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The Africa Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT) convened, its 5th Annual Meeting of the Focal Points from 30 October to 1 November 2011 in Algiers, the capital city of Algeria, where the Centre is also based. The opening ceremony was presided over by H.E. Ambassador Ramtane Lamamra, who is the African Union (AU) Commissioner for Peace and Security, and Ambassador Francisco Madeira, who is the Special Representative for the Chairperson of the AU Commission on Counter Terrorism Cooperation and also the Director of the ACSRT. The meeting was officially opened by Mr. Rezag Bara, who is the advisor to the President of the Democratic Republic of Algeria.

In their opening statements, the various speakers emphasized the important role that the Focal Points play in providing a communication and coordination medium between and among Member States and the AU. The speakers encouraged the Focal Points to further strengthen their efforts in light of the emerging security threats in the various parts of the continent. These threats include rapidly expanding areas affected by the scourge of terrorism, the proliferation of arms including small and light weapons and the emerging linkages between terrorist groups and other trans-national organized criminal groups, drug syndicates, arms trafficking, human trafficking as well as piracy. The Focal Points were established by AU Member States and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in line with the AU Plan of Action on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, adopted by the Inter-governmental High Level meeting that was held in Algiers in September 2002, and the Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism that was adopted by the 3rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union, held in Addis Ababa in July 2004. Under these continental instruments, Member States and RECs are expected to establish Focal Points at the national and regional level, to, inter alia, follow-up and liaise on matters relating to implementation of the Plan of Action and facilitate the timely exchange and sharing of information on terrorist groups and activities at the regional, continental and international levels. The three-day meeting provided not only a crucial reflection forum but also the platform for the Focal Points to share their experiences and lessons learned at the national and regional levels, and discuss openly and extensively, the various challenges they face in executing their mandate. The meeting also provided the ACSRT with the opportunity to update the Focal Points on progress made in the operationalization of Counter Terrorism Early Warning System, established within the framework of the AU Continental Early Warning System, the capacity building activities plan for 2012, as well as reporting templates developed for monitoring the implementation of the AU Plan of Action. The Focal Points shared the view that better institutional interaction can be achieved through supporting the ongoing efforts for the establishment of national and regional coordinating structures on counter terrorism and organized crimes in the form of Fusion Centers, designed to enable timely sharing of intelligence, creation of synergies, pooling of resources among different institutions and conducting joint operations. In concluding, the participants underscored the need for more effective collaboration and cooperation between the Focal Points and the ACSRT and the need for Member States that are yet to designate Focal Points to do so as soon as possible to ensure the full and effective functioning of the continental mechanism.

Posted by Marsden Momanyi

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