The United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) published an update to its paper, “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on terrorism, counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism.” CTED’s analysis suggests that, despite the continuation of terrorist violence and despite concerns that terrorists and violent extremists will seek to exploit COVID-19 in their recruitment processes, there remains little evidence upon which to base a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the pandemic on terrorism and violent extremism.
In June 2020, CTED published an overview of some of the initial and potential impacts of the pandemic, which emphasized that, in the short-term, pandemic-related restrictions had provided terrorist groups with a captive audience — potentially increasing the reach and relevance of their narratives — but also placed limitations on some operational activities. In view of the limited available evidence of other significant short-term impacts or of any clear correlation between the pandemic and an increase or decrease in terrorist violence, the overview highlighted some of the potential long-term impacts of COVID-19, including:
– Member States’ diversion of counter-terrorism and CVE resources to aid their pandemic response and recovery
– A reduction in the funding available for non-State counter-terrorism and CVE actors
– An exacerbation of the underlying grievances and drivers of terrorism and violent extremism.
The present paper is intended as an update to the initial overview and focuses on key thematic and regional developments and challenges over the past six months. CTED’s analysis suggests that a comprehensive, collaborative, and tailored approach is required to address its effects, as terrorists and violent extremists seek ways to exploit the resulting socio-economic fault lines. Human rights overreach, the increased securitization of pandemic responses, and the suppression of dissent under the pretext of countering the pandemic all have the potential to exacerbate existing grievances and fuel conditions conducive to terrorism and violent extremism. It is therefore vital that States strive to ensure proportional COVID-19 responses and adopt a balanced, fully human rights-compliant and gender-sensitive approach to counter-terrorism and CVE.
The counter-terrorism community should seek to reimagine and address the threats of terrorism and violent extremism in a post-pandemic world. There is an urgent need to ensure enhanced governance that addresses existing conditions of inequality and fragility and restores faith in State institutions. CTED, working together with its United Nations and other partners and Member States, will continue to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the evolving terrorist threat and on counter-terrorism responses, monitor the evolution of existing trends, and analyse emerging issues and challenges.