The United Nations (UN) has launched a new Countering Terrorist Travel Programme (CTTP) designed to improve the detection of serious criminals, including Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTF), that seek to transit countries. Key components of CTTP will include:
- Assessment of beneficiary Member States’ needs with respect to vetting and passenger data collection, and joint production of a roadmap for implementation;
- Assistance with establishing a legislative framework and governance structure for the vetting platform, known as a Passenger Information Unit (PIU);
- Stand-up of a Passenger Information Unit (PIU) and capacity-building support, including raising awareness and expertise among countries on the use of API/PNR data to stem the flow of foreign fighters;
- Provision of information and communication technology expertise, including the deployment, installation, enhancement and maintenance support of goTravel – a software system that facilitates the end-to-end process for law enforcement to collect/share/analyze/disseminate passenger data.
Considering that more than 40.000 FTFs from over 110 countries joined the IS in Syria and Iraq as estimated by the UN two years ago, enhanced border controls are critical. But how exactly will CTTP help counter existing and emerging threats? In our view, key CTTP benefits could include the following:
- Empowerment of Member States: Offering a software platform and training to Member States to support them in collecting, processing and sharing passenger data can accelerate the development of their vetting capabilities, further mitigating risk to the global transportation network.
- Low-Cost Digital Solution: Individual Member States might lack the financial means or the necessary know-how to develop vetting capabilities. These countries may also run the risk of purchasing expensive systems that are not fit for purpose. Thanks to Netherlands’ donation of the “goTravel” software solution, the UN is able to provide a digital tool to its Member States free of charge.
- Enhanced International Cooperation: CTTP encourages private and public actors to share best practices and technical knowledge/skills with Member States.
- Harmonized Global Approach: The programme aims to develop a harmonized approach for passenger data (API/PNR) collection, processing and sharing which will improve actors’ capabilities to detect terrorist-related travel.
Altogether, The CTTP provides a first and necessary initiative to improve Member States’ vetting capacities, and thus, to enhance security of the transportation network. However, the value of the initiative will depend on the cooperation among and between actors.