8 June 2014

Africa: Feature - Out From the Shadows, Victims of Terrorism Take Centre Stage At UN

Imagine being caught up in a hotel bombing while vacationing abroad and you find yourself alone in a foreign hospital. You are treated for the severe physical injuries sustained in the horrific incident and are eventually released from the hospital. But you and your loved ones have no idea about where or to whom to turn to deal with the consequences of your having witnessed and become a victim of a terrorist attack.

"The international community speaks about fighting terrorism, but we need to pay more attention to the human consequences of this global scourge," Jehangir Khan, Director of the Office of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), told the UN News Centre.

"We need to ensure that the needs of victims and their families are met," Mr. Khan said. "We have to do better collectively to listen to the voices and needs of the victims and their families and show support and solidarity" he added.

Although victims bear the brunt of terrorist attacks, they are often forgotten after the initial media interest surrounding the attacks inevitably evaporates.

But with terrorist attacks having been reported in some 40 UN Member Sates over the past two years, and deaths and injuries continuing to mount, victims of terrorism will take center stage at next week's review by the General Assembly of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

"The voices of victims of terrorism, who have suffered silently for far too long, also provide a powerful counter-narrative to the insidious propaganda of terrorists around the world," said Mr. Jehangir.

In that spirit, this coming Wednesday, in the presence of two UN staff who survived the 2003 bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad, the Organization will launch a "Victims of Terrorism Support Portal."

This means, with a few simple clicks, victims and their families will have the means to look for practical support and assistance from anywhere in the world.

The web platform is designed so that anyone can look up by country where they can seek medical, psychological, social and material support, as well as legal resources available to victims, and a list of organizations that are able to assist victims' coping with the trauma of a terrorist attack.

As the website collects more information, it will grow into a repository for resources available to support victims, their families, communities and other organizations working on issues related to victims.

The recommendation for such a platform to help in building awareness of the cause of victims of terrorism and offer a tangible support base to alleviate their suffering came when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for the first time ever at the global level convened, victims, Governments, experts and civil society at a Symposium he convened on Supporting Victims of Terrorism in 2008.

And in his most recent report to the General Assembly on UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy , the Secretary-General noted that "the international community also needs to remember and support victims of terrorism."

Reporting that there have been tens of thousands of additional victims and terrorism had spread to new areas in new and more challenging forms since the adoption of the strategy in 2006, the UN chief outlines a number of recommendations focusing on preventive aspects of counter-terrorism.

The report will serve as a basis for the Fourth Review of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy by the General Assembly to be held from June11-13.

On the agenda are events examining such issues as "Conditions Conducive to the Spread of Terrorism" to the "Protection of Critical Tourism Infrastructure", as well as "Countering Violent Extremism and Promoting Community Engagement in West Africa and the Sahel", and the "Role of Young Community Leaders to Foster Resilient Communities."

On the 13th of June, the General Assembly is expected to adopt a strong consensus resolution endorsing the Secretary General's recommendations to make the Organization more responsive to the evolving global threat of terrorism - best demonstrated by the new UN Victims of Terrorism Support Portal.

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