U.S., Partners Work to Combat Terrorism, Support Victims
By MacKenzie C. Babb
Washington - The United States and its international partners are working together to counter violent extremism and help the victims of terrorism around the globe, says Under Secretary of State Maria Otero.
"Around the world, terrorists make their mark on the world through acts of hatred. They proclaim their values with a deep and disturbing indifference to human life," Otero said July 9 to the Global Counterterrorism Forum's High-Level Conference on Victims of Terrorism in Madrid, Spain.
"Those of you here today stand in stark contrast to terrorists, not only by condemning their acts but by countering their indifference with honor, dignity and compassion for victims of terrorism," she said.
Otero, the under secretary for civilian security, democracy and human rights, delivered opening remarks to the conference. The July 9-10 meeting brings together government officials, civil society leaders and other stakeholders to discuss how countries can increase their support of victims of terror while cooperating to counter extremist ideologies.
The under secretary thanked the victims of terrorism who traveled from around the world to participate in the conference for their courage and perseverance.
"Each of you is a testament to the fact that the human spirit cannot be easily broken," she said. "You are an inspiration to all of us, and we are honored to work not just on your behalf but alongside you in this important work."
Otero said the group is working toward adopting an action plan by the end of the conference to reaffirm the group's shared hope that no victim suffers alone and to mobilize additional resources and expertise to provide victims with training to counter violent extremism by sharing their own stories.
"By magnifying the voices of survivors, especially through international media, we have a unique chance to educate the world about the pain inflicted by terrorists," she said. "Though such awareness is tainted with pain and suffering, it is all the more powerful in discouraging radicalized individuals and empowering other victims to speak up against violent extremism."
The under secretary said in addressing the needs of victims while integrating their voices into counterterrorism efforts, the United States aims to incorporate four pillars into a comprehensive strategy.
First, governments must be sure that victims of terror have the tools they need to heal.
"The road to recovery is long, but it is made all the easier by accessible information and resources - from medical care to legal representation to psychological services," Otero said.
She said also that victims should have the opportunity to participate in the accountability process following an attack.
"They should have access to the perpetrators' court proceedings and be afforded protection if necessary so that they may work toward recovery," Otero said.
She said victims often play an important role in bringing terrorists to justice, both as witnesses and as advocates for accountability.
"We must strive to protect and foster victim participation in accountability efforts, while remaining respectful of the psychological challenges such a process can present," the under secretary said.
Third, Otero said, the international community must provide an environment for the support and recovery of victims of terrorism.
"They should have the chance to meet other survivors and share experiences as each person advances his or her own healing," she said. She called on conference participants to work to "foster an understanding of the unique and diverse needs of survivors."
Finally, the under secretary called on governments around the world to listen to victims.
"Survivors can inform the global fight against terrorism," she said. "We need to elevate their voices and stories while also incorporating their wisdom into our counterterrorism efforts."
Otero said the United States hopes that these and similar efforts "will reach every victim of terrorism on the road to recovery and on our shared path of countering violent extremism in all forms the world over."
The Global Counterterrorism Fund, launched in September by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, is a multilateral body with 30 founding members that seeks to build the international community's ability to counter 21st-century terrorism.
Otero is leading the U.S. delegation to the conference, and is scheduled to engage in bilateral discussions with senior government officials on topics including counterterrorism cooperation, assistance for victims of terror and the fight against trafficking in persons.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)