For as long as there has been organized civilization, there have always been enemies of the state. Terrorism, at its essence, is simply the use of fear in accomplishing a goal, but this term has been stretched and warped in recent years to the point that when one thinks of a terrorist, they do not simply think of any psycopath that cares more about their own agenda than the well being of others, but rather of a man with some kind of face covering and who is armed to the teeth.
It can be said that in recent years, due to the relaxed availability of weapons along with a general climate that fosters hate, in unstable regions such as Syria and Afghanistan, that the threat of terrorism has grown immensly. With this threat constantly increasing and adapting to various counter measures, one cannot help but wonder if foreign countries, through international treaties and reparation efforts, can finally deal with the terrorist threat using international law.As things currently stand, it seems unlikely that international law would fully deal with terrorism on an international scale any time soon, however, if international law were to change slightly, then terrorism could be degraded with time. Of course, something as broad as using fear to accomplish goals will never fully disappear. It exists in politics as a way of convincing the public to remove the checks on power of their government; it exists as a motivational tool within companies to get employees to work harder; it even exists within schools as a way of getting young children to behave. No matter what, terrorism is here to stay, but that does not mean it cannot be restricted to positive uses like motivation and discipline, while nearly eliminating the use of fear mongering and public displays of mass murder.
Being that many see the United Nations as the embodiment of international law, much of the responsibility for fighting international terrorism falls to them. After the iconic attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, the United Nations Security Council set up a counter terrorism committee to monitor the progress of various states. The counter terrorism strategy followed by the United Nations uses four steps, or “pillars”, as they have dubbed them. Their first priority is to attempt to address the conditions that are conductive to the spread of terrorism.
The best way to counter terrorism is to disrupt the ecosystem in which such ideologies thrive. By furthering education that fosters a desire for peace and mutual understanding, rather than conflict and hate, terrorism gets removed at its source. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization has been fairly active in responding to the crises in Syria, and have begun attempts at rebuilding the Syrian Arab Republic’s national education system to better fit the goals of the United Nations. In November of 2017, the Assistant Director General for Education, Mr.
Qian Tang, visited Damascus at the invitation of the Minister of Education Dr. Hazwan Al-Wazz, where they discussed initiatives to ensure that children can safely return to school in spite of the difficult conditions they have faced recently. In Aleppo, 300 schools are already open and functioning again, and Dr. Al-Wazz said the ministry was taking steps in order to ensure that the children in these schools are given a quality education to fulfill their rights to education guaranteed to them by the country’s constitution.
In doing so, the children of Syria will receive an education that can hopefully be used to pursue a career path outside of organized terror groups, to lessen animosity towards western countries, and to essentially collapse the next generation of terrorism. Unfortunately, not only is this a very slow way of bringing about change, but there is also the fact that the current generation of terrorists is likely to be much more stubborn in changing their views towards the West. In a test done by the University of Edinburg, it was found that children are much more open to new Ideas. Their results showed, “that children can learn the abstract properties of causal relationships using only a handful of events. Moreover, children were more likely than adults to generalize the unusual conjunctive relationship in the test, suggesting that they are less biased by prior assumptions and pay more attention to current evidence”. Being that children focus more on current evidence being presented to them, rather than dwelling on past experiences like their adult counterparts, it would be much easier to instil a desire for peace and a sense of justice among the children of the middle east than it would be to convert current jihadists to believe in western principles.The United Nation’s next step after addressing conditions that cause terrorism to thrive is to actually try to combat terrorism and prevent any future acts of terrorism. As the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Yury Fedetov put it, “The world continues to grapple with persisting problems brought on by asymmetric globalization, leaving many behind, undermining trust, and creating instability”.
He then went on to warn of a growing nexus between transnational organized crime and terrorism, which not only encouraged the trafficking of cultural property, but also funded the terrorist organizations themselves. After that he claimed, “Cybercrime has emerged as a truly borderless threat. Use of the dark net for drug trafficking is growing by leaps and bounds”. Because this aptly named “Cybercrime” has a fairly large impact on the funding of various terrorist organizations, putting a stop to the constant illegal trafficking of drugs and cultural property would be in the best interest of the United Nations. While the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime may do what they can to curb drug trafficking, they seem to plan much, much more than they actually take action. As of September 2017, the UNODC has been around for twenty years, and yet acquiring drugs through the internet is still as easy as getting an internet proxy and some crypto currency. Should the United Nations wish to cut off one of the terrorist’s more significant source of funds, a decision would have to be reached in the International Court of Justice which would require that all packages going across an international border be thoroughly examined, but this still does not solve the problem of domestic contraband shipments. As well, with current technology, such a resolution would clog up almost any countries customs offices, and international mail would come to a halt.
Unfortunately this means that, just like fostering a sense of peace, this solution will have to wait to be enacted upon. In the third pillar of their counter-terrorism strategy, the United Nations builds up the state’s capacity and further strengthens their role in the state. With the Syrian war heading into its seventh year at the start of 2017, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees joined forces with other United Nations humanitarian and development agencies in order to make an appeal for eight billion in US dollars for funding to help millions of Syrians. Within this appeal was the 2017 Syria Humanitarian Response Plan, which aims to provide protection and humanitarian support to the thirteen and a half million people still living within the borders of Syria. This humanitarian support can take many forms, as the population of Syria has a myriad of needs, but one of the more notable ways the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees helps the Syrian problem is though the restoration of the Syrian’s destroyed homes. In Homs, Syria, when Mahmoud Mustafa Agha, an 80 year old man, returned to his home after being forced away for many years, all he found was destruction; his home and his neighbourhood both lay in ruin, completely gutted by fire. He later told officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that, “it took me years to buy this house, and it was all destroyed in a matter of seconds”. His entire home burnt to the ground, he and his family found themselves alone in their old neighbourhood, living in a burnt shell of their former home without furniture, windows, or even doors.
Under the authority of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, workers installed windows and doors in Mahmoud’s house, as well as sanitation and electricity. While this may make a large difference to many Syrians who have lost their homes as a result of the war, in Canada, such repairs would be considered an abomination, and the building would be condemned. Attempting to move an entire family into a house that was ravaged by fire, and likely explosives, without any attempts at restoring the structural integrity of the building is downright dangerous, as the building could collapse at any time. The fact that electricity access is prioritized over the safety of the residents makes it clear that this decision is not based on logic, but rather on finances.
In most cases, a proper reparation would actually be more of a replacement, as fire damaged buildings normally need to be demolished and replaced. Of course, it is much cheaper to throw a couple doors and windows on some charred houses, and simply provide the residents with basic accommodations than it is to build entire new neighbourhoods. If the United Nations were ever to properly aid in the reparation of Syrian neighbourhoods and cities, they would need much more funding, but that is unlikely to ever happen, as the United Nations is infamous for being cheap and underfunded. The fourth pillar of the United Nation’s counter-terrorism strategy is where they focus the most on ensuring human rights and the rule of law. It is important to note that all terrorists cannot simply be dismissed as insane with completely irrational motivations; often these extremists have reasons for their actions, even if those reasons may not properly justify the actions. Many who sympathize with these extremist groups do so on the grounds that they believe that the group is having their rights violated by a narcissistic, self-righteous, oppressive government. Unsurprisingly, the United States truly is often guilty of violating the rights of its enemies. On April 5, 2013, the United Nations human rights chief urged all branches of the United States government to collaborate in order to shut down the military prison in Guantanamo bay, Cuba.
Her basis for doing so was that indefinitely incarcerating the detainees at the military prison violated international law. Still, to date, the military prison is open. In regards to this, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay stated, “I am deeply disappointed that the US government has not been able to close Guantanamo Bay despite repeatedly committing itself to do so”. It is somewhat unclear exactly what will become of the military prison under the Trump administration, but it seems likely for now that the government will not close the prison, and that they will continue to hold the prisoners for the time being. The United States government claims that they are allowed under international law to hold a number of prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay prison due to an authorization to use military force that was adopted by congress after the September 11 attacks. Of course, such a claim is completely absurd and completely misses the point of international law. International law really does not have a point if the countries that are supposed to be held to those laws can choose not to obey them without any fear of reprisal; in that sense, laws become more of a suggestion than a rule.
On that note, Ed Morgan stated in Crosscurrents that, “In the field of human rights, of course, the walls of sovereignty have been punctured so that they no longer provide complete insulation for state authorized abusers”. If any progress is to be made towards obtaining international justice and eliminating animosity between nations, then it is essential that all countries be held to the decisions of the International Court of Justice, otherwise international law is powerless, and therefore cannot hope to stop terrorism.Though terrorism may never fade completely, if the United Nations got more international funding for use in aiding war torn countries, then the living conditions of unstable areas would improve, and as a result, the climate that fosters terrorism would be eliminated. While fighting terrorism directly seems to be the obvious thing to do, it is vital to also reduce terrorist sentiments from other angles.
If international justice were more prevalent, then there would not be as many violent uprisings of militias and terrorist groups, and while terrorists certainly violate international law regularly, so do many country’s governments. So while it may be possible to drastically reduce the threat from terrorism using international law and the United Nations four pillar strategy, all countries of the United Nations would first have to be unconditionally held to the decisions of the United Nations without any exceptions, accepting the supremacy of the International Court of Justice over their own high courts, essentially giving away their autonomy, which would never happen. Unfortunately, without this unconditional support of its members, the decisions made in the UN hold no real weight against a nation’s opposing government, and as such cannot hope to make a significant impact in the terrorist threat.Bibliography”UN human rights chief urges US to close Guantánamo detention centre.” UN News Center.
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