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Burkhalter: anti-terror measures a 'priority'

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Burkhalter: anti-terror measures a 'priority'
Burkhalter and John Kerry at a meeting last year. Photo: Sebastien Bozon/AFP
12:24 CET+01:00
Combating violent extremism is a “priority” in Switzerland, Swiss foreign minister and former president Didier Burkhalter has said, telling a counter-terrorism summit in Washington this week that Switzerland has measures in place to prevent the radicalization of youth and the financing of terrorism.

Speaking at the summit on Thursday, Burkhalter, who took on the Swiss rotating presidency last year, said preventing terrorism was “one of the major challenges of our generation”, reported news agencies.

“We must take effective measures to block the financing of terrorism and reinforce our laws,” he said.

At the invitation of US Secretary of State John Kerry, the former president joined representatives from governments around the world at the Washington summit, which aimed to agree a common position against violent extremism, with socio-political and economic measures central to the debate.

Outlining Switzerland’s own strategy, Burkhalter said societies should “offer some perspective” to young people who let themselves be recruited and radicalized by terror groups.

Helping young people find alternatives for their lives is “key” to extinguishing the flames of terrorism.

“The task is huge, it will take time and determination,” he said.

In Switzerland numerous organizations at different levels, including religious groups, are involved in the task, said Burkhalter.

He highlighted the training model in Switzerland, where the youth unemployment rate is a low 3.5 percent, compared to an average 14.6 percent in countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

This “good economic integration, along with considered town planning” has avoided ghettoization in Switzerland, he said.

Burkhalter also underlined the country’s continued support for the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF), recently established in Geneva, to which Switzerland is contributing $5 million over four years.

GCERF is a public-private global partnership enabling the international community to bolster grass-roots efforts to combat radicalization and recruitment in local communities.

The funds will go towards creating jobs for young people in pilot countries including Bangladesh, Mali, Morocco and Nigeria.

“This is a big opportunity to establish a long-term strategy,” said Burkhalter.

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