While the widespread exploitation of the Internet and social media platforms by terrorists poses serious challenges to security, the Internet as a communication channel also plays an important role in preventing and countering terrorism, underlined participants today at the start of a two-day high-level international conference in Minsk. Organized by the Foreign Ministry of Belarus and the Transnational Threats Department of the OSCE Secretariat, the conference brings together more than 250 participants, including senior national representatives of OSCE participating States, OSCE Partners for Co-operation, international and regional organizations, civil society, academia and the private sector. They will exchange national experiences and perspectives on recent trends and measures, and discuss challenges, responses and best practices on how to prevent and counter the misuse of the Internet by violent extremists and terrorists, while respecting fundamental rights and freedoms. “The use by terrorists all over the world of information technologies and means of communication is one of the most dangerous challenges undermining the sustainable development of humankind,” said the President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko in a statement read aloud to conference participants by State Secretary of the country’s Security Council Stanislav Zas.
“The efficient countering of this threat is only possible through co-ordinated actions by partners at the national, regional and global levels. I am confident that a constructive and interesting exchange of opinions and experience will help developing common approaches and bring us closer to resolving the problem of terrorism,” the President’s statement read. In his own statement to the conference, State Secretary Zas added: “It is extremely important to develop interactions and information exchanges among law enforcement and special services as well as comprehensive partnerships between the state, civil society and business.” “We favour a comprehensive approach in fighting terrorism based on the principles of international law,” stated Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Vladimir Makei. “Therefore we support efforts to create a united front against terrorism and call for concerted action by the UN, the OSCE, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organization and other relevant bodies. We hope that today’s meeting will help improve synergies in international efforts to counter the terrorist threat.” OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger noted that the conference’s agenda goes beyond the legal and policy aspects of preventing and countering terrorism, and thanked the Government of Belarus for organizing the conference, and its timely and relevant agenda. “The conference will integrate discussions on the importance of public-private partnerships, strengthening dialogue and co-operation between governments and non-state actors, and on the need to strategically leverage the role of the ICT while protecting critical infrastructure from terrorist attacks emanating from cyberspace,” said Greminger. He highlighted that the OSCE was among the very first multilateral organizations to stress the need for sustained, multi-faceted, human rights-compliant and gender-mainstreamed efforts to counter the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes. Under-Secretary-General of the UN and Head of the UN Counter-Terrorism Office Vladimir Voronkov said: “To win this war, we must join forces and act together to prevent and curb the risks of terrorist abuse of digital technologies, while respecting human rights and freedoms, including the freedom of expression.