CM(2007)94 Addendum 1 18 May 20071
999bis Meeting, 20 June 2007
10 Legal questions
10.5 International Conference "Why terrorism? Addressing the Conditions Conducive to the Spread of Terrorism"
Conclusions (Strasbourg, 25-26 April 2007)
For consideration by the GR-J at its meeting on 12 June 2007
1. At the initiative of the Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER), the Council of Europe organised an international conference entitled “Why Terrorism? Addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism” in Strasbourg on 25-26 April 2007. The Conference built upon Article 3 of the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism (due to enter into force on 1 June 2007), Section 1 of the Action Plan of the United Nations Global Counter-terrorism Strategy (September 2006), the Report of the High Level Group of the Alliance of Civilizations (November 2006) and the Madrid Agenda of the Club of Madrid (March 2005).
2. This conference brought together 150 experts and policy-makers from member and observer states of the Council of Europe, and representatives of international organisations, non-governmental organisations and academia, including the United Nations, the Alliance of Civilizations, the European Union, OSCE, Interpol, the Club of Madrid, the East-West Institute, UNESCO, the World Conference of Religions for Peace, Pax Romana and the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence.
3. The event was a discussion-orientated forum for exchanging information, experience and ideas with a view to understanding the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and finding ways and means to prevent individuals from turning to terrorism.
4. From the outset, participants stressed the importance of discussing the issues at stake on the basis of a comprehensive approach encompassing all policy areas directly influencing the diversity of cultural practices and identities. In reaction to the persistent terrorist threat in the world, they stressed the need for a multidisciplinary approach to combating terrorism, combining cultural with political, economic, legal and social methods.
5. On the basis of the interventions on the first day, the participants held an open debate on the challenges of addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, which include, but are not confined to:
- alienation and problems of identity of often uprooted people;
- rapid socio-political change creating hardship and degradation which are exploited by political entrepreneurs with a violent agenda;
- larger political conflicts which seem to defy a just solution;
- the abuse of religion for justification and mobilisation;
- selective historical narratives which portray terrorism as a just response to humiliation and victimisation;
- the abuse of freedom of speech and freedom of the press for the incitement of violence;
- the existence of double standards of morality.
6. On the second day the participants looked at initiatives aimed at promoting integration and diversity, particularly through inter-cultural dialogue, as well as the role of religion and inter-religious dialogue. They proceeded to analyse the need for responsible, ethical and accountable foreign policy and governance, as well as the importance of democracy and human rights protection, in particular freedom of expression and association, to allow legal channels for the expression of grievances. The final session reviewed the debate about root causes in the UN and in academia and considered a set of recommendations on the prevention and control of terrorism.
7. At the close of the conference, the participants agreed on the following conclusions.2
1. Participants reaffirmed the condemnation of all acts of terrorism irrespective of their motivation, whenever and by whomever committed.
2. Participants expressed their support for mobilisation towards concerted action as suggested by the Alliance of Civilizations in order to address the widening rifts between and within societies. They underlined the need to strengthen mutual respect among peoples of different cultural and religious traditions, based on recommendations in the fields of education, youth, media and migration policies; placing particular emphasis on Western-Muslim relations.
3. Participants emphasised that diverse, multicultural societies are an essential and invaluable achievement of civilisation. In this context, they welcomed the Council of Europe’s “White paper on intercultural dialogue” initiative aimed at providing a comprehensive set of policy principles, recommendations and best practices in all areas concerned, and UNESCO's initiatives on cultural diversity.
4. Participants agreed that intercultural dialogue can help finding positive responses to the challenges posed by cultural diversity. They called for additional initiatives promoting intercultural dialogue at all levels and by all stakeholders concerned, based on the shared values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. They emphasised that intercultural dialogue needs a supportive and coherent political environment aiming at greater social justice, characterised by a strong role for civil society as well as a cultural and media industry that promotes dialogue.
5. Participants called for all states to promote progressive integration combined with conditions under which all members of diverse, multiethnic and multicultural societies can express their cultural identity, subject to protection by international law.
6. Participants called for states to fully respect all human rights, including the freedom of religion and belief, in taking measures against terrorism and stressed that human rights are not an obstacle to an effective fight against terrorism but a crucial element for an effective counter-terrorism strategy.
7. In this respect participants welcomed the entry into force of the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, which has been recognized as an example of a sound response which would respect human rights, and called upon states to become Parties to it as soon as possible.
8. Participants stressed that incitement of discord among religions and hatred against people of a different creed, race or country is dangerous and inadmissible. Religious institutions and organisations should contribute actively to the peaceful settlement of conflicts.
9. Participants underlined that recourse to terrorism in the name of religion is considered by the vast majority of religious leaders and believers as a distortion of and disrespect for religion and that no act of terrorism can be justified on religious grounds
10. Participants expressed their resolve against attempts to qualify specific national, regional or local cultures or religions as inherently terrorist or conducive to terrorism. No culture, religion or belief is entirely immune against extremist misinterpretation and abuse for terrorist aims.
11. Participants called for states to promote mutual tolerance by supporting initiatives for inter-religious dialogue involving, where appropriate, non-governmental organisations and other elements of civil society with a view to preventing tensions that might contribute to the commission of terrorist offences at international, national and local levels.
12. Participants agreed that education about the diversity of religious practices and freedom of religion or belief also contributes to the goals of peace, social justice, and mutual respect among peoples. Such teaching is part of the education for democratic citizenship and can help to combat intolerant ideologies or practices and to promote freedom of expression, respect for pluralism and greater acceptance of diversity.
13. Participants debated the role foreign policy, democratic principles and accountable government play in the prevention of conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, welcoming the call for a global democratic response to the threat of terrorism, as put forward in the Madrid Agenda (11 March 2005) by the Club of Madrid, calling on the international community and states to:
· rapidly conclude the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism;
· strengthen regional organisations so that measures to combat terrorism are tailored to local needs and benefit from local knowledge and networks;
· efficiently address structural inequality and lack of human rights.
14. Participants agreed that measures by states to combat terrorism must be consistent with the requirements of democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as with the principles of social justice. Such measures must be directed exclusively at the perpetrators of terrorist acts, not against national, ethnic or religious communities as such.
15. Participants noted the importance of avoiding, both at international and national level, double standards or arbitrary judgement based on political, ethnic or religious grounds when interpreting acts and manifestations of terrorism in various regions of the world.
16. With regard to addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, participants called on states:
· to endeavour to increase international co-operation in all these areas;
· to maintain open political systems, thereby allowing grievances to be expressed through legitimate means;
· to mitigate the risk factors that may increase the attractiveness of extremist ideologies;
· to counteract extremist ideologies;
· to promote public awareness regarding the existence, causes and gravity of and the threat posed by terrorist offences, and to consider encouraging the public to provide factual, specific help to its competent authorities thus contributing to the prevention of such acts, and fostering a public-private partnership; and
· to continue reflecting on the development of existing and new avenues for addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, taking into account the conclusions of this conference.
17. Participants appreciated the efforts of the Council of Europe in facilitating the exchange of information and views among the international community, Council of Europe member states and observers, thereby providing assistance to its member states in preparation for the entry into force of the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, with special regard to Article 3.
18. Participants called upon the Council of Europe decision-making bodies to ensure the follow-up of this conference and its conclusions.
1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue. It was declassified at the 999bis meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (20 June 2007) (see CM/Del/Dec(2007)999bis/10.5c).
2 These conclusions do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the governments and international organisations participating in this Conference.