Seminar on Counter-Terrorism & Civil Society

Date: Thursday 8 September 2011, 16:00 – 18:30

Venue: Campus The Hague, Location Stichthage

In cooperation with Cordaid, ICCT hosted a Seminar on “Reflecting on the Effects of Counter-Terrorism Measures since 9/11: A Civil Society Perspective“.

With the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks drawing near, this ICCT Seminar reflected on a number of humanitarian and societal implications of a decade of intensified counter-terrorism measures from a civil society perspective. Dr. David Cortright (Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies), principal author of the Friend not Foe Report, presented on the effect that various counter-terrorism measures have had on the operational and political freedoms and room for manoeuvre of civil society actors. He highlighted the consequences of policies and rulings such as the Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project for groups that address political grievances, socio-economic injustices and power imbalances – some of the root causes of violent armed conflict. These have had a considerable impact on their important work; work that they understandably do not want to label as counter-terrorism, but nevertheless has a huge impact on countering violent extremism.

Cortright emphasized that states have a duty to protect and respect the rights of civil society organisations, and emphasised the need to obtain greater recognition from governments of the harmful effects of some of the (counter-terrorism) policies and laws in place, whilst at the same time acknowledging support for the important role civil society actors have in preventing and countering terrorism.

The presentation by Dr. Cortright was followed by a number of comments from the security perspective by Mr. Glenn Schoen (G4S Risk Advisory). Schoen stressed that, although the report puts forward a number of interesting and important points, it should also be more realistic about the abuse of civil society actors and funding by terrorist organisations. Furthermore, he argued that, in general, governments have been exceptionally poor at articulating how and why they are implementing and executing their policies and what the success rate is.

Subsequently, Dr. Cortright and Mr. Schoen were joined by Dr. Bibi van Ginkel (ICCT) and Mr. Peter van Tuijl (Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict) in a Panel Debate. The panelists discussed the importance of the Arab Spring in emphasising the positive role of civil society actors, the need to find a common language between the security (policy) sector and civil society, and the acknowledgement of the common point of departure shared by both the governmental institutions and civil society actors: the prevention and reduction of violence.