March 12, 2019

The Global Counterterrorism Forum’s (GCTF) Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTF) Working Group Plenary Meeting

Stephanie Foggett represented The Soufan Center at the Global Counter Terrorism Forum’s (GCTF) Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTF) Working Group Plenary Meeting on 12 March 2019, in Malaga, Spain. The Soufan Center briefed on the outcomes of the Forum on Returning Foreign Fighters, held in October 2018 in Doha, Qatar, that brought together officials and experts from over 60 countries, and included Ministers, Ambassadors, heads of intelligence agencies, counterterrorism practitioners, policy analysts, human rights experts, academics, researchers, journalists, and members of the film industry. Recommendations from the event include the following: (1) good policy is informed by good data; (2) terrorism and the FTF phenomenon are complex issues requiring nuanced responses; (3) narratives resonate when people feel like their own experience bears them out. In order for extremist narratives to not hold sway, a focus on good governance, equality and equity, along with top-down and bottom-up approaches to creating integration and resulting societal cohesion, are necessary; (4) exchange of FTF-related information among governments is of particular importance, as are the principles related to the prosecution and/or rehabilitation of FTFs; (5) the need to recognize the cyclical nature of terrorism. The Soufan Center also stressed the need for states to take responsibilities for either own citizens and that countries should repatriate their FTFs, as children should not be held in Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) camps. The Soufan Center also recommended states should not deny citizenship for FTFs, as this risks statelessness of ISIS/Da’esh fighters and reinforces ISIS/Da’esh narratives of exclusion. The international community has advantages to handle this situation with respect for human rights and the rule of law.

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