New Year Message from ICCT Director Mark Singleton

Dear friends and colleagues,

From our new office and on behalf of all of us here at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague (ICCT), I hereby wish you all a very happy 2016!

From a terrorism and counter-terrorism perspective, 2015 was an eventful year – to put it mildly. An increasingly large number of countries are now affected by (home-grown) terrorism, and the numbers are likely to grow. Although forecasting terrorism is a risky undertaking, it is highly unlikely that 2016 will be viewed as a turning point in history. The facts don’t lie: first, many countries and regions are either war-torn or highly vulnerable; second, the repressive counter-terrorism policies and strategies currently applied have in the past served as catalysts for further radicalisation and violence. Third, the proliferation of (small) weapons continues; and fourth, any terrorist incident – especially those committed in the West – is guaranteed to attract mass media attention. Combined, these circumstances offer an ideal platform for (more) terrorist activity.  Unfortunately, things are probably going to get worse before they get better.

Although terrorism has been with us for centuries, the way it manifests itself during these past few years has taken many by surprise. To suggest that finding the right balance between “hard” and “soft” counter-terrorism policies and measures is challenging, is an understatement. Governments and agencies are grappling with new realities; the need for evidence-based research, policy advice, capacity building as well as a more thorough understanding of what does and does not work, has never been this critical. Consequently, ICCT’s raison d’être has never been so profound.

2015 was an important year for the ICCT. Not only did we see a firm commitment by the Netherlands government to support ICCT for another five-year period; we also expanded our activity portfolio significantly. We are proud to work with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the government of the United States, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), the Municipality of The Hague, and many others.  The team has grown accordingly, and more staff are expected to join.

In 2016, ICCT will continue the expansion of activities in all four work streams: counter-terrorism research and analysis; policy advice and project implementation support; monitoring & evaluation; and assisting the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), i.e. the hosting of the GCTF Administrative Unit (AU) and supporting GCTF’s working group on foreign terrorist fighters.

At ICCT, research and analysis is not a goal in itself; our aim is to challenge and inform policy & practice. As a think and do tank, ICCT already plays a part in policy advice, implementation support and dissemination. In 2016, new activities are foreseen, including country-based analysis of motivations and pathways of foreign fighters; risk assessment, rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremist offenders; technical assistance for national CT strategy development, as well as CVE activities in Africa and the Middle East. In addition, starting 1 January, ICCT has officially taken on the responsibility for the GCTF AU. Finally, ICCT in association with its UK partner IOD-PARC, will launch its monitoring & evaluation capacity; in doing so, we will be addressing a major shortcoming in counter-terrorism.

For ICCT, partnering with other renowned organisations is one of the cornerstones of our work. As a consortium of three international organisations based in The Hague (i.e. The T.M.C. Asser Instituut, Clingendael and Leiden University’s Institute of Security and Global Affairs (ISGA)), and acknowledging the multifaceted nature of (counter-) terrorism, pooling know how and resources from different organisations is part and parcel of our DNA. As a network organisation, we believe in the added value that other Centres of Excellence bring to the table; In 2016, we will consolidate and expand these partnerships, in all areas of our work.

Finally, in 2016, we plan to host a number of events (conferences, expert meetings, public hearings), highlighting the findings of our work and provoking debate around some key principles of (counter-) terrorism.

At ICCT, we are immensely grateful for your support and interest in our work. As always, we welcome your thoughts,  suggestions and feedback ( and look forward to seeing you again in 2016.

Mark Singleton