UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday cautioned against tackling violent Islamic extremism through military means alone and urged governments to avoid counter-terrorism responses that could lead to rights abuses.
Ban told a special Security Council meeting on counter-terrorism that the United Nations was looking at ways to address violent extremism by working with communities "at the grassroots level."
"We must continue to think more deeply into the fundamental conditions that allow extremism to thrive. Looking at these challenges solely through a military lens has shown its limits," the secretary-general told the 15-member council.
He warned against targeting Muslim communities in the name of counter-terrorism and said "such abuses are not only immoral, they are counter-productive."
The council was meeting to follow up on a resolution adopted in August aimed at choking off the flow of foreign fighters and financing to Islamist groups who now control vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop chaired the meeting to ramp up international efforts to confront the threat from the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria and from the Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's Syrian branch.
Bishop said the extremists' "hateful ideologies are an affront to the values of the United Nations" and called for the appointment of a UN envoy to build a "coordinated and strategic message" to counter the spread of violent extremism.
The envoy would provide guidance to governments worldwide and help them develop the capacity to counter Islamic extremists who make savvy use of social media and other digital platforms.
Diplomats said the appointment was being discussed but that some countries had reservations over the mandate of the envoy, who would focus primarily on hotbeds of radical Islam.
In a unanimous statement, the council stressed the need "to improve the visibility and effectiveness of the UN's role in countering the spread of violent extremist ideologies that are conducive to terrorism."