The Global Counterterrorism Forum strengthens and supplements the already existing international activities relating to counterterrorism. Switzerland is, also within this framework, promoting the respect for human rights while countering terrorism and advocating for the Forum to become closely affiliated to the UN.
The Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) was established in New York in September 2011. It supersedes political blocs and comprises 29 member states from all continents, plus the EU. Its main goals are to identify national and international needs in terms of combating terrorism, to develop suitable solutions and to coordinate and facilitate capacity-building activities in partnership with interested countries.
In addition to a coordination committee under the co-leadership of the USA and Turkey, the Forum comprises six working groups focusing on the following spheres of activity:
- Criminal justice and rule of law in counterterrorism
- Prevention of violent extremism
- Detention and reintegration
- Foreign terrorist fighters
- Sahel region
- Horn of Africa
Participation in the Global Counterterrorism Forum offers Switzerland a major platform for safeguarding its interests and values in the area of counterterrorism. Within the framework of the Forum, Switzerland also promotes the respect of human rights and campaigns for the Forum to become closely affiliated to the activities of the UN
This means that the Forum has to pay equal attention to all four pillars of the UN's global strategy for combating terrorism:
- Fighting root causes
- Prevention and repression
- Building up state capacities
- Protection of human rights and rule of law
With a view to optimising the coordination of counterterrorism activities between the Forum, the UN and other international and regional organisations, Switzerland organised an international conference in Interlaken on 23 and 24 February 2012. At this meeting, the Members of the GCTF endorsed the central role of the UN in the global fight against terrorism.
The phenomenon of foreign fighters, the increase in kidnapping for ransom (KFR) and of violent extremism were the main themes of the Fifth Ministerial Plenary of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), that took place on 23 September 2014 in New York. In his speech, the President of the Swiss Confederation, Didier Burkhalter, condemned the crimes committed by ISIL, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, al-Shabab and the al-Nusrah Front. He reaffirmed that Switzerland would take measures to prevent foreign fighters travelling to conflict zones and that he considered it necessary to strengthen cooperation within the framework of counterterrorism activities at the national and international levels. Accordingly, Switzerland is also committed to counterterrorism within the framework of the OSCE, and organised a conference on the issue of KFR in April 2014. The establishment of the “Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund” (GCERF), which will be based in Geneva and will support local initiatives to prevent radicalisation, was also announced. At the end of the meeting, the decision was taken to set up the Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group, and the following GCTF framework documents were adopted:
- The Hague – Marrakesh Memorandum on Good Practices for a More Effective Response to the "Foreign Terrorist Fighters" (FTF) Phenomenon
- Abu Dhabi Memorandum on Good Practices for Education and Countering Violent Extremism
- The Hague Memorandum on Good Practices for the Judiciary in Adjudicating Terrorism Offenses
- Recommendations for Using and Protecting Intelligence Information in Rule of Law-Based, Criminal Justice Sector-Led Investigations and Prosecutions
The Counterterrorism Coordination Office, which is attached to the FDFA, secures Switzerland’s contacts with the Forum.