A fourth pillar for the United Nations? The rise of counter-terrorism

Seventy-five years ago, the Charter of the United Nations (UN) established a new institution with three founding pillars: peace and security, human rights and development.  

Over the past 20 years however, a fourth pillar – counter-terrorism – has begun to emerge, through multiple UN Security Council resolutions, a global strategy from the UN General Assembly, the rise of the countering or preventing violent extremism agenda, and the creation of a stand-alone UN Office of Counter-terrorism. 

This discussion paper explores the current effects and future implications of the UN’s embrace of counter-terrorism, given the mounting evidence of the harmful impacts of this agenda worldwide.  

It finds that the compromises the UN has struck have come to threaten its ability to uphold its Charter, putting the effectiveness of its work for peace, rights and development on the line. It identifies steps UN leadership and member states can take to: 

  • protect the UN’s credibility and impact 
  • refocus UN strategy on peace, rights and development 
  • turn evidence and experience into improvement. 

Download the briefing here.

Read a summary of the briefing here.

Read more about our work on peacebuilding response to counter-terrorism.