Action against Terrorism

"WHY TERRORISM ? Addressing the Conditions Conducive to the Spread of Terrorism"

Strasbourg, 25-26 April 2007

The most serious attacks perpetrated on the European continent have been committed not by external enemies but by individuals who live, work and raise their families in Europe. It is a small minority of society which, for a variety of reasons, accepts extremist ideologies and an even smaller minority which descends from extremism into unjustifiable, atrocious acts of terrorism.

Whilst seeking to intercept and prosecute terrorists and terrorist networks, governments must therefore also look closely at their societies and try to understand why it is that these few individuals or groups turn to extremism and terrorism.

On 25 and 26 April 2007, the Council of Europe organised an international conference entitled "WHY TERRORISM? Addressing the Conditions Conducive to the Spread of Terrorism".

The Conference was an initiative of the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER) and built on the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, in particular Section 1 of the Plan of Action on 'Measures to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism', and on Article 3 of the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism.

The event brought together experts from member and observer states of the Council of Europe and included the participation of NGOs and academia as well as representatives of international organisations. The Conference was a discussion-oriented forum for exchanging information, experience and ideas on the basis of keynote speeches and resulted in conclusions which could be translated into concrete actions.

The Conference

Wednesday, 25 April 2007


The Conference opened with a political message by
  • Philippe Boillat, Director General a.i. of Legal Affairs and Director General of Human Rights, on behalf of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe

The challenge

The session was chaired by Ambassador Peter Lizak, Chairman of the Security Committee of the OSCE. It outlined the issues at stake, at local, national, regional and international level, and was followed by an open discussion. In the light of the keynote presentations, the session then turned into an open debate addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, led by Robert Parsons, specialist in international politics, France24 and Rafael A. Benitez, Anti-Terrorism Coordinator of the Council of Europe.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Balancing integration with respect for cultural diversity and encouraging inter-religious dialogue

The session first looked at initiatives aimed at promoting integration and diversity, particularly through inter-cultural dialogue. It then looked at the role of religion and inter-religious dialogue. The session was followed by a discussi on led by Anatoly Safonov, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation on International Co-operation in Combating Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime.
  • Gabriella Battaini, CoE Coordinator on Inter-cultural dialogue
  • Stein Villumstad, Deputy Secretary General of the World Conference of Religions for Peace
  • Gaspar Martínez, Pax Romana International

Foreign policy, democracy, accountable government

The session emphasised the importance of responsible, ethical and accountable foreign policy and governance, and was followed by a discussion on the importance of democracy and human rights protection, in particular freedom of expression and association, to allow legal channels for the expression of grievances. The discussion was led by Ambassador Bruno Gain, Chair of the Rapporteur Group of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, responsible for coordinating the Organisation's work on terrorism.
  • Ortwin Hennig, Vice-President of the East West Institute
  • James A. Goldston, Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative
  • Thomas Hammarberg, Commissionner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe

Why terrorism?

The session reviewed the debate about root causes in the UN and in academia and presented some empirical findings regarding individual paths to terrorism and results from a survey on the "The Causes of 9/11", followed by a set of recommendations on the prevention and control of terrorism for consideration. It was followed by a discussion led by Marja Lehto, Chair of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER).
  • Alexander P. Schmid, Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence


In the concluding session, the Chair of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER) summarised the discussions in the prior sessions and proposed possible avenues of prevention. She presented the conclusions which were agreed upon by participants.
  • Marja Lehto, Chair of the CODEXTER

Practical information


Reference sites

CoE Action against Terrorism
UN Action against Terrorism
Alliance of Civilizations

Council of Europe instruments


Council of Europe documents

Country profiles
Database "Cyberterrorism and use of Internet for terrorist purposes"

Press information

Conference fact sheet
Press conference
Press release