By HRH Princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia.
These are trying times – times when you would think that diplomacy might be the strongest currency we have to meet the price of peace. Examples of divisive social pressure are all around, whether it is the waves of migration from south to north, the continued conflict in many parts of the Middle East, the election of Donald Trump, or Brexit. Communities are at breaking point, and countries are divided with trust levels among erstwhile united populations at historically low points. The signs of reconciliation are few.
Yet the threat of terrorism casts a shadow over this all. This should be the one thing which spurs us to cooperate because the goal is simple and common to us all: the security of our people to go about their business in safety and without fear of attack.
But international security – and the intelligence-sharing that goes with it – is a double-edged sword. To reveal strategies to protect yourself is also to reveal your weaknesses to a potential enemy. And in the margins of this paradox, knowledge that could help protect against attacks goes unshared and the threat of terrorism remains strong. The sad fact is we fail to recognise our friends and allies and drift further apart when we need one another’s cooperation now more than ever.
There are recent open examples of success in intelligence sharing – for example, the foiled plot to smuggle of explosives into Bahrain, or the foiled plot in Yemen which sought to place a bomb on a plane bound for the United States. But these examples are too few. This is the obstacle we need to surmount. The immediate pay-off is understanding that effective strategies against terrorism and other types of violent extremism need to focus on prevention just as much, if not more, than cure.
Certainly, a military response – ‘hard’ measures – is required for those individuals or groups on the ideological scale who are already committed to carrying out atrocities. This is of course problematic, and the criticisms and anger caused by drone strikes are plentiful and destroys trust. At the same time, however, the general threat of terrorism can be lowered by reducing the flow of people willing to become involved in the preparation or execution of attacks.
There are individuals who can be dissuaded from joining such groups with preventative ‘soft’ measures, and there are ways in which communities can learn to better handle the threat of radicalisation where it presents itself. In this way, we can build stronger ties based on trust and clear understanding of mutual benefit, the antidote for these difficult times. This is the stock-in-trade of diplomacy. Persuasion and the sharing of knowledge and lessons learned so that we can build greater resilience among our communities to the threat of terrorism.
Her Royal Highness Princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud is the Founder and Chair of the Global United Centre for Research and Analysis: http://www.guraksa.com/en/
An acclaimed global speaker, businesswoman and human rights activist based in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia http://basmahbintsaud.com/eng/
Recent appearance of HRH Princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud for The Day/Deutsche Welle: https://share.ard-zdf-box.de/s/IhhO2BGoeTNbYnw