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ALL INDIA RADIO (AIR) DISCUSSION" : India’s contribution in UN countering Terrorist Travel Programme

The Topic covers GS paper 3[Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism]

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Introduction

  • The United Office of Counter-Terrorism launched the ‘UN Countering Terrorist Travel Programme’.
  • It is a flagship programme to support member states to help prosecute suspected terrorists.
  • It is funded by India, Japan, the Netherlands, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

What is the background?

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  • India helped the UN agencies get the programme started with its contribution of USD 250,000, giving them a push in the right direction and now other donors are also stepping in.
  • India is at the forefront of efforts at the UN to combat terrorism and ensure that perpetrators of heinous terror attacks are brought to justice.

What are the highlights of the programme?

  • The programme aims to support member states to use travel information to detect, prevent, investigate and prosecute suspected terrorists, while respecting high safeguards for data protection and in compliance with international human rights laws. 
  • The UN will provide state-of-the-art software – ‘goTravel’ – capable of analysing travel data which, based on context-specific risks, will help them to detect and track suspected terrorists and their movements across borders.
  • The programme will help member states collect, process and share travel data with other competent national and international authorities, with full respect for privacy and other fundamental freedoms.
  • This information sharing will enhance the abilities of Member States to effectively detect, prevent, investigate and prosecute terrorist offences, including their related travel. Importantly, this will also enable the detection and disruption of human trafficking and other forms of serious organised crime and to faster identify their victims.
  • The first phase of the programme will run for five years and an estimated USD 12 million per year is required for it.

Why this is different than other programmes?

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  • Several UN counter-terrorism departments, as well as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), will work closely together to implement the initiative, which provides countries with free access to advanced “goTravel” software, which analyses travel data to help countries detect and disrupt terrorists’ movements.
  • Another aspect of the Programme involves the UN supporting national authorities in the development of legislation and national expertise, via training and certification to operate the software lawfully and effectively.
  • The “goTravel” software is a reconfigured version of a system donated by the Netherlands to the United Nations.

What are the recent history of terrorist attacks?

  • Sri Lanka is among the first confirmed beneficiary States of the programme. 
  • The island nation came under attack on Easter Sunday as terrorists killed over 250 people.
  • The recent despicable attacks in Kenya, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, among others, are tragic reminders of the global reach of the scourge of terrorism. 
  • These attacks underscore the need to work closely with partners across the United Nations system and beyond.
  • Merely days after Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar was listed as a global terrorist at the UN Security Council, India gave a clarion call for strengthening efforts to adopt the long-pending Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism for countering the global scourge.

What is India’s stand?

  • India had proposed a draft document on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the UN in 1986 but it has not been implemented as there is no unanimity on the definition of terrorism among the member states. 
  • Following the territorial defeat of ISIS, many terrorists are trying to return home or relocate to safe havens or other troubled parts of the world.
  • Many are well trained and could carry out future terrorist attacks. 
  • Others are hoping to radicalise and recruit new followers to their cause, representing a major transnational threat. 
  • Detecting and disrupting these terrorists and other high-risk criminals prior to them carrying out an attack is a high priority for the international community.

Conclusion

  • The technology is built with safeguards in place for data and human rights protection, explaining that after a certain period of time, sensitive data elements, such as sexual orientation, or trade union membership, will be automatically deleted by the system. 
  • The UN will work with national parliaments to ensure that new surveillance laws include independent and transparent oversight mechanisms.
  • The programme represents the kind of cooperative, inter-governmental and institutional approach that should be adopted to meet the growing expectations and demands from countries most affected by terrorism.