NEW YORK: The UN’s top counterterrorism official on Friday thanked Saudi Arabia for its contribution to the creation of a collaborative tool designed to inform best practices for emergency services in their responses to acts of terrorism.
“I’d like to offer sincere thanks to all our donors, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Vladimir Voronkov, under-secretary-general of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, said at the launch event for the new platform, attended by Arab News.
He also thanked other donors — including the EU, the US, Qatar and Japan — for their contributions toward the creation of the platform, called Connect & Learn.
The donations of Saudi Arabia and others will allow UNOCT “to continue its crucial work in our joint fight against terrorism,” said Voronkov, who also serves as Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations.
“Despite progress in the fight against terrorism over the last 20 years, the threat still spread and evolved to become more complex and volatile. This situation has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, adding that social isolation and exposure to radical online content and terrorist recruiters have fueled a rise in extremist beliefs. These challenges, he said, mean “international cooperation is now more crucial than ever.”
Connect & Learn provides free modules and courses on countering terrorism, and allows practitioners from across the world to collaborate in a UN-backed shared digital space, sharing their own best practices, launching joint partnerships and connecting with their peers.
But the benefits of the platform are not exclusive to government intelligence officers or counterterrorism teams.
Graham Ellis, former deputy commissioner of the London Fire Department, told event attendees that he had “responded far, far too many times to acts of terrorism on the streets of London.”
He said the UN’s new counterterrorism course adds value to emergency response teams because it teaches best practice in multi-agency responses to acts of terror — when police, medical, fire and other such teams coordinate their actions as acts of terror unfold. “That’s what saves lives,” Ellis added.
For emergency responders, he said, the most important element of any response to a terror attack is the quality and rigor of the training that the teams were exposed to ahead of time — this is how the UN’s collaborative tool will ultimately help save lives and aid the global fight against terrorism.
“As the asymmetric terror threats continue to evolve, the UN Connect & Learn platform arrives at just the right time,” he said, adding that emergency responders can learn just as much “from an attack in Washington or New York as they can one in any other continent.”
The platform, he said, “has the ability to make a significant contribution to saving lives. What could be more important?”
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