Transforming Terrorists: International Efforts to Address Violent Extremism

5/3/2011 // Political Advisor for the Norwegian Minister of Justice and the Police, Mr. Eirik Øwre Thorshaug, presented the keynote speech at the International Peace Institute's event: “Transforming Terrorists: International Efforts to Address Violent Extremism” on May 2, 2011.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

It is an honour on the behalf of the Norwegian government to welcome you to this seminar. I like to thank IPI for organizing this important event launching the report: “Transforming Terrorists: International Efforts to Address Violent Extremism”.

Nearly ten years after the terrible events of September 11th 2001, brought upon innocent civilians in New York, the US yesterday made its most significant achievement to date in the nations effort to defeat Al Qaida.

A historic day and indeed a defining moment in the fight against terrorism.

But it does not mark the end of our efforts.

We have a common responsibility to continue our international efforts in the fight against terrorism.

This is the second time the Norwegian government is engaged in an event in this City focusing on prevention.

The first was three years ago on the IPI-report “Leaving Terrorism behind”.

It is a fundamental principle of Norwegian foreign policy to strengthen the role of UN. The adoption of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in 2006 was a crucial step for the joint effort to curb terrorism.

Particular attention should be paid to measures aimed at countering radicalisation and thereby the long-term prevention of terrorism.

Let me focus on three areas.

First, the importance of international cooperation.

Today, the challenges we face, in keeping our open and modern societies safe, are global.

As stated in the reports introduction: “the transnational nature of terrorism leaves all countries vulnerable as bases of operation, transit points or targets”.

This requires sustained international cooperation.

Governments and the UN share a common challenge.

Second. There are no simple solutions.

In the fight against terror in general.

In prevention of terrorism in particular.

So what can be learned from Norway?

One of the few countries in the world where the government give public support to organisations whose sole purpose is working against the government.

We believe we must tolerate wievs and opinions we do not like to hear.

And fight them with democratic metods and intellectual weapons.

This has broad political support in Norway.

But one thing is clear; those who cross the watershed,

where the wiews become threats, or the willingness to use violence.

They will be fought and prosecuted.

Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942 said on Norwegian resistance to Nazi-occupation:

"if there is anyone who doubts the democratic will to win, again I say, let him look to Norway”.

The democratic approach is central.

The importance of international law and respects of human rights.

A broad approach, including political, legal, economic, humanitarian and diplomatic measures.

A broad approach in the development of strategies for prevention.

Better prevention is one of the most important long term investments in the fight against terrorism.

If you do look to Norway, our government some months ago presented our Plan of action to prevent radicalisation and violent extremism.

I am happy to present it in the US at this conference.

It builds on a comprehensive approach to prevention.

Focus on - eliminating root causes – combined with targeted police work.

Norway has god experience with disengagement through Exit-projects since the 1990ies used on extreme rightwing organisations – and well known from “Leaving terrorism behind”. An even more comprehensive strategy is preventive talks by the police, used with great success. Involving families, as an alternative sanction targeted at young people at an early stage.

Four priority areas are:     

1.     knowledge and information

2.     better coordination

3.     strengthened dialogue

4.     support to vulnerable and at-risk persons

The dilemma facing Northern Europe is this:

As the combined efforts of governments, police and security agencies evolves and becomes more effective, the threat changes.

New and increasingly complex threats emerge.

“Solo-terrorism” and the challenge of “homegrown terrorism”.

We have seen the 2005 attacks on London, the murder of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands, the attack on Danish Cartoonist and threats against the paper Jyllandsposten, and the Solo-bomber in Stockholm. 

In our work with our plan a Norwegian lesson learned is this:

One size fits nobody.

Any national strategy has to be tailored to national circumstances

But, any national strategy can be of great help to other countries.

We can learn, listen and lend from each other, exchanging best practices who apply to our national circumstances.

This event is just such one.

I would like to thank Naureen Chaudry Fink for her extensive work on this report, Hamed El Said for his fieldwork collecting lessons learned, and Richard Barrett for his professional guidance and as a bridge to the UN.

Third, the Norwegian government firmly believes in the potential of dialogue, openness and public debate in the fight against terror.

In the last years we have chosen to be open about the overall budget for the Police Security Service (PST), and its number of employees.

The last two years we have made the national threat assessments public, to create political debate, public and professional focus on the evolving nature of the threat picture.

I am happy to have Mr Jon Fitje, the head of analysis in the Norwegian Police Security service with me at this important event.

This openness of course has to be balanced against not giving up our methods and capacities, but it is important to avoid suspicion and fear from parts of the population who are afraid they are innocent suspects.

Building confidence and establishing trust and contact.

And thereby reducing the threat to our nation.

In closing, and especially since we are in this building let me use the words of the Norwegian Trygve Lie, the United Nations first Secretary General:

The one common undertaking and universal instrument of the great majority of the human race is the United Nations. A patient, constructive long-term use of its potentialities can bring a real and secure peace to the world.

I hope this event will contribute to a broader perspective.

That we can contribute in the exchange of best practices.

I hope we can patiently use the UN framework and its potentialities.

Our common security is a shared responsibility.


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