The Westminster Counterterrorism Conference was held in London on November 23rd. Sponsored by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and the government of the State of Qatar, experts in counterterrorism and countering violent extremism (CVE) met to share best practices. Opening keynote remarks were given by His Excellency Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs (The State of Qatar) and The Right Honourable Alistair Burt MP, Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa (Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK).
The Deputy Prime Minister of Qatar began by saying “this conference reflects Qatar’s continued desire for nations and organisations of good will to bond together to fight evil ideologies.” He attributed the root causes of terrorism in the Middle East to: “tyranny, totalitarianism, aggression and the absence of justice.” His speech drew focus on the impact of conflict on children, especially in Yemen, Iraq and Syria. He continued, “children who have lived through the mass atrocities of the Syrian regime, ISIS in Iraq and Syria, or the war in Yemen are now young adults with little hope for [a] better future. It is time for the international community to say ‘enough is enough.’” The risk of conflict traumatised children falling prey to “distorted ideologies of extremism” he cautioned must be mitigated through urgent rehabilitation.
Alistair Burt MP said “the United Kingdom is at the forefront of international efforts in the fight against terrorism.” He noted that “over 6 million people have been freed from Daesh’s rule and many of those who have escaped have been able to return to their homes.” Despite territorial victories against Daesh, he said “the battle of ideas is far from won.” The ability of Daesh to inspire attacks in its name means “it remains a serious global threat.”
Mr. Burt warned that Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates “continue to wreck lives and undermine regional stability.” He said that the UK “firmly believe that collective action, supported by strong partnerships between governments, communities and civil society is the best way to tackle the scourge of violent extremism that threatens global peace and security.” “Here in the UK we are taking a whole of government and a whole of society approach to tackling this and encourage our partners to do the same.” Mr. Burt praised the UN Preventing Violent Extremism plan of action, as offering “a comprehensive framework for international action and for supporting the efforts of so many member states to develop and implement their own national action plans”. He said that this had been championed by the UK through its co-chairmanship of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum CVE working group.
Mr Burt thanked the event’s sponsors and attendees, saying that he “looked forward very much to seeing the conference outcomes.”
Working sessions were then convened and chaired by Sir John Scarlett (former Chief of the UK Secret Intelligence Service) and continued to examine “After Daesh: Exploring the Changing Nature of the Threat of Terrorism”. Expert panellists Gilles de Kerchove, (EU counterterrorism coordinator), Jane Marriott (Director, Joint International Counterterrorism Unit) and Dr. Shiraz Maher (Deputy Director, International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College, London) shared insights.
Afternoon sessions included discussions on “Coalitions and Cooperation: Identifying Areas for Partnership and Multilateral Action” (chaired by Dr. Karin von Hipple) and “Countering Terrorism the Hard Way: Law Enforcement, Military and Intelligence” (chaired by Sir Kevin Tebbit).
Rob Wainwright (Executive Director of Europol), Michael Chertoff (former US Secretary of Homeland Security), Patrick McGuinness (Deputy National Security Adviser, Cabinet Office, UK) and Mark Rowley (Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations in the Metropolitan Police) were among the expert contributors.
The closing address of the conference was given by Ben Wallace MP, Minister of State for Security, Home Office, UK.
Video of the conference sessions (held ‘on the record’) is available on YouTube.
Steve Nimmons is a freelance journalist and security consultant with research interests in terrorism, security and policing. He is a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Chartered Engineer, Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Royal Society of Arts, Linnean Society and Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. You can connect with him on Twitter @stevenimmons and LinkedIn.