The title of today’s open debate is apposite. Comprehensive measures by states, and the international community as a whole, continue to be required if progress is to be made in reducing the threat posed by international terrorism.
Terrorism is a complex and multidimensional challenge. Each state must of course adopt an approach suited to its individual needs and circumstances - one size does not fit all. Nevertheless, the enduring threat posed by international terrorism means the prevention of terrorist acts must remain a key national security priority for states.
I will focus my comments on the approaches that New Zealand has taken domestically to reduce the risk of terrorist acts occurring by countering violent extremism at the grass roots.
While the threat from terrorism in New Zealand remains very low and levels of social cohesion are high, the government remains vigilant to possible terrorist threats from disaffected or alienated members of the community. New Zealand’s approach is based on a coordinated, whole of government response at the national level, in close cooperation and consultation with the community.
Prevention lies at the heart of the operational ethos of the New Zealand Police in meeting this challenge. With prevention in mind, New Zealand has treated the threat from violent extremists as a social as well as a criminal issue. While we have strengthened our legal framework to criminalise involvement in terrorism, we have also developed innovative social approaches aimed at diverting young people from involvement in violent extremism at the earliest stage possible.
Community policing, tailored strategies for engaging minority and religious groups, a strong emphasis on inter-faith dialogue, and initiatives fostering community trust in the Police have all been effective tools for addressing and combating radicalisation and violent extremism. They have helped keep New Zealand relatively unaffected by religious and ethnic-related violent extremism.
These efforts are deeply rooted in the philosophy of community policing, and grounded in high levels of trust between society and the police. They also rely on accurate assessments regarding those communities most vulnerable to recruitment by extremists or to self-radicalisation, as well as strong national and international partnerships.
New Zealand exercises zero tolerance for violence or other serious crime. But when police become aware of individuals involved in low-level extremist activity priority is given to using social support measures to divert individuals away from any antisocial behaviour. Communities are engaged in a manner that addresses the underlying causes and ultimately reduces offending and victimisation. Authorities also constructively engage communities in situations where no crime has been committed but where evidence exists that individuals may be vulnerable to terrorist recruitment.
This strategy has met with considerable success in preventing terrorist acts at the earliest stage possible, while also maintaining excellent relationships with ethnic and religious communities upon whose cooperation and goodwill law enforcement efforts ultimately depend.
Given our own experience of the success of community policing, New Zealand is pleased to support a new programme by the UN Counter-terrorism Executive Directorate on the practical utilization of community policing in countering violent extremism. Beginning in 2013, the programme will seek to enhance the capacity of police officers in South and Southeast Asia to recognize possible indications of violent extremism at an early stage, and to strengthen the emphasis on developing cultural understanding and human rights compliant practices in detecting and addressing it.
This initiative is one of the ways in which New Zealand has sought to draw on its own domestic experience to support our regional and international partners in their efforts to implement the UN Global Counter-terrorism Strategy.
We will continue to partner with UN counter-terrorism entities, including in areas such as preventing terrorist financing through the use of cash couriers and through the non-profit sector, and by strengthening criminal justice and law enforcement capacities and cooperation.