Geneva: The Syrian conflict has acted like a greenhouse for extremist groups which are now spreading "like a cancer", the UN chief said on Friday, urging greater cooperation to prevent radicalisation.
The war raging in Syria has "provided the perfect breeding ground for extremist and terrorists to take root in the society," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in Geneva.
"Now (the Islamic State group) and all the extremists are spreading like a cancer around the world," he warned in remarks on the sidelines of a high-level conference on preventing violent extremism.
In an earlier address to some of the 700 delegates -- among them around 30 ministers and deputy ministers -- Ban urged a radical rethink of ways to counter the threat from IS and other groups.
"Evidence shows that security and military responses alone cannot defeat this scourge," he said, stressing that heavy-handed responses have sometimes "proven to be counter-productive" and can "end up further fuelling violent extremism".
In January, Ban launched a global action plan, asking countries to come up with national plans to address the problem.
Ban's plan encompasses 79 recommendations, from boosting education to promoting human rights to counter the recruitment drives of groups like IS and Boko Haram which prey on disaffected youth.
It also calls for countries to try to appeal to fighters who have joined groups like IS to return home by offering education and job opportunities, and urges governments to engage with social media to find ways to challenge the jihadists' messages.
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, whose country last month was rocked by terror attacks that killed 32 people, was among the many ministers who voiced support for Ban's plan.
"We must remain vigilant to ensure that our fight against terrorism respects freedom of expression, the freedom of citizens," he told delegates.
"Respecting human right is not only an efficient way to fight terrorism, but it is also a way to not give in to the terrorists," he said.