UN General Assembly: Switzerland committed to preventing violent extremism and terrorism

Press releases, 20.09.2016

Stepping up international efforts to prevent violent extremism and terrorism was at the heart of Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter's concerns as he participated on Tuesday in the opening of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Mr Burkhalter, who is head of the Federal Department for Foreign Affairs, took part in meetings focusing on how to involve women and the private sector in projects in order to give marginalised groups more opportunities – with the aim of preventing people deprived of hope from falling into violence and extremism. One of the meetings was also sponsored by Switzerland.

71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Keystone

To get such projects under way, resources are needed. The Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) has therefore launched an appeal for funds to support its activities.  GCERF was founded two years ago in Geneva and launched its first projects in Bangladesh, Mali and Nigeria. The fund aims to raise awareness about the importance of fighting violent extremism and to mobilise people by using a preventive approach and providing alternatives.

GCERF's first three pilot projects target one million people. In order to monitor these projects and launch new ones – in Kosovo, Kenya and Myanmar – the organisation is seeking support particularly in the private sector, where it is trying to increase awareness. Switzerland, which was one of the countries that supported the establishment of GCERF, welcomes the implementation of the first projects and will continue to assist the fund.

Women also have a key role to play in the flight against violence and terrorism. On the one hand, they are disproportionately affected by terrorist acts; on the other, they have a key role to play in combating the roots of violence.  Certain terrorist groups target women for recruitment (some 10% of the roughly 5,000 Western jihadis in Syria are women), which is why it is important to include women in efforts to combat violent extremism and terrorism. At a high-level meeting in New York, Mr Burkhalter restated Switzerland's action plan to combat violent extremism which focuses on three elements: the role of young people, women and International Geneva.

The debate on combating terrorism will continue on Wednesday in New York where Mr Burkhalter will be taking part in the 7th Ministerial Plenary Meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). He will present some of Switzerland's specific activities in this field, such as a project that fosters dialogue between young people and the authorities in a disadvantaged area of Tunis. Switzerland is also involved in reforming certain judicial procedures in Libya in order to curb radicalisation among young people in prison.

GCTF members at the ministerial meeting are expected to adopt a series of recommendations including the Neuchâtel memorandum on best practice in juvenile justice in the context of the fight against terrorism.

Further information:

71st Session of the UN General Assembly

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