The United Nations (UN) held its ‘International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to Victims of Terrorism’ on 21 August, “To honour and support the victims and survivors of terrorism and to promote and protect the full enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
It’s not all about hugs and flowers though – this victim-centric approach is being put forward as an important tool in counter-terrorism efforts around the globe.
How does victim support contribute to counter-terrorism?
Victims of terrorism – no matter where they are in the world or whether the extremist attackers were from the “left” or “right” – often feel abandoned once their medical needs have been taken care of. Without support, this can lead to anger and greater tensions between groups in a society.
“Victims often feel forgotten and neglected once the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack fades, which can have profound consequences for them, explains a UN statement. “Few Members States have the resources or the capacity to fulfil the medium and long-term needs required for victims to fully recover, rehabilitate and integrate back into society.”
“The draft resolution on the Enhancement of International Cooperation to Assist Victims of Terrorism (A/73/l.88) specifically recognizes the resilience of victims as important for the social cohesion of society and as vital partners to prevent violent extremism conducive to terrorism.”
It isn’t an instant fix, but certainly seems like an important step in building bridges and avoiding further polarisation or recruitment, both online and offline.
How does the UN commemorate and acknowledge victims?
This year, the focus of the commemoration day was on the resilience of those affected by terrorism, and the strength they have shown in coping with the aftermath of an attack and in going on with their lives.
Media releases were sent out, ensuring that the day was featured in publications from Forbes to Jerusalem Post, and a photo exhibition was launched at UN headquarters in New York. The exhibition includes images from attacks over the past few years that have affected locals and travellers alike, such as the Nice truck attack and Manchester Arena bombing. There are also many victims’ statements and stories on display, “Demonstrating their individual journey and experience of resilience.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “I ask that we all reflect on the lives that have been changed forever as a result of terrorism. Let us commit to showing victims that they are not alone, and that the international community stands in solidarity with them, wherever they may be. In their call for healing and justice, they speak for all of us.”
The day of commemoration was first held in 2018 and is intended to continue on an annual basis.
What else is being done?
In June 2019, a group called ‘Friends of victims of terrorism” launched in New York. Forbes reports that UN Secretary-General attended the launch, highlighting that the UN was advancing support to victims, “Through a global program specifically tailored to enhancing the voices of victims and ensuring comprehensive support, and through improved coordination of assistance to justice systems to help countries fight against impunity and seek justice for victims of terrorism in a manner consistent with international law.”
There are various organisations around the world that provide support to victims of terrorism. Here in the UK, the impact on witnesses and those indirectly affected” is recognised and supported, as well as that on directly affected victims:
- 24/7 Victim Support line – call 0800 168 9111 or visit victimsupport.co.uk
This is available to anyone who has been affected by an attack – directly or indirectly. Victim Support can assist with short-term and long-term support.
- Victims’ Information Line – call 0808 168 9293 (for victims of any crime)
Provides information on local support available anywhere in England and Wales, and can also provide immediate emotional and practical assistance.
- Peace Foundation Survivors Assistance Network – call 01925 581 240 or email SAN@foundation4peace.org
Specialist support for people in the UK who have been affected by terrorism, providing support right after an attack, long-term assistance, and support groups.
Organisations such as British Red Cross, NSPCC, Samaritans, Tfl Incident Support, and Childline can also provide assistance to anyone affected by an act of terrorism, here or abroad.
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