Preventing violent extremism and countering terrorism: National Security Advisor and EU Counterterrorism Coordinator open ONSA-EU conference

Members of the National Committee for Countering Violent Extremism, the National Counterterrorism Committee and other Iraqi stakeholders involved in implementing national strategies met on 14-15 February 2023 at a conference co-hosted by the Office of the National Security Advisor and the European Union. 

The National Security Advisor, the EU Counterterrorism Coordinator, the EU Ambassador to Iraq and the Head of the EU Advisory Mission in Iraq as well as the chairs of the national committees for countering violent extremism and counterterrorism participated in the opening session underlining the whole of government approach and the multifaceted EU-Iraq partnership around countering violent extremism and terrorism. 

The two-day conference focused on a wide range of topics from preventing and countering violent extremism in Iraq to effective counterterrorism responses. Senior officials from the Office of the National Security Advisor leading on implementation of the national strategy for countering violent extremism and the national counterterrorism strategy introduced the policy framework and outlined associated government priorities for 2023. 

Moderated by experts from RUSI Europe, discussions between participants from Iraq’s countering violent extremism and counterterrorism communities focused on the conceptual understandings of violent extremism and terrorism, civil society engagement, the role of women, youth, local community leaders, online dimensions and media narratives including preventing hate-speech and outreach to tech companies. Radicalisation in prisons with inputs from the EU-funded STRIVE Juvenile programme on the protection of children associated with terrorist and violent extremist groups was also discussed. 

EU Counterterrorism Coordinator Ilkka Salmi, who was visiting Baghdad for meetings with government counterparts including the National Security Advisor and the Minister of the Interior provided the key-note address. Mr. Salmi highlighted that ’violent extremism and terrorism are ever-evolving challenges for governments and civil society all over the world. It is destructive nationally, and it is undermining international peace and security. Iraq knows this all too well.’ 

Adding that Daesh and Al Qaeda continue to be the main terrorist threats confronting the EU, he thanked Iraq for its leadership in the victory over Daesh’s occupation, and he welcomed the EU’s cooperation and engagement in the region aimed at countering terrorism and violent extremism, such as EUAM Iraq’s collaboration with the Office of the National Security Advisor and the Ministry of Interior in supporting the implementation of relevant national strategies.

Mr. Salmi advocated for a ’whole of society’ approach linking up national governments, civil society, and the private sector to build community resilience. He pointed to the Global Community Engagement & Resilience Fund (GCERF), the Hedayah International Centre for Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism and the Strong Cities Network as international initiatives funded by the EU that are well placed to mobilise civil society, promote exchanges between national goverments as well as engagening local stakeholders in implementing national policies to prevent radicalisation. 

In his opening remarks, EUAM Iraq’s Head of Mission Anders Wiberg congratulated the Government of Iraq and the National Committee for Countering Violent extremism for their global leadership on the topic and underlined the importance of exchangeing experiences and best practices: ’the presence of so many different EU and Iraqi institutions in this room is a testimony to our wide-ranging partnership.’ 

The conference was faciliated by EUAM Iraq in close collaboration with the European Commission Service for Foreign Policy Instruments represented by Ms. Sihame Zanifi, Programme Manager for Countering Violent Extremism. Representatives of the European External Action Service Division for Counterterrorism, European Commission and the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union also attended. 


Read more:

EUAM Iraq – European Union Delegation in Iraq joint press release on the First commemoration of the International Day for the Prevention of Violent Extremism as and when Conducive to Terrorism (in English, in Arabic)

Keynote speech by EU Counterterrorism Coordinator Mr Ilkka Salmi

Media coverage:

Al Rasheed channel video coverage

Iraqi News Agency


Al Sumaria News

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