote better living for all ­­by fostering international cooperation on economic, social and cultural issues.

The Charter recognizes the value of social and economic development as prerequisites for stability and well-being. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld once said that “while the Security Council exists primarily for settling conflicts […] the Economic and Social Council exists primarily to eliminate the causes of conflicts.”

For me, this is a reminder that sustainable peace and prosperity rely on global solidarity and cooperation.

Today, this unity of purpose to reach those furthest behind first is also the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2030 Agenda is our shared road map to transform the world as we recover better, protect our planet and leave no one behind. With ECOSOC serving as the unifying platform for integration, action, follow-up and review of the SDGs, our promise to eradicate poverty, achieve equality and stop climate change must drive our actions.

ECOSOC has the unique convening power to make this happen. It brings together valuable constituencies such as youth and the private sector to enhance our work and discussions. ECOSOC also remains the gateway for civil society engagement with the United Nations. Civil society has been central to progress on international economic, social and environmental cooperation, from the small but critical number of organizations present in San Francisco when the Charter was signed in 1945, to the 5,000-plus non-governmental organizations with ECOSOC consultative status today.

The Charter also outlines that ECOSOC should promote universal respect and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion. While much has shifted in our world, this mandate remains just as important today as in 1945. After all, human rights are a part of the foundation of the United Nations, quite literally. When Trygve Lie, the first Secretary-General and fellow Norwegian, laid the cornerstone of United Nations Headquarters at Turtle Bay in October 1949, it contained, together with the Charter, a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Human rights have always been a part of the work of ECOSOC. The Human Rights Commission was one of the first functional commissions created within ECOSOC and was charged with drafting the Universal Declaration. Today, ECOSOC remains committed to playing its part to promote all rights: civil and political, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.

Wilhelm Munthe Morgenstierne, Ambassador to the United States, member of the delegation from Norway, signing the Charter of the United Nations at the Veterans’ War Memorial Building in San Francisco, United States on 26 June 1945.UN Photo/McLain

In stark contrast to the 18 men who formed the first meeting of ECOSOC in 1946, I am proud to be the third consecutive female president of ECOSOC and one of five female presidents in its 75-year history. Although slow, this is progress, especially compared to 1945, when out of the 850 international delegates that convened in San Francisco to establish the Charter of the United Nations, only eight were women, and only four of them were signatories to the Charter. Today, the Secretary-General has achieved gender parity in all senior United Nations positions, and the Commission on the Status of Women is perhaps the highest profile part of the work of ECOSOC. The Commission’s annual session is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

ECOSOC must work to place gender equality at the heart of all our work. Women’s rights and gender equality are imperative to a just world. In all my endeavours, I strive to promote and advance these rights with a vision of a more prosperous, peaceful and fair world, for the benefit of women and girls—and men and boys alike.

Before the current crisis, more people around the world were living better lives compared to just a decade ago. More people have access to better health care, decent work and education than ever before. Nevertheless, inequality, climate change and the lasting negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are threatening to undo these gains. While we have technological and financial resources at our disposal, unprecedented changes will be needed to align resources with our sustainable development objectives. The United Nations must remain at the forefront of our collective efforts guided by our commitment to the Charter.

The true test of our success will be whether persons, communities and countries experience improvement in their lives and societies. The United Nations must be of value to people. To our family. To our neighbours. To our friends. Unless we achieve this, our credibility is at stake.

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Charter of the United Nations, let us remind ourselves of the promise it embodies, to help the world become a more prosperous, just, equitable and peaceful place.

To me, the opening words of the Charter, “WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS”, are a humble and empowering reminder of our capability to overcome current and future challenges. Even in troubling times, there remains great hope in the power of working together. That is the founding spirit of the United Nations—and in this 75th anniversary year, as we face grave and global challenges, it is the spirit we must summon today.

26 June 2020

About the author
Mona Juul is the seventy-fifth President of the Economic and Social Council and Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations.

Feature Photo Credit: Inga Rhonda King (left), Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations and seventy-fourth President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), hands over the gavel to Mona Juul, Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations and newly-elected seventy-fifth President of ECOSOC, at the opening meeting of the 2020 session of ECOSOC. New York, 25 July 2019. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The  UN Chronicle is not an official record. The views expressed by individual authors, as well as the boundaries and names shown and the designations used in maps or articles, do not necessarily imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

UN Charter 1945

Marking 75 Years of the Charter of the United Nations

UN Charter Day – 26 June 2020

The Charter of the United Nations has been a constant presence in my life. My awareness of it started with the usual brief introduction to the basics of the United Nations as an organization that many young people receive in school. Later, as my political awareness took shape against the backdrop of military rule in Portugal and my country’s status as a colonial power, the Charter’s calls for self-determination and other freedoms registered with urgency. During the time I spent as a volunteer in the poor neighbourhoods of Lisbon, the Charter’s vision of social justice was equally resonant. In subsequent service as a parliamentarian and then as Prime Minister, I was privileged to have an opportunity to advance not only national progress but one of the Charter’s other main objectives: international cooperation. Across a decade as High Commissioner for Refugees and now in my current role, the Charter’s power inspires me onward every day in serving “we the peoples”, including the most vulnerable members of the human family, who have a special claim on that landmark document’s provisions and protections.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, United States, the city in which the Charter of the United Nations was signed on 26 June 1945. ©Kishan Rana

The adoption of the Charter of the United Nations was a pivotal and historic moment. The document enshrined a determination to establish a new international order built with the purpose of avoiding a third world war following two such cataclysms that took place within the space of a single generation. Over the past seventy-five years, the Charter has proven to be a solid yet flexible framework. Its ideals have endured, and its legal foundation has progressively adjusted to new situations and needs. Amidst crisis and complexity, the Charter has remained the touchstone we all refer to and rely upon to uphold our shared responsibilities and achieve our global commitments.

In an era of spreading hatred and impunity, the Charter reminds us of the primacy of human dignity and the rule of law. And in a time of rapid transformation and technological change, the Charter’s values and objectives endure: the peaceful settlement of disputes; the equal rights of men and women; non-intervention, self-determination and the sovereign equality of Member States; and clear rules governing the use of force, as set out in Article 2, paragraph 4, and Chapter VII of the Charter.

These principles are not favours or concessions. They form the bedrock of international relations and are central to peace. They have saved lives, advanced economic and social progress and inspired the further elaboration of international law, encompassing key areas such as human rights, the environment and international criminal justice.

When these principles have been flouted, put aside or applied selectively, the results have been catastrophic: conflict, chaos, death, disillusion and mistrust. Our shared challenge is to do far better in upholding the Charter’s values. One of the most effective ways to fulfil our commitments is to invest in prevention, as envisaged in the Charter’s Chapter VI. Another is by working more closely with regional organizations, as foreseen in Chapter VIII. And while peacekeeping is not mentioned in the Charter, it epitomizes the kind of collective action for peace that the Charter envisions and is an indispensable tool that merits strong international support.

Resilient and visionary, the Charter of the United Nations speaks to all people; it belongs to everyone, everywhere. At a time when the world is wrestling with the COVID-19 pandemic, rising geopolitical tensions and growing climate disruption, the Charter points the way to the solidarity we need today and across generations. As we strive to maintain international peace and security, protect human rights, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and strengthen multilateralism, we must return to fundamental principles; we must return to the framework that has kept us together; we must come home to our Charter.

25 June 2020

About the author
António Guterres is the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Feature Photo Credit: António Guterres, laying his left hand on the Charter of the United Nations, takes the oath of office as Secretary-General of the United Nations for a five-year term that began on 1 January 2017. Peter Thomson, then President of the General Assembly, administers the oath. 12 December 2016. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The  UN Chronicle is not an official record. The views expressed by individual authors, as well as the boundaries and names shown and the designations used in maps or articles, do not necessarily imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

Taking action where we can to stop Cybercrime

By Yury Fedotov

The author is the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The op-ed is on the need for cooperation to tackle cybercrime.

Cyber. It is the inescapable prefix defining our world today. From the privacy of individuals to relations between states, cyber dominates discussions and headlines – so much so that we risk being paralyzed by the magnitude of the problems we face.

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

But we would do well to keep in mind that despite the many outstanding questions on the future of cybersecurity and governance, international cooperation is essential to tackle the ever-growing threats of cybercrime.

Online exploitation and abuse of children. Darknet markets for illicit drugs and firearms. Ransomware attacks. Human traffickers using social media to lure victims. Cybercrime’s unprecedented reach – across all borders, into our homes and schools, businesses, hospitals and other vital service providers – only amplifies the threats.

A recent estimate put the global cost of cybercrime at 600 billion US dollars. The damage done to sustainable development and safety, to gender equality and protection –women and girls are disproportionately harmed by online sexual abuse – is immense.

Keeping people safer online is an enormous task and no one entity or government has the perfect solution. But there is much we can do, and need to do more of, to strengthen prevention and improve responses to cybercrime, namely:

  • Build up capabilities, most of all law enforcement, to shore up gaps, particularly in developing countries; and
  • Strengthen international cooperation and dialogue – between governments, the United Nations, other international as well as regional organizations, INTERPOL and the many other partners, including business and civil society, with a stake in stopping cybercrime.

Cyber-dependent crime, including malware proliferation, ransomware and hacking; cyber-enabled crime, for example email phishing to steal financial data; and online child sexual exploitation and abuse all have something in common besides the “cyber” aspect: they are crimes.

Police, prosecutors and judges need to understand these crimes, they need the tools to investigate and go after the criminals and protect the victims, and they need to be able to prosecute and adjudicate cases.

At the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), we are working in more than 50 countries to provide the necessary training, to sharpen investigative skills, trace cryptocurrencies as part of financial investigations, and use software to detect online abuse materials and go after predators.

As a direct result of our capacity-building efforts in one country, a high-risk paedophile with over 80 victims –– was arrested, tried and convicted. We delivered the training in partnership with the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children and Facebook. This is just one example of how capacity building and partnerships with NGOs and the private sector can ensure that criminals are behind bars and vulnerable children protected.

Working with the Internet Watch Foundation, we have launched child sexual abuse reporting portals – most recently in Belize – so that citizens can take the initiative to report abuse images and protect girls and boys from online exploitation.

With partners including Thorn and Pantallas Amigas we are strengthening online protection and educating parents, caregivers and children about cyber risks through outreach in schools and local communities. Prevention is the key.

UNODC training – focused primarily on Central America, the Middle East and North Africa, Eastern Africa and South East Asia – is also helping to identify digital evidence in online drug trafficking, confront the use of the darknet for criminal and terrorist purposes, and improve data collection to better address threats.

A critical foundation for all our efforts is international cooperation. Our work – which is entirely funded by donor governments – has shown that despite political differences, countries can and do come together to counter the threats of cybercrime.

We are also strengthening international cooperation through the Intergovernmental Expert Group, which meets at UNODC headquarters in Vienna.

Established by General Assembly resolution, the Expert Group brings together diplomats, policy makers and experts from around the globe to discuss the most pressing challenges in cybercrime today. These meetings demonstrate the desire and willingness of governments to pursue pragmatic cooperation, which can only help to improve prevention and foster trust.

As a next step, we need to reinforce these efforts, including by providing more resources to support developing countries, which often have the most new Internet users and the weakest defences against cybercrime.

Tech companies are an indispensable ally in the fight against cybercrime. We need to increase public-private sector engagement to address common concerns like improving education and clamping down on online abuse material.

Countering cybercrime can save lives, grow prosperity and build peace. By strengthening law enforcement capacities and partnering with businesses so they can be part of the solution, we can go a long way in ensuring that the Internet can be a force for good.