This article is written by Varun Wahane, a B.A. LLB student of Bharti Vidyapeeth New Law Collge Pune and co-authored by Aranya Chatterjee, a B.A. LLB student of Bharati Vidyapeeth New Law Collge Pune.
The COVID-19 has created a panic and threat to human health and survival. Healthcare has become essential for survival, at the same time different factors can increase devastating impacts in the pandemic. The violent extremist groups look at the pandemic as an opportunity to create panic and horror in society and communities. The fragile condition of the pandemic can be advantageous to the terrorist extremist group, concerning the situation the United Nations has developed well research articulated document on terrorism in COVID-19. The article analyses the trends and suggestions given in the document for counterterrorism in the pandemic and highlights effectivity and implementation of the measures given by the United Nations.
The COVID-19 impact has made countries financially disturbed, world economies are trying to normalise and have smooth functioning of the economy. Moreover, the financial supporter of the extremist groups has simultaneously been affected because of the impact of COVID-19 crises. Sponsoring and financing terrorism has been a major reason for rising in terrorism for which the U.N. members adopted the International Convention for suppression of financing of terrorism.
It is an illusion that terrorist and extremist groups have no strategies and influence over the pandemic. The pandemic has misled the initial concern of the world nations on counterterrorism for which the U.N. General Assembly adopted a global counter-terrorism strategy and plan of action to prevent violent extremism.
The pre-COVID-19 strategies and state foreign policies of states are not effective because of the change in the socio-political order in the pandemic. Observing the threat, the U.N. has given some views over challenges and possible solution to terrorism in the pandemic, the article examines the trends and suggestions given by the U.N. and evaluate the realistic approach to implementation of the strategies suggested.
Possible Challenges and solutions to terrorism in COVID-19
The U.N. describes positive and negative trends that affect terrorism pandemic. Following are the possible challenges and its solution to terrorism in COVID 19:
- Financial funding
The new finding of the U.N. describes new challengers to counterterrorism, even though the world economies are disturbed because of the pandemic, new research shows that terrorism and extremism will find new ways of financing such as extortion through the illusion of humanitarian relief and increasing taxes on citizens to provide aid to the extremist groups in the pandemic.
To prevent terrorist fundraising there is a need for a financial regulatory system this is recommended in the Security Council Resolution of 2019.
The Internet and social media are a big weapon of extremist forces in spreading hatred and panic among the people, the extremist narrative is exploited in different ways on the Internet. Observing this, the report suggests strategising effective communication to stop the spread of false information and conspiracy theories that revolve around the spread of the virus.
Some right-wing groups spread misinformation and extremist narratives against the government management over the medical emergency of the COVID-19, the extremist groups provoke the groups and individuals to exploit the situation.
- Social assemblies & gatherings
Social assemblies are big targets of extremist groups, in the pandemic social gatherings are prohibited but some social awareness campaigns and protests are unavoidable such social gatherings are targets of the extremist groups to create panic in the people. The Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaida has stated in its statement on 31st March 2020 that they will show no mercy in spreading terror in the time of the pandemic. The extremist groups look at the pandemic as an opportunity in spreading terror in the world.
For such risks, people need to recheck and confirm any information before reacting without confirming the relevance of the information. The volunteers of non-state actors and other local groups have the responsibility in creating a healthy social assembly that are conducted in the pandemic and directs the gatherings responsibly about any misleading information.
- A break to peacebuilding initiative
Peace building initiative and awareness programs are a good counter to terrorism, unfortunately in the pandemic the focus of the state administration is diverted to health care, thus the situation can be advantageous to the extremist groups in the present situation.
Therefore, there is a need to have good support from local actors and non-state actors to implement initiatives to help people at risk. In the pandemic countries have highly diverted foreign policies that do not have many resources to function over the peace-building initiative, it is responsibility of the local groups and authorities to continue the awareness campaign.
- Need for new strategies
There is a change in the international social-political order in the pandemic, the traditional targets of the extremist groups have changed. Social gatherings are restricted in COVID-19, in such situation the extremist groups have changed their targets. Therefore, the administration and security department of states need to have a new approach to state security. i.e., more protection to hospitals and supermarkets, to be alert and have a preplanned security system, and building a capacity of attempts to spread of the virus.
- Impact on reduction in International Security assistance
Security assistance to countries and groups internationally has helped counterterrorism, but in the pandemic, the situation has worsened, with the change in state foreign policies in the crisis it is required that the local groups be strengthened for strategic defence against terrorism. The countries should try to give support to countries throughout the pandemic for counterterrorism. The local groups should be trained to be self-sufficient for self-protection.
A realistic approach
With the change in the social-political circumstances internationally, the above information of new challenges to terrorism in the COVID-19 pandemic can be analysed with a metaphor, ‘as a predator changes his strategies to catch the prey’ similarly the extremist and terrorist groups have changed their targets and approach.
The main objective of extremist and terrorist forces is to grab attention to their existence and spread fear in common people. But in the pandemic, as life has changed, and social culture is affected by social distancing, the terrorist groups have changed their regular traditional targets and shifted to new strategies, to counter such strategies state parties need to be pre-prepared an alert. The above-mentioned report on terrorism in the pandemics suggest some strategic points to counter terrorism in the pandemic that is:
- To support countries for counter-terrorism in pandemic.
- To train local security groups and develop security capacity by training.
- To build facilities for training local forces and making local security forces self-sufficient.
This approach of the international community describes self-sufficiency, contribution, and solidarity at the same time. The world has come to such devastation that existence and survival have become the priority, in such conditions helping each other in the epiphany creates a risk factor, many states can’t help even with their will because of self-suffering in the pandemic. It cannot be stated to be a selfish approach but a necessity to many in pandemic. In the pandemic many first world countries like the U.S.A. and European countries have been affected financially, the economic and social disturbance has created pressure on the state governments to stabilize the situation. Therefore, because of the socio-economic disturbance, the states which provide aid to counter terrorism have changed the approach of their state foreign policies. It is difficult for the international community to balance the pandemic situation and have ongoing aid as pre-pandemic times, this is an undeniable helpless moment to the international community. However, some non-state actors and other groups can be helpful in the situation in limited criteria.
The effects of the pandemic are long-lasting, it will not be easy to recover from the damages of COVID-19 even after the end of the virus. Thus, it is difficult to assume that world unity and solidarity would be effectively implemented.
The report suggests an ideal utopian situation of world unity, contribution, and solidarity which cannot be pre-assumed to tackle problems like terrorism. Thus, even though the report is well researched considering different perspectives on the impact of terrorism in COVID-19, it lacks an effective implementation approach. However, the report has creative suggestions that can be helpful in counterterrorism in a pandemic considering if the pre-assumed perspective of world unity functions simultaneously.
Rather than depending on an ideal situation of world unity and solidarity, the neighbouring bordered countries, and countries with previous alliances can form an exclusive strategic alliance for terrorism in the COVID-19. An exclusive alliance for such a pandemic can be much effective rather than a hope of ideal world unity, such strategic alliances have always been successful implemented in many world crises in the past, eventually making the world unit for a cause. These strategic alliances can also highlight individual views of allied states on eradicating targeted problems relating to the regional terrorism and pandemic, it would make faster and effective implementation of strategies. Therefore, the article criticizes the idealistic approach and recommends the realistic approach for counterterrorism in the COVID-19 pandemic.
LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join: