UNHRC Side Event: Human Rights and “Preventing Violent Extremism”

Human Rights and “Preventing Violent Extremism”

The implications of a global battle against an undefined phenomenon

10 March 2015, 12:00-13:00
Room XVIII, UN Palais des Nations, Geneva

The scale and reach of violent acts and human rights abuses inflicted by non-State actors in the name of “extremist” ideologies, and government reactions thereto, are again at the centre of discussions at the international, regional and domestic levels.

At the 31st session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), on 17 March there will be a panel discussion “on the human rights dimensions of preventing and countering violent extremism”, as a consequence of resolution 30/15, adopted by vote after substantial and troubling oral revisions in October 2015.

In December 2015, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon launched the UN “Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism”, adding to momentum within the UN to address the phenomenon of “violent extremism”. The Plan of Action has been critiqued in some corners and welcomed in others.

Resolution 30/15 calls on States to ensure that measures to prevent “violent extremism” (PVE) “comply with their obligations under international law”. In a submission to the 31st Session of the HRC, 58 organisations have warned that not all PVE initiatives meet these standards and some have significant potential to threaten human rights such as the rights to equality and freedom from discrimination, the right to privacy, and the freedoms of expression, association and religion or belief.

In particular, there are concerns that PVE, where it is not properly defined, can provide some governments further grounds to stifle freedom of expression and crush dissent. Some PVE initiatives are based on questionable assumptions about the tendency of some members of certain communities to commit violent acts, and can be discriminatory in both their design and impact, alienating the very communities they seek to assist. In the present context restrictions on human rights online are also increasing, with pressure building on private companies to assist States’ PVE efforts.

Join us during the 31st Session of the Human Rights Council to discuss:

  • How should States properly pursue the imperative of protecting national security while complying with their human rights and other obligations under international law?
  • What are the foreseeable harmful effects of violent extremism and PVE initiatives on human rights, including online?
  • What is the role of civil society and the private sector in “preventing violent extremism”?


Barbora Bukovska, Senior Director for Law and Policy, ARTICLE 19


Faiza Patel, Brennan Center for Justice, USA 

Gulalai Ismail, Aware Girls, Pakistan

Sandra Kraehenmann, Geneva Academy, Switzerland

RSVP: [email protected]