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Poverty and injustice feeding terrorism, French minister says

Christiane Taubira speaks at the UN on Tuesday
Christiane Taubira speaks at the UN on Tuesday FRANCE 24

France’s justice minister stressed the importance on Tuesday of targeting poverty and injustice as major factors in the spread of terrorism, calling on countries worldwide to focus on education and health in order to combat “this terrible violence”.

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UN correspondent in New York

“It’s not enough to win the war to build the peace,” Christiane Taubira told the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Committee in a rousing and eloquent speech that prompted an impassioned round of applause.

“Terrorism is not elsewhere it’s everywhere,” she told a packed room of counter-terrorism delegates from across the world. “It spreads in fragmented societies where the economic and social fabric is being destroyed by poverty. People feel excluded. People who are going through a difficult moment in life and don’t feel that anybody’s concerned about them, that they are marginalised, that they don’t belong to society…

“[In order to combat this] we need to concentrate on education and health. Reducing misery and inequality [...] will enable us to combat terrorism, because if we’re able to ensure that hope comes back, that people see that there’s a tomorrow, that they can get justice, then we will be able to dissipate this terror.”

Taubira, whose government is constructing a four-pronged counter-terrorism programme in response to to the deadly terror attacks in and around Paris last month, was visiting the US on a two-day mission to cultivate bilateral anti-terror efforts between Paris and Washington.

In a nod to concerns at home that France might follow in the steps of post-9/11 US (a counter-terrorism response which is largely seen by the French public as clumsy and ineffective), Taubira stressed the importance of upholding the rule of law and defending civil liberties.

“We mustn't renounce the rule of law, our values, individual and collective freedoms, or public freedoms,” she said. “If we declare war it’s a semantic and ethical trap because it suggests that we have the same goals and ambitions as the other side.

“The challenge is to show that we can counter these new dangers without losing the soul of our principles, without losing the very foundations which serve as the legitimacy of public order.”

Taubira blamed her conservative predecessors for closing down schools, libraries and other public services in poor and immigrant-rich areas, many of which lie near the péripherique, or Paris ring road. She told FRANCE 24 that the Socialist government was committed to the rejuvenation of these “long neglected areas", which she said had become danger zones for impressionable youths vulnerable to radicalisation.

“Those who are open to the morbid terrorist rhetoric need to see that there’s another way of looking of things. We need to provide them with a rhetoric based on life, on common destiny,” she said in her speech.

“We have been working hard to bring back the state, in the form of libraries, schools, police and education, to those areas and are now intensifying those efforts", she told FRANCE 24. “We’ve identified what needs doing and we’ve started doing it.”

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