Chargé d’Affaires Martina Boustani Opening Remarks – Global Counterterrorism Forum Soft Targets Initiative – May 9-10, 2017


(As prepared)

Good morning.

I would like to thank the Government of Senegal for hosting us today and for the role Turkish Ambassador Mrs. Nilgün Erdem Ari has played in support of this unique and valuable initiative.  I’m very pleased that we could partner with Turkey under the auspices of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) in our continuing effort to address this crucially important challenge we all face.

It is important that we share our experiences and insights in protecting soft targets from terrorist attacks, as we work toward developing a set of global best practices.  Whether it be protecting malls, stadiums, mosques, churches, schools, resorts, transportation systems or other public spaces, we are all in the same pirogue as the Senegalese say.

I also wish to thank those who traveled long distances to be with us, today. Your presence reminds us all just how important this issue has become and how vital our work is to mitigating potential attacks in the African context. There have been multiple soft-target attacks in the immediate vicinity of Senegal.. We must not be deterred by the challenges inherent in the current environment.  Rather, we must to band together in order to better protect our citizens.

This past year has been an important one in the fight against violent extremism and terrorism. By working together through our African counter-terrorism partnerships and other ongoing efforts on the ground, we have made important progress in countering ISIL, al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and similar groups. .
As evidenced by the recent attacks in London, Grand-Bassam, Bamako, Ouagadougou, Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Orlando, and elsewhere, the clear human, economic, and political consequences of these types of attacks demonstrate strongly the immediate need for an international focus on soft target protection.

This particular GCTF strategic-level initiative was launched in September 2016.  Since then, there have been two regional workshops – one in Antalya, and one in Singapore last month. Over the course of these meetings, it became clear that the sharing of experiences leading to the identification of best practices is necessary to improve our preparedness for such attacks. This workshop in Dakar can, and should, serve as a basis for international engagement, assistance, and training to enhance the security and resilience of potential soft targets.  The final regional workshop will be in Brussels next month.

Our countries have struggled with the trade-offs between free movement for our people and protecting them from harm.  It is our hope that this workshop will demonstrate the best ways to:

  • Identify and prioritize soft targets in accordance with known threats and thorough risk assessments;
  • Establish effective information sharing and intelligence cooperation at the local, national, and international levels;
  • Highlight ways to improve preparedness, including planning, training, equipping, and exercising, to prevent, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism;
  • Facilitate dialogue with the private sector to improve cooperation on security.

At the end this series of workshops, we hope that partnerships among government, non-profit organizations, and private owners and operators, will be stronger in managing the risks posed to soft targets by terrorism.

I want to thank all of you for your participation and for your support of this GCTF initiative. The rise of attacks against soft targets threatens all of us.   Meeting this challenge will require collaborative and innovative approaches. It is our responsibility as a global community to find solutions to help each other protect our people.

Thank you very much.