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Statement by Gyorgy Busztin, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General At the Second International Psychological Operations Conference

Text of the address by Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Political and Electoral Affairs for Iraq, Mr. Gyorgy Busztin, at the opening of the two-day Second International Conference on Psychological and Media Operations to Counter Daesh which convened in Baghdad on Wednesday 10 August 2016 under the patronage of the Prime Minister of Iraq, H.E. Haider al-Abadi:


Baghdad, 10 August 2016

Your excellency Prime Minister

Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues

I am pleased to address this important forum which takes stock of the achievements of the fight against terrorism in Iraq and opens the floor to the participants from many countries and institutions to exchange views on the tasks of the coming stage. I trust that this conference will adopt important conclusions that increase the efficiency of our joint efforts in uprooting terrorism in Iraq once and for all.

Distinguished Participants,

The horrible attacks in Karrada district of Baghdad, the attack in Nice last month and in Ouettu the day before yesterday targeting civilians among them young children as well, have shaken the world’s conscience yet again. Whether it is the Daesh, Boko Haram, or Jabhat al-Nusra, they all share a similar takfiri ideology based on inhumanity and pathological hatred.

The world needs to recognize the link that binds all these extremist groups together. They show the same brutality, disregard for life, and complete distortion of what Islam is. Once that is recognized, work can begin on creating the right framework for combating their ideology. A better understanding will also prevent some entities from whipping up anti-Islamic sentiment, because ill-informed overreaction only feeds the takfiri cause.

The global threat emanating from Daesh continues to diversify. Since the beginning of 2016, the continued military pressure exerted in Iraq and Syria by the security forces and the international coalition forces has led to military setbacks for this terrorist group. However, even though the territorial expansion of Daesh in both States has been halted and, reversed over recent months, many United Nations Member States have noted that Daesh is not yet strategically weakened in such a way as to halt its destructive activity.

The recent international attacks perpetrated by members of the group demonstrate that the terrorist group is now moving into a new phase, with the increased risk that prepared and centrally directed attacks on international civilian targets may become a more frequent occurrence. In the past six months alone, Daesh has carried out, inspired, or claimed responsibility for, terrorist attacks in Bangladesh, Belgium, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Turkey and the United States of America. The attacks have killed over 500 individuals and injured hundreds more. The list does not include attacks and fighting in conflict zones inside Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria or Yemen. This adds to their resilience, and a multi-pronged response is required, not just the bomb and the gun and the bank.

The available qualitative evidence points to the presence of certain recurrent drivers which lead to radicalization and violent extremism. These are: lack of socio-economic opportunities, discrimination, poor governance and violations of human rights and rule of law, prolonged and unresolved conflicts and radicalization in prisons. The United Nations has developed a global plan of action to counter violent extremism. Copies of the plan are available for all the participants.

When it comes to countering violent extremism efforts, we need to see more community and religious figures’ engagement and a response to the ideological underpinnings of radicalization, including a counter narrative. Healthy relationships with all communities are extraordinarily important for the government and the society alike. Moreover, local communities are uniquely qualified. Sheikhs and parents can affect many of the children and young adults who are inclined to implement extremist activity; the government should not be the sole party involved in debates refuting radicalism. When a person has the kind of cognitive opening that can be filled by violent extremism, someone needs to be there to provide alternative narratives and ideas. This program should be an all-of-community model. The community as a whole is best placed to understand the risk factors associated with extremist behavior and how to intervene, from schoolteachers to law enforcement officials to religious figures. At the same time, the process would be much easier if the government provided more support.

Islamic scholars can inoculate the Islamic middle against Daesh, and this is already happening. Messages by moderate Sheikhs daring to come forward and speak up can be powerful, but they need to be louder and told to more people. In this regard, I welcome the untiring efforts of Sheikh Abdullatif Humaim and Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Issawi and others who advocate moderation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I encourage all present here to think together for the benefit of devising new approaches to the challenge of confronting takfiri terrorism, a struggle where Iraq enjoys the broad support of the international community and the firm commitment of the United Nations. Let this conference be a gateway to more meetings to follow, paving the way to better coordination among us and taking us ever closer to our objective, an Iraq free of terrorism.

Thank you.

Additional Info

  • Agency: UNAMI
Last modified on Wednesday, 17 May 2017 20:30