On Thursday 27 September, the fourth ministerial meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) took place in New York. This organization, founded in September of 2011, is an “informal, multilateral counterterrorism (CT) platform that focuses on identifying critical civilian CT needs, mobilizing the necessary expertise and resources to address such needs and enhance global cooperation.” Of the twenty-nine member states plus the EU that make up the organization, seven members (Egypt, UAE, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar) are from the MENA region. Additionally, three of the five major issue-focus committees of the organization are co-chaired by MENA states. Chief among the GCTF’s achievements in the past two years has been the establishment of Abu Dhabi’s Hedayah, the first international center for countering violent extremism.
The primary announcement that resulted from last week’s meeting concerned the establishment of the Global Fund on Community Engagement and Resilience. According to the U.S. Department of State, the Fund is intended to “close the significant gap between the needs of local anti-extremism organizations (whether civil society, NGO or local government) and the resources available to support their vital work.” The Fund is meant to address consensus among the GCTF member representatives that while efforts at countering violent extremism work best when managed at the local level, smaller organizations often have trouble extending their activities extending their project cycles beyond the short term as well as applying for monies from donors that they lack personal connections with.
The Fund will be administered by a Secretariat with oversight from an advisory board, all chosen from the GCTF member states. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged USD 30 million for the fund, and it is ultimately expected to accrue around USD 200 million over the next ten years. The fund should be active starting in 2014, and leaders intend for it to receive funding from member states as well as private donors. The logistical complexities of administering such a fund are clearly a challenge; an analysis by the Soufan Group points out that “There may be many questions about how the Fund would operate, but there can be no question about the validity of its objectives.”
Ultimately, the Fund is intended to take a more proactive and localized approach to counterterrorism assistance. According to William McCants, “Countries that have a radicalization problem previously had to rely on ad hoc support from wealthier donor nations, many of which are not bureaucratically capable of sponsoring the small intervention programs necessary to disrupt the radicalization process.” Moving away from this ‘ad hoc model’ of counterterrorism will result in a wider spread of policy options, including vocational training programs designed to provide job opportunities for at-risk youth and educational curriculums that focus on tolerance and conflict resolution.
In addition to discussing the Fund, GCTF member representatives at the meeting adopted three new framework documents. The ‘Good Practices’ document identifies twelve specific recommendations for countering violent extremism. Less generally, the Ankara Memorandum discusses the various roles that government agencies, NGOs, and civil society can play in countering violent extremism, while the Madrid Memorandum informs policymakers of important steps to take in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack. Beyond these documents, the GCTF also discussed specific difficulties in counterterrorism to be addressed by new initiatives, including the foreign fighter threat, instances of kidnapping for ransom, the role of the judiciary in counterterrorism cases, and methods of using intelligence as evidence in the courtroom.