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United States Urges Greater Focus on Border Controls, Aviation Security, as Russian Federation Cites ‘Comprehensive Prosecution’ Effort
With violent extremists having suffered defeats in Syria and Iraq, the international community must step up cooperation to address the complex problem of foreign terrorist fighters returning home or travelling to other regions, the senior‑most United Nations official on that issue told the Security Council today.
“This is a truly global challenge that demands an urgent and concerted multilateral response,” emphasized Vladimir Voronkov, Under‑Secretary‑General and Head of the Office of Counter‑Terrorism. Joining Mr. Voronkov in briefing members were Michele Coninsx, Executive Director of the Counter‑Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) and Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan) in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council 1267/1989 Sanctions Committee on Al‑Qaida and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and associated groups.
Mr. Voronkov said that, at one stage more than 40,000 foreign terrorist fighters from 110 countries might have travelled to join the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The flow to that region had decreased significantly, but terrorists had tried to relocate to such countries as Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan, fuelling existing conflicts and further destabilizing the region. The affected countries needed international support to address the threat, he stressed.
Of at least 5,600 fighters from 33 States who had returned home, many were trained and equipped to carry out attacks in their own countries, he said. Others hoped to recruit new followers and yet others had rejected terrorist ideologies and posed no threat. There was a need to enhance cooperation, improve the exchange of information, and ensure effective border controls and stronger criminal justice systems, in accordance with the rule of law and human rights standards.
Ms. Coninsx outlined many of the challenges confronting States in building capacity to address the problems posed by travelling terrorist fighters. One example was that fewer than 60 States had so far introduced measures requiring airlines to provide advance passenger information.
Mr. Umarov said that, in addressing the movement of terrorists, his Committee was working to ensure that its sanctions list was updated and as accurate as possible. He encouraged Member States to be active in proposing individuals and entities, including foreign terrorist fighters, for listing under the sanctions regime.
Delegates then took the floor, expressing concern over the threat of foreign terrorist fighters and describing their national initiatives to implement relevant Council resolutions. They affirmed the need for more effective international cooperation on the issue, particularly in sharing information and working with INTERPOL and other relevant actors.
Some delegates discussed the scope of the problem in relation to their own citizens. For example, France’s representative reported that 688 French nationals were currently in Syria and Iraq, with 244 adults and 59 minors having returned from the region since 2013. France’s combination of legislative and policy responses ranged from breaking up recruitment networks to providing support for families, while reintegrating and monitoring returnees, he added.
As various delegates emphasized the need to balance criminal responses against reintegration efforts, Egypt’s representative stressed the importance of universally criminalizing the crossing of borders to join terrorist groups, and of all individuals engaged in that activity to face accountability.
The Russian Federation’s representative said his country carried out comprehensive prosecution of those who recruited or travelled for terrorism, adding that it was pointless to consider rehabilitation programmes outside the criminal justice system.
Some delegates stressed the need for advanced passenger information and updated identification methods so as to keep pace with the changing tactics used by terrorists. Japan’s representative said his country was prioritizing the use of such biometric tools as fingerprint readers capable of identifying altered prints. Several others urged the United Nations to help build further capacity in those areas, with the representative of the United States calling for greater Security Council focus on border and aviation security.
Also speaking today were representatives of Bolivia, Uruguay, United Kingdom, Senegal, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Sweden, China and Italy.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5:15 p.m.
VLADIMIR VORONKOV, Under‑Secretary‑General, United Nations Office of Counter‑Terrorism, expressing solidarity with the people and Governments of countries that had recently suffered terrorist attacks, said that at one stage, more than 40,000 foreign terrorist fighters from 110 countries might have travelled to join the conflict in Syria and Iraq. As Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) had suffered defeats and Member States had implemented better measures to prevent travel, the flow of fighters to the region had significantly decreased, but terrorists had tried to relocate to countries such as Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan, fuelling existing conflicts and further destabilizing the region. Countries affected needed international support to address the threat.
Of at least 5,600 fighters from 33 countries who had returned home, many were equipped to carry out attacks in their own countries, he said, while others hoped to recruit new followers and still others had rejected terrorist ideologies and posed no threat. “This is a truly global challenge that demands an urgent and concerted multilateral response”, he said. Enhanced cooperation, information exchange, effective border controls and stronger criminal justice systems, in accordance with the rule of law and human rights standards, was needed.
The Counter-Terrorism Office, responding to recommendations of the Security Council, had developed a comprehensive plan to build capacity for confronting the threat of foreign fighters, coordinating the efforts of 38 United Nations entities. The plan addressed the full life cycle of fighters, including projects related to prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration, to support Member States in their efforts to address returnees. The latest version describes 50 projects with a total $107 million budget over five years.
His Office, he said, was collaborating with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to ensure respect for rights, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) for information sharing, and a number of agencies to deliver a project on Advanced Passenger Information for Member States most affected by foreign fighters. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), meanwhile, supported Member States in the management of violent extremist prisoners and in preventing radicalization in prisons. One project aimed to help States develop policies for child returnees in a gender‑sensitive approach. Thus far, his Office and Member States had contributed only 41 per cent of the resources needed, he said, signalling a need for more funding to build State capacities to counter the threats.
There was no easy response to the enormous challenge of returning foreign fighters, he said. They could neither all be thrown in prison nor all kept from coming back without violating human rights standards. Rehabilitation and reintegration programmes must therefore be developed alongside prosecution efforts that accompanied the various stages of the criminal justice process. Ultimately, the underlying conditions conducive to young men and women being lured into violent extremism must be addressed. He welcomed the growing emphasis to address that problem at regional, national and local levels.
Introducing a report on understanding foreign fighters in Syria published by his Office, he said there was no single profile: Unresolved conflicts, inter‑communal violence and a desire to help those from the same religion perceived as victimized were some of the motivations. Motivations for leaving Syria included disappointment or disillusionment due to many factors. The family network, particularly mothers, exerted some of the strongest pressure to return home.
With United Nations support, Member States, meanwhile, were strengthening their legal frameworks and criminal systems, he said, and enhancing collaboration to prevent and respond to the threat from foreign terrorist fighters. Stronger cooperation was needed between Governments and security agencies, however, within respect for human rights. For that reason, the Secretary‑General would convene the first‑ever Summit of Heads of Counter‑Terrorism Agencies next year.
MICHELE CONINSX, Executive Director, United Nations Counter‑Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, said that despite recent successes, the international community faced significant challenges in countering the global terrorist threat, especially the activities of foreign terrorist fighters. Over the past two years, the return of such fighters to their States of origin had accelerated, as a consequence of ISIL’s losses in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Over the same period, terrorist plots resulting in fatalities had increased dramatically, owing in part to the returnees, but also to the ways in which terrorists used information and communications technologies. Of particular concern were attacks carried out by lone terrorists. Investigations had shown that those loners received support, often via the Internet or social media.
She said fewer than 60 States had thus far introduced measures requiring airlines to provide advance passenger information, and many required assistance in establishing the necessary connectivity between national databases and border posts. They also faced legal challenges relating to the transfer and protection of data. Meanwhile, international cooperation had been undermined by practical and political challenges, as well as by inconsistent compliance with human rights obligations. States should do more to downgrade and share intelligence on foreign terrorist fighters and those who returned to their countries of origin or relocated to third countries, she said, adding that efforts to bring suspected foreign terrorist fighters to justice had been undermined by the difficulty of collecting sufficient evidence from conflict zones.
Member States faced challenges in implementing strategies to disrupt the financing of returnees and small cells, she said, and many would require assistance in prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration strategies. She called on the Council to work tirelessly to build on progress achieved since the adoption of resolution 2178 (2014), an instrument which had mobilized the international community. Many States had criminalized travel by foreign terrorist fighters, as well as the organization and financing of terrorist groups, she said, and had improved domestic inter‑agency information‑sharing. International judicial and law enforcement cooperation had also been strengthened.
For its part, the Executive Directorate was working to strengthen State efforts to counter violent extremism, she said, noting that it had conducted 45 assessment visits and drafted three analytical reports identifying gaps in States’ legal frameworks, accompanied by recommendations. The Counter‑Terrorism Committee had approved a set of guiding principles — the “Madrid Principles” — offering a holistic approach to implementing flexible prosecution strategies. The Executive Directorate had updated the Technical Guide to the implementation of Council resolution 1373 (2001), and assisted in both a regional programme with UNODC for the Maghreb countries and a global programme on gathering digital evidence.
In addition, she said, the Executive Directorate had strengthened its cooperation with INTERPOL, including on the use of biometric data and in the implementation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Traveller Identification Programme Strategy. The effective development and use of biometrics, advance passenger identification systems and passenger name records systems was vital to the detection of foreign terrorist fighters and returnees. “It takes networks to beat networks,” she said.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015), outlined that body’s activities since its last briefing on 11 May 2017. Noting that the threat from ISIL/Da’esh, Al‑Qaida and affiliates had evolved since that time — including by delegating decision‑making to local commanders and switching to encrypted communication — he said ISIL also continued to use external attacks by its members and sympathizers as part of its response. “Increasingly, ISIL is transforming from a territorially grounded organization into a terror network of cells around the globe,” he said, adding that it sent funds to its affiliates worldwide.
While ISIL/Da’esh was being physically weakened, he said its presence in the virtual world was entrenched, posing a serious threat to international peace and security. It used Internet propaganda both for radicalization and the recruitment of fighters, employing sophisticated manipulation and brainwashing techniques. Noting that the flow of foreign terrorist fighters into Iraq and Syria had slowed due to military pressure and improved border control, he said those fighters returning home or relocating presented another threat to global security, as they had the potential to re‑energize existing terrorist networks or spur the growth of new ones.
Noting that the European Union had significantly increased its exchange of information on foreign terrorist fighters, he said efforts by ISIL to carry out attacks inside the bloc nevertheless demonstrated the group’s potential to recruit and motivate its followers. There was also concern that foreign terrorist fighters hailing from Central Asia would return from conflict zones and bring terror to that region, and that Southeast Asia was increasingly attracting such fighters. Foreign terrorist fighters also continued to pose threats in Libya, Tunisia, Afghanistan and on the Arab peninsula, particularly in Yemen.
As Chair of the Committee, he said he was working to address those challenges by visiting countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Afghanistan, the Russian Federation and Uzbekistan, where he had attended a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on fighting terrorism across borders. The Committee was working to ensure that its sanctions list was updated and as accurate as possible, he said, noting that it currently included 256 individuals and 80 entities. Pledging to hold regular open meetings with Member States, he encouraged them to propose individuals and entities for listing on the sanctions regime, including foreign terrorist fighters.
MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said extraordinary progress had been made against ISIL/Da’esh, noting that resolution 2178 (2014) had facilitated international cooperation to identify, stop and prosecute foreign fighters. It also had spurred efforts to address the underlying factors of extremism. However, the threat posed by foreign fighters persisted, including by returning fighters who could carry out terrorist attacks in the name of ISIL/Da’esh. The terrorist ideology would not simply fade away with the defeat of ISIL/Da’esh in Iraq and Syria, she said, pressing the Council to address the evolving challenge and adopt a new resolution. Council action should stress the need for border and aviation security, by developing standards and advanced passenger information. Efforts must be strengthened to improve prosecution and reintegration of foreign fighters. There was also a need for the United Nations to be more coordinated in confronting the threat, notably for the Counter‑Terrorism Committee to harmonize its efforts with the sanctions committees to confront a decentralized enemy.
PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) said the emergence of foreign terrorist fighters demonstrated that terrorism was not associated with one religious or ethnic group. The international response should use all means set out in the Charter of the United Nations. Foreign terrorist fighters did not arise overnight, he said, but were the result of radicalization, a situation made possible by weak States, the absence of border controls and intervention from other States. There was a need for more effective information sharing, and for coordination among the Council’s various committees and bodies. States of origin of combatants should implement development policies and all efforts of regional and international organizations should be based on inclusion and stability. Those responsible for terrorist acts, finally, should be brought to justice.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said it was difficult to understand how, despite all efforts, terrorists continued to carry out their destructive actions. The Executive Directorate and other bodies had identified good practices, while the sanctions committees had contributed to raising awareness. Border control and advanced passenger information were important tools, he said, but security measures were not enough. Many terrorists did not have criminal records and were citizens of the countries in which they executed their attacks. It was therefore necessary to prevent radicalization. “The bulwarks of peace need to be built in the minds of men”, he said. States had the primary responsibility to prevent the spread of violent extremism, and religious leaders had an important role to play in that regard. Strengthening institutions and the rule of law, respect for human rights, and religious tolerance all helped to diminish intolerance and extremism, he said.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom), noting the collapse of Da’esh in recent weeks, said it was possible, by working collectively, to defeat the global terrorist plague. As the terrorist threat evolved, returning foreign terrorist fighters posed a particular risk as many members wanted to export their fight or were still committed to Da’esh. There was a need to tackle home‑grown violent extremism and its spread online by being proactive. While resolution 2178 (2014) had established binding measures to prevent foreign fighters from traveling, a new resolution on returning foreign fighters was necessary. For its part, the United Kingdom was sharing information, creating watch lists and working with partners to ensure de‑radicalization programmes for returning fighters. It would keep up efforts to combat use of the Internet by terrorists. Eradication of the threat in the long term required tackling root causes, such as instability. A globally unified rejection of extremism and respect for human rights were indispensable in that regard, he said, stressing that prevention should be at the heart of all efforts.
GORGUI CISS (Senegal), expressing deep concern over the large flow of foreign terrorist fighters, welcomed the reporting efforts of the Executive Directorate. Addressing the complex problem would require full implementation of the related Council resolutions. An international, holistic approach was required to address root causes and counter the spread of extremist ideology. Strengthening the family was important as well. Senegal’s programmes in that regard prioritized education and engaged religious leaders, he said, stressing that regional cooperation was needed in sharing information, border control, passenger registration and other areas. For that reason, Senegal had centralized its intelligence services and updated its information systems. Yet, regional capacities in the Sahel needed much improvement. In addressing the return of fighters, it was critical to understand their original motivations and he called on the United Nations counter‑terrorism structures to coordinate efforts and help build Member States’ capacity.
FRANCOIS DELATTRE (France), noting that 688 French nationals were currently in Syria and Iraq, with 244 adults and 59 minors having returned from that region since 2013, said that French legislation had been adapted in response, with due respect for human rights. Dismantling recruitment networks, providing support for families and boosting international cooperation were part of the response, as was creating mechanisms for reintegration and monitoring of returnees, particularly minors. The United Nations had a primary role in coordinating global efforts to confront travelling fighters; cooperation strategies must be updated in information‑sharing, better border control, prosecution of foreign fighters and their reintegration. As close coordination between all counter‑terrorism committees was essential, he welcomed the appearance together of the heads of three bodies.
MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia), surveying the efforts being made to address the threat of foreign terrorist fighters and the scope of the problem itself, said that the assistance being provided by the United Nations to build capacity and formulate national strategies was critical. A purely domestic approach would not be sufficient, however, and a truly international effort was needed, as was much better cooperation. Not much would be achieved unless cooperation exceeded that within terrorist networks, she stated.
KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that even as ISIL/Da’esh was losing ground in Iraq and Syria, the threat of terror was spreading globally. The relevance of passenger information and name records systems was growing, as foreign terrorist fighters returned to their countries of origin or relocated to other States. With terrorists using forged documents and undergoing surgery to evade detection, he said Japan had prioritized the use of biometric tools, such as fingerprint readers capable of identifying altered fingerprints. He closed by stressing the importance of developing measures capable of combating the changing nature of terrorism.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said the fight against ISIL/Da’esh was far from over, expressing concern that former fighters were ready to merge with any terrorist group and use their lethal skills acquired in Syria and Iraq. Another concern was terrorists’ abuse of asylum systems at a time of a huge migrant influx. While Ukraine had taken domestic measures, the terrorist threat in his country had been fuelled by external support, he said, emphasizing the essential need for rapid information sharing among States and ensuring broader use of advanced passenger information. Conducting proper investigations so that terrorists were apprehended and did not escape justice was also crucial. Caution was required in dealing with specific categories of returnees, notably minors, women, family members and disillusioned returnees who had committed less serious offences.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said terrorist groups had been very successful in recruiting people from different countries and backgrounds. Thus, it was necessary to counter all political and economic conditions that lured those people to terrorism. The Internet and social media were important tools to recruit foreign fighters, but it was difficult to address that matter internationally, due to different constitutions and laws. He called for greater international cooperation to prevent terrorists from using the Internet, including by companies and civil society, stressing that returning foreign terrorist fighters should be prosecuted in the countries where they were arrested or in their country of origin. Rehabilitation was not enough; any foreign fighter must undergo justice. It was also indispensable to spread information on foreign terrorist fighters, including through the INTERPOL database, he said, asking why only a limited number of countries used the Advanced Passenger Information System.
EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said conflict areas in the Middle East had seen an unprecedented number of radicals from many countries, “drunk on extremism”. States should rigorously counter the travels of foreign terrorist fighters, he said, noting that States did not always implement resolution 2178 (2014). Monitoring by the Counter‑Terrorism Committee banning assistance to foreign terrorist fighters also had not begun, while the systems of legal assistance and extradition had become hostage to politics. A comprehensive approach to returning foreign terrorist fighters should ensure that terrorists were held criminally liable, with rehabilitation done within the framework of criminal prosecution. It was also important to ensure that foreign terrorist fighters fell under the existing sanctions regimes. He then described national efforts to address terrorism and terrorists.
IRINA SCHOULGIN-NYONI (Sweden) said all Member States were obliged to criminalize foreign terrorist fighter travel, training and financing. Sweden had amended its criminal legislation on terrorism to address that evolving threat. Since 2015, it had tried and convicted seven individuals for terrorism‑related offences, including for crimes committed abroad, she said. As part of its strong focus on prevention, it was putting in place mechanisms aimed at safeguarding individuals, and targeting those at risk of radicalization. A new national Center for the Prevention of Violent Extremism would be launched next year, while guidelines were being issued by the National Board of Health and Welfare to deal with returnees and defectors.
WU HAITAO (China) said the United Nations should lead cooperation to counter the threat of foreign terrorist fighters, following uniform standards, upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter and rejecting the association of terrorism with any culture or religion. To counter the threat of foreign fighters, information‑sharing platforms must be improved and the United Nations should continue to help Member States build capacity. Extremists must be stopped from using the Internet to recruit and coordinate for their networks. Building a more equitable future was critical as well. China was ready to cooperate with all countries to continue to address the threat of foreign terrorist fighters.
Mr. CARDI (Italy), Council President speaking in his national capacity, reviewed Council actions to combat the threat of foreign terrorist fighters and to build State capacity in that regard. He noted in particular the lack of adequate information‑sharing, a major area in which global cooperation must improve. He also noted Italy’s cooperation in international investigations and its training of a range of staff in information collection and sharing. Indeed, international best practices must be compiled and shared. Italy would support constant updating and strengthening of international efforts to address the threat.Read more
The following is a near‑verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.
Good afternoon, thank you for coming.
The Secretary‑General will speak to the Security Council this afternoon about the security challenges in the Mediterranean Sea. He expects to tell the Council that the Mediterranean region faces serious challenges on multiple fronts, including illicit trade in narcotics, weapons and petroleum products; large movements of refugees and migrants; maritime piracy; and human rights violations. So far this year, at least 2,800 refugees and migrants have perished in the Mediterranean, while countless others died on their way across the desert. The Secretary‑General will argue that we need a more effective cooperation in cracking down on smugglers and traffickers, while protecting their victims and opening up meaningful opportunities for regular migration. And right now, as you know Security Council members are holding consultations concerning the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) for Syria.
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that approximately 620,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since 25 August. The refugees are mostly living in makeshift settlements without adequate infrastructure or services. As of today, the Rohingya Refugee Crisis Response Plan has received nearly $140 million, or just under one third of what is actually needed. Donors have pledged a total of $360 million for the response, and we urge them to disburse these funds as quickly as possible. For its part, the UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] says that, over the past 10 days, it has received reports of some 30 improvised rafts, carrying more than 1,000 people, arriving in Bangladesh from Myanmar.
As of today, more than 100 Rohingya refugees are known to have drowned in shipwrecks and boat incidents since the start of the crisis, with recent arrivals telling UNHCR that they had been waiting for more than a month in desperate conditions on Myanmar’ shores. Also, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, wrapped up a visit to Bangladesh. She said her observations point to a pattern of widespread atrocities, including gang rape and sexual slavery. Ms. Patten said her office has agreement to develop a framework of cooperation with the Government to strengthen sexual- and gender‑based violence services and programmes.
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, as the blockade by the Saudi‑Led Coalition on Yemen’s Sana’a airport and the country’s main ports in Hodeidah and Saleef is now in its twelfth day, millions of Yemenis continue to require urgent humanitarian assistance to stave off starvation and disease. The warring parties are obligated under international humanitarian law to allow and facilitate safe, rapid, unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief to all people in need, through all sea ports and airports and throughout the country. To prevent a health catastrophe, medical supplies need to be imported to contain a new outbreak of diphtheria, which is putting at risk approximately 1 million children. In addition, fuel is necessary to provide water, but reports say the lack of fuel imports has resulted in three cities shutting down their clean water and sewage systems. In ten days, there will be no petrol supplies left in the northern parts of Yemen.
Turning to Iraq, our humanitarian colleagues there tell us that preliminary findings of a humanitarian assessment mission to Tal Usquf in Iraq’s Ninewa Governorate have recorded 250 houses as either partially or fully damaged following the military realignment in northern Iraq in the middle of last month. The primary needs in the area were found to include school rehabilitation, medical equipment, and winterization, such as the supply of heating fuel. Humanitarian workers continue to struggle with effective access to Tal Usquf, due to the closure of key checkpoints in the area. Meanwhile, some 4,800 people, who had left in the context of the military realignment, have since returned to the area. Regarding earthquake recovery near the Iran‑Iraq border, the delivery of humanitarian services and assistance continues, as do assessments in the affected areas. The Darbandikhan water treatment plant has been found to be operational at only 20 per cent capacity following the quake. Distribution of water purification tablets and water purifiers is planned to ensure people are not exposed to waterborne diseases.
Today, the Climate Change Conference in Bonn is coming to an end. Our colleagues there tell us that this evening countries are expected to adopt a series of decisions that will advance the process of implementing the Paris Agreement. Some of the announcements made today include a Global Alliance by more than 20 countries to phase out coal, the launch of an initiative to promote clean biofuels; the expansion of a G7 initiative to increase insurance coverage for climate‑related disasters; a $59 million commitment by Germany to help developing countries in their adaptation efforts; and a pledge by the EU to make up any shortfall in funding for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Going forward, countries will discuss progress made through the newly established “Talanoa Dialogue”, a mechanism to facilitate dialogue among the Parties. More information on the UNFCCC’s [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] website.
Our colleagues at the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) said yesterday in a statement that they are concerned about the increase in the number of security incidents in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon. The UN, they say, condemns the use of any form of violence by any party and reiterates its call for calm and restraint. The UN has continuously stated that the best way to address the situation in the two regions is through a genuine and inclusive dialogue. The Secretary‑General reiterates the availability of his Special Representative, François Louncény Fall, to assist national efforts in the search for a lasting peaceful solution to the crisis.
Turning to Colombia, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) there tells us they have noted an increase in murders and threats against human rights defenders and community leaders in the Pacific Coast region. In most cases, the victims are from indigenous and Afro‑Colombian communities.
Staying in the Southern Hemisphere, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, today wrapped up a visit to El Salvador, the first ever by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. He said that, 25 years after the end of the civil war, El Salvador has proven itself to be a functioning democracy that honours freedom of expression and the political discourse there is vibrant. Moreover, by presiding over the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner said the country has demonstrated its willingness to take a leadership role internationally, along with the responsibilities of being on the Council, which is much appreciated. The High Commissioner thoroughly condemned the violence perpetrated by gangs and organized crime there. He took note of the Government’s plan to curb and prevent violence, stressing that it needs to be implemented in a comprehensive way, in accordance with international human rights standards.
The High Commissioner has also released a statement expressing his grave concern over the conduct of credible, free and fair elections in Cambodia next year following the Supreme Court’s decision to dissolve the main opposition party.
Our friends at the FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] and the World Health Organization (WHO) today released a survey which reveals that countries have stepped up their efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance on farms and in food systems. The survey found that more than 6.5 billion people — or more than 90 per cent of the world’s population ‑ now live in a country that already has, or is developing a national action plan to tackle the issue. Nearly all of these plans cover both human and animal health in line with the recommended “one health”, multi‑sectoral approach.
**Sustainable Development Goals
A couple of things to flag for you over the weekend and Monday: Over the weekend, in Doha, Qatar, there will be a High‑level Conference to jump‑start 2018 discussions on financing for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Hosted by Qatar, with the support from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the event will address current challenges in advancing [financing for] the SDGs and implementing the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. The results of the Conference will be presented during next year’s high‑level political forum [on sustainable development], which will take place here at UN Headquarters. More information on Department’s website.
On Monday, our colleagues at UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] will host an event here at Headquarters to mark World Children’s Day. The Secretary‑General will be in attendance along with high‑profile supporters, special guests, and 150 children representing some of the world’s most vulnerable children to speak out to the international community on issues that matter to them. Some of the participants include: singers, songwriters and musicians Chloe and Halle, who will debut a specially penned track to mark the day; Isabela Moner from Transformers: The Last Knight and Nickelodeon; Logan actress Dafne Keen; Jaden Michael, the star of Wonderstruck; and Zari, the star of the local Afghan version of Sesame Street. There will be a blue carpet photo call from 9 a.m. in the East Foyer which you are all welcome to attend.
I also want to flag that Sunday is World Toilet Day. This year’s theme is wastewater, and it seeks to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. Today, more than 4.5 billion people live without a household toilet that safely disposes of their waste. As in previous years, there will be a giant inflatable toilet in front of the UN Secretariat on Monday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The toilet is installed by UN Water with the support of the Mission of Singapore.
Press conferences: at 9.45 a.m, Monday, you are expected to hear from Danny Danon, the Permanent Representative of Israel. He will speak to you at the Security Council stakeout. At 11 a.m. there will be a press briefing right here in this room on the CARICOM [Caribbean Community]‑UN High‑level pledging conference: Building a more Climate‑resilient community. This is in the aftermath of the terrible hurricanes that struck the Caribbean region. After I’m done, you will hear from my competitor, Brenden Varma.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Sure. I was going to start with… with rosewood, but I have to actually ask you about this… this this François [Louncény] Fall statement. And the reason I’m… I’m asking is that, as you may know and… and… and five experts of Geneva‑based special rapporteurs, including on freedom of expression, defence of human right defenders and others, issued a statement. I don’t know… I guess I want to ask you about it. The statement says… is largely focused on abuses by the Government of Anglophones, censorship, turning off social media. They have a… a… a death figure. They talk about torture. And so I’m wondering. How is it… how is… I know that they’re not part of the UN system. They do give briefings in this room. They are appointed by the Human Rights Council. What’s the relationship between human rights experts saying the Government is killing Anglophones and François Fall saying territory is important and gendarmes have been killed? It seems like they’re two opposing statements.
Spokesman: A, I don’t think they’re in contradiction of each other, and everybody has a different role within the wide and varied UN system. The special rapporteurs, as you do note, are independent from the Secretariat and the Secretary‑General, appointed by the Human Rights Council. They are an extremely important part of the UN’s human rights mechanism and, as a matter of principle, countries should cooperate with these human rights experts. I’m not privy to their research or how they get their information. As I said, they’re independent. We have over the past months, expressed our concern at the violence. We’ve expressed our concern at the lack of Internet access. The basic message that Mr. Fall and that the Secretary‑General have reiterated is the fact that the situation in these two regions will best be addressed by an inclusive and genuine political dialogue.
Question: Just… thanks. I want to ask one follow-up. And I asked you before, but I think you’ll see the need to… to actually… to answer it now. Mr. François Fall, in an interview played on UN Radio, said that secessionists are extremists and that federalism, which used to be the status of this area, is off the table. Number one, that’s why people don’t see him as a credible mediator, but more importantly, the equation of nonviolent secessionists with extremists is exactly the logic that the Government uses to kill people from… from helicopter gunships, so that’s why I’m asking you. It seems like some of the problems that the human rights experts are criticizing are, in fact… I don’t want to say caused by Mr. Fall’s statement, but in some way resonant with the logic of… of saying that anyone that says we should be independent is an extremist and should be shot at from a helicopter.
Spokesman: I don’t agree with your logic, and I don’t think in any way, shape, or form Mr. Fall should be blamed for what is going on in the country. Yes, sir?
Question: On the JIM Mechanism… is… is the Secretary‑General disappointed by yesterday’s vote and what’s the expectations from today’s consultations?
Spokesman: Well, our understanding is that there are consultations going on. We’ve seen the press reports, as you have, of some sort of a draft resolution calling for a technical rollover. It’s obviously up for the Security Council to decide on the fate of the JIM, which operates under its mandate. I think the Secretary‑General has been very clear from the beginning about the importance of the work of the JIM, especially in assigning… excuse me, let me take that again. The importance of the work of the JIM, especially in terms of accountability and setting accountability for the horrendous use of chemical weapons that we have seen in Syria. But at this very moment, it’s in the hands of the Security Council. And the shelf life of the JIM, if unchanged, ends at midnight tonight, if I’m not mistaken. Stefano?
Question: Yes, about Libya. Yesterday, there was the Security Council meeting on Libya, and today, the Italian Foreign Minister, I know, is going to meet also the Secretary‑General. Just three days ago, the High Commissioner for Human Rights was saying he had… had a very strong critic on the policy of the European Union on… on the agreement that they reached with Libya to hold the migrants, because the situation of those camps, he said that it’s inhumane and the situation is getting worse instead of better. So there was just a press conference with the Italian Foreign Minister. I asked the question what is his… what is his reaction to this critic? And he said that… that Italy is doing anything possible. He’s also helping the UN agency, and then he said… in Italian, he said… “più buona azione e meno lezione.” Rough translation is, “more good action and less lecture”. Now, what is the reaction to something like this? I mean, it looks like Italy…
Spokesman: Listen, I… my knowledge of Italian is good, but I will not delve into the subtleties of commenting on something I haven’t heard. I think the UN system has expressed its concern at the fate of the people who are stuck in Libya, migrants and refugees. We have seen horrendous reports come out. There’s been talk of slavery and of just horrendous conditions, and these things need to be addressed.
Question: Just a quick follow‑up on that specific question. What do you think about what, for example, Filippo Grandi had to say we are here, but there are not the security conditions yet to be able to run those… those camps? What does the General Secretary think? Are the conditions of security…
Spokesman: We’re not going to second‑guess the High Commissioner for [Refugees] in terms of when he says what the conditions are needed in order for him to deploy more people on the ground. That’s his call, and it’s up to him to decide. The Secretary‑General is not going to second-guess him. Our efforts, through Mr. [Ghassan] Salamé, is on creating a political solution… working with the Libyan parties to move forward on a political solution to create the conditions that will restore peace and stability to the country. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. Actually, just one… first, a follow‑up on the JIM thing. I don’t know if you’ll answer it or not, but I did notice that between the two resolutions yesterday, you were… you went into the Council, which is obviously your right, well within your rights. I just wanted… I guess I’m interested. Was it within the capacity of knowing whether it would pass so the Secretary‑General could… could report on it? Just in what capacity…?
Spokesman: No, I… the Secretary‑General doesn’t rely on his spokesman to find out what’s going on in the Security Council.
Correspondent: That’s why I’m asking. That’s why it was interesting.
Spokesman: I go in because I have the privilege to be able to go into the room and once in a while, I like to go into the room and soak up the atmosphere and see what’s going on.
Question: Okay. Fair enough, fair enough. Yesterday, I had asked you about… about some questions about this rosewood situation, and I want to say that yesterday, there were 46,000 people petitioning for the Secretary‑General. Now, there’s 62,000. But you had said to me, go and read Le Monde, so I did read Le Monde, and… and there’s no mention of Cameroon in it, but, in fact, in the report by the Environmental Investigation Agency, there is… and in other reports, there are talk that some of these logs don’t over come from Nigeria, which would make them outright illegal, signing any certificate for their export. So, I wanted to… this is the kind of thing I would like to ask Amina Mohammed if she did a press conference, just what did she know about… I’m sure there’s answers. I’m sure there’s many things that could be said.
Spokesman: Next time she’s in front of the press, she will be… she has engaged with journalists who have written stories on this and has not been hiding from anything. Quite to the contrary. We have said what we’ve had to say. I think any further questions on how this issue is dealt with should go to the Nigerian Government.
Correspondent: But just so you know, the petitioners are not writing to the Nigerian Government. They’re saying that there’s inconsistencies…
Spokesman: I’ve answered the question about the petitioners.
Question: This is kind of a related question that you may or may not like, but there’s a lot of interest by… by Greenpeace and other environmental organizations in a… in a… in a move by the Democratic Republic of the Congo to end what’s called an embargo on logging, or an embargo on new, you know, industrial logging concessions. And so people… I could imagine a UN body or the Secretariat itself, since it relates to climate change, might have a position on this. Sorry to ask you, but given the 62,000 signatures, would Amina Mohammed, otherwise, you know, responsible for sustainable development on many issues, would she be recused from deciding the Secretariat’s position on logging matters until this logging matter is cleaned up?
Spokesman: You’re jumping over conclusions that, I think, that have… over facts that have been an Olympic record.
Correspondent: Read the petition.
Spokesman: I’m not talking about the petition. I’m talking about your… the logic within your question. I think Amina Mohammed has, in her past capacity, in her current capacity, has been a very strong advocate against illegal logging and has shown that through her actions. Thank you.Read more
General Assembly President Says Role of Delegates Vital to Fulfilling Charter
The fight against international terrorism must take into account its root causes as well as its new forms, and that efforts, including newly established initiatives that challenged the threat in all its permeations, must be coordinated throughout the Organization’s work, the Sixth Committee (Legal) heard today during its first meeting of the seventy‑second General Assembly session.
As the Committee took up the Secretary‑General’s reports on measures to eliminate international terrorism (documents A/72/111 and A/72/111/Add.1), many speakers welcomed the establishment of the United Nations Counter‑Terrorism Office led by Under‑Secretary‑General Vladimir Voronkov.
Iran’s delegate, speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed his hope that the Office would improve the counter‑terrorism architecture of the United Nations in a way that ensured the enhanced coordination of related activities across the Organization. It was vital to counter the narratives of terrorism through a comprehensive international framework that addressed its root causes, he said, calling for engagement with community leaders and clerics from all denominations.
Tackling the underlying problems of terrorism was also critical, the representative of Colombia stressed, calling for action, such as development and good governance that went beyond applying laws. She also noted that her Government had just signed a bilateral and temporary ceasefire with the National Liberation Army (ELN), following the successful implementation of a ceasefire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia‑People’s Army (FARC-EP). Dialogue and international cooperation were the bedrock of a world free of terrorism, she said.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago, speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), also highlighted the root causes of terrorism and radicalization, such as marginalization, high unemployment and inequality. In light of the increasing use of social media to incite terrorist activities and generate funding for them, it was important to develop technologies to control illicit behaviour on the Internet and prevent terrorists from intercepting online networks.
In that regard, the United Kingdom’s representative drew attention to the recent announcement by Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter, of a Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. The new partnership with industry was a “game‑changer,” he said, and would ensure a stepping up of industry efforts to address the potential exploitation of their services by terrorists. He urged members to consider how they might engage with that industry forum.
However, delegates not only emphasized that counter‑terrorism actions should be in keeping with international human rights obligations, they also underscored the ongoing issue of defining terrorism.
In confronting terrorism, the representative of the European Union said that “democracies should never compromise their values”. The Union prioritized a criminal justice approach in countering terrorism, she said, noting that it was a matter of urgency to secure forensic evidence for the crimes committed by terrorists.
As well, the representative of El Salvador, speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), expressed concern about the negative impact of State surveillance on the right to privacy, which was essential to human dignity. He also highlighted the legal ambiguity of words such as “terrorism”, “extremism”, “radicalization” and “foreign fighters”, underscoring that the lack of a definition for terrorism might have a negative effect on human rights and due process. Achieving an international legal definition was a necessary precondition to strengthening the rule of law.
Amidst calls for the draft comprehensive convention to eliminate terrorism to be finalized, the representative of India pointed out that even though his country had brought a proposal for a comprehensive convention against terrorism before the General Assembly in 1996, the United Nations had so far been unable to adopt it due to the issues of definition over who was a terrorist. Narrow geopolitical interests continued to stand in the way of meaningful progress on discussions of that convention.
General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia) also addressed the Sixth Committee today, noting that it had an important role in actualizing the United Nations Charter so that conditions could be created in which justice and respect for international law could be maintained. Calling for strong institutions and justice systems, he said that without rule of law, no one Sustainable Development Goal could be achieved, no person’s rights could be fully protected and no peace could last.
At the start of the meeting, the Committee Chair took up organizational matters, noting that at a meeting on 31 May, the Committee had elected three Vice‑Chairpersons: Duncan Laki Muhumuza (Uganda), Angel Horna (Peru) and Carrie McDougall (Australia). The Committee had also elected Peter Nagy (Slovakia) as Rapporteur.
The Committee then went on to establish two working groups for the seventy‑second session: the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction to be chaired by Shara Duncan Villalobos (Costa Rica) and measures to eliminate international terrorism to be chaired by Amrith Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka).
The Committee also approved the organization of its work contained in document A/C.6/72/L.1 as per the allocation of agenda items to the Sixth Committee by the General Assembly found in document A/C.6/72/1.
The Committee also observed a moment of silence in honour of Cherif Bassiouni, who died last week. Mr. Bassiouni had been deeply involved with the establishment of the International Criminal Court, the Chair said.
Also speaking today were representatives of Cambodia (for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Australia (also for Canada and New Zealand as well), Peru, India, Singapore, Syria, Switzerland, Mexico, Sudan, Algeria (for the African Group), Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Qatar, Japan, Morocco, Libya, China, Slovenia, Burkina Faso, Thailand, Lebanon, Togo, Nicaragua, Israel, Ukraine, Cuba, Liechtenstein, Burundi, Senegal, Norway, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka.
The Sixth Committee (Legal) will next meet at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 3 October, to continue its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, congratulated Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov on his appointment as the Under‑Secretary‑General of the newly created United Nations Counter‑Terrorism Office. He expressed his hope that the Office would improve the counter‑terrorism architecture of the United Nations in a way that ensured enhanced coordination of related activities across the Organization. While terrorist acts constituted a flagrant violation of international law, the scourge should not be equated with the legitimate struggles of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for self‑determination and national liberation. The brutalization of people remaining under foreign occupation should continue to be denounced as the gravest form of terrorism.
He also urged all States to ensure that refugee status or any other legal status not be abused by perpetrators, organizers or facilitators of terrorist acts. Claims of political motivation by such actors should not be recognized as grounds for refusing requests for their extradition. He also expressed his concern over the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of religions by terrorist groups to justify their actions as they seek to “instil hatred in the hearts and minds of the youth” and glorify brutality and violence. In that regard, it was imperative to effectively counter the narratives of terrorism through a comprehensive and international framework and to address its root causes, including through the engagement of community leaders and clerics from all denominations.
HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that respect for international law was essential in the fight against terrorism. Recalling the General Assembly resolution on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering the threat, he highlighted the right to privacy, which was essential to human dignity. The negative impact on that right by State surveillance and interception of communications, including those conducted extraterritorially, was of concern.
He also noted that words such as “terrorism”, “extremism”, “radicalization” and “foreign fighters” had been used, but that their contours remained legally unclear. The lack of a definition for terrorism might have a negative effect on human rights and due process. Achieving an international legal definition was a necessary precondition in order to further strengthen the rule of law both at the national and international levels.
LIZANNE ACHING (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), aligned herself with CELAC and the Non‑Aligned Movement. Emphasizing that terrorism was “an unacceptable affront to all humanity”, she reiterated concern over the increase of such acts, as well as the emergence of radical extremist groups. Actions needed to be taken in order to prevent the financing of terrorism. Furthermore, in light of the increasing use of social media to incite terrorist activities and generate funding for them, it was important to develop technologies to control illicit behaviour on the Internet and prevent terrorists from intercepting online networks.
She went on to say that the comprehensive convention on international terrorism was the appropriate instrument to prosecute terrorists and strengthen the international capacity of States, especially small States, to effectively combat international terrorism. It was also necessary to address the root causes of terrorism and radicalization, such as marginalization, high unemployment, inequality and other social and political causes. More so, counter‑terrorism measures should be in accordance with international law, namely human rights, international humanitarian law and refugee law.
EGLANTINE CUJO of the European Union delegation pointed to the weekly deadly attacks being reported around the world and underscored the importance of a criminal justice approach in countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism. It was a matter of urgency to secure forensic evidence for the crimes committed by terrorists. Commending the Government of Iraq for its willingness to hold Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) accountable for its crimes, she added that the Union considered it a priority to address the threat posed by returning foreign terrorist fighters. In that regard, the Union had strengthened its legal framework with the adoption of the European Union autonomous ISIL and Al‑Qaida sanctions regime.
Welcoming the recent adoption of the resolution establishing the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office led by Under‑Secretary‑General Vladimir Voronkov, she said that the Office would provide strategic leadership and ensure that cross‑cutting drivers of terrorism were taken into account in the work of the Organization. The international community must create more linkages and foster a spirit of systematic cooperation to address the threat. To that end, the rule of law and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms were essential components in the fight against terrorism. In confronting the scourge, “democracies should never compromise their values,” she said.
SOVANN KE (Cambodia), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), underscored that international terrorism was a global concern that undermined peace and security, and hindered sustainable development. The fight against terrorism required a comprehensive global response from the international community, with the United Nations leading the way. ASEAN had and would continue to support the United Nations Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy, which reflected the global community’s commitment to seriously addressing that issue. As well, all ASEAN Member States had ratified the ASEAN Convention on Counter‑Terrorism, which served as a regional framework to address terrorist threats.
The Association was also working with regional partners to combat radicalization and extremism, and had also adopted the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, he continued. The adoption of that Convention, along with counter‑terrorism instruments, would further bolster the effort to address and eliminate trafficking in persons. The successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development could effectively address the root causes of violence. He also reiterated the position of ASEAN that terrorism should not be associated with any race, religion, nationality or ethnicity.
CARRIE MCDOUGALL (Australia), also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, said that the United Nations had set valuable norms and had adopted important legal instruments to combat international terrorism. The adoption of Security Council resolution 2322 (2016) on international judicial and law enforcement cooperation in countering terrorism highlighted the importance of exchanging information. The Organization’s sanctions regimes were another vital enforcement tool, particularly in disrupting sources of terrorist financing.
Counter‑terrorism partnerships were a valuable way to develop comprehensive responses and share best practices, she continued. Emphasizing the importance of community groups and civil society organizations, she added that the members of her group were working with local partners in Bangladesh, Mali, Nigeria, Kenya and Kosovo to strengthen community resilience. All actions taken to counter extremist messaging must comply with the United Nations Charter, as well as international humanitarian law, international refugee law and other obligations, she said.
MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia), associating herself with CELAC, congratulated the new Under‑Secretary‑General in his leadership of the newly created Counter‑Terrorism Office. The fight against terrorism should be commensurate with all obligations of States under international law, particularly human rights, refugee and humanitarian law. States had witnessed an upswing in new threats related to terrorism. The spread of violent extremist ideologies and terrorist groups was a serious problem. Joint action should be taken that went beyond application to the law to the problems underpinning it, including development and good governance. Dialogue and the cooperation of the international community were the bedrock of a world free of terrorism. Colombia, after decades of conflict, had been able to sign and implement a ceasefire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia‑People’s Army (FARC‑EP). Yesterday, her Government had signed a bilateral and temporary ceasefire with the National Liberation Army (ELN). She welcomed the support of the international community in that process.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said that one of the most important lessons learned from the two decades of terrorism his country had suffered was that it was necessary to respect human rights law at all times. Reiterating strong support for the United Nations Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy, he added that another important element in the fight against terrorism was reducing structural inequalities and strengthening social fabric, in line with the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Calling for a holistic approach, which separated religion and culture from the phenomenon of terrorism, he stressed that it was also important to prevent the use of online media as a breeding ground for violent extremists.
YEDLA UMASANKAR (India) said that the impact of terrorist activity was beyond the capacity of ordinary law enforcement agencies and regular criminal law. He welcomed the creation of the Counter‑Terrorism Office, voicing hope that it would help to strengthen the delivery of United Nations counter‑terrorism capacity‑building assistance to Member States. The Ad Hoc Committee established by the General Assembly in 1996 for formulating international instruments against terrorism had negotiated texts resulting in the adoption of three sectoral treaties: the 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings; the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism; and the 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. While those were positive developments, he recalled that his country had brought the proposal of a comprehensive convention against terrorism before the General Assembly in 1996. The United Nations had so far been unable to adopt it due to the issues of definition over who was a terrorist. Narrow geopolitical interests continued to stand in the way of meaningful progress on discussions of that convention.
DAVID LIANG (Singapore), aligning himself with ASEAN, said that returning foreign terrorist fighters from conflict zones and the increase in attacks by self‑radicalized “lone wolfs” presented new challenges to security agencies. Domestically, each country should take strong and coordinated action. On a national platform, his Government had adopted a comprehensive counter‑terrorism strategy and had been training its security forces with new skills and tools to combat the ever‑changing methods of terrorist groups. On the international front, Singapore had taken part in the multinational coalition against terrorism through its involvement in “Operation Inherent Resolve” and had acceded to the 2007 ASEAN Convention on Counter-Terrorism.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that his country had suffered bitterly because of “irresponsible political decisions” taken by some Member States. Despite several Security Council resolutions, there was no path towards any implementation, and the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy had not yet become reality on the ground. Member States could not even agree on a standard legal definition of terrorism, which had been a repeated request since 1986. That was because the “head of the snake” remained in place. Some Governments viewed armed terrorist groups and foreign terrorist fighters as economic and military weapons to be used to overthrow legitimate Governments. Oil and gas money was promoting extremist Wahhabi ideology in different parts of the world, causing foreign terrorist fighters to flow into Syria. It was important “to cut off the snake’s head, and not just chase its tail,” he said.
JONATHAN DOWDALL (United Kingdom), associating himself with the European Union, highlighted the recent announcement by Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter of a new Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. A “game‑changer”, it marked a stepping up of industry efforts to address the potential exploitation of their services by terrorists, and included a strong dialogue with Governments. He urged Member States to consider how they might engage with that industry forum. While noting the historic creation of the Counter‑Terrorism Office, he also said that his Government had funded several United Nations projects on the prevention of violent extremism, in peacekeeping and in strategic communications. In addition, the global mission to raise aviation safety standards must continue. The past year had illustrated that terrorist plots to bring down aircraft continued. Since the adoption of the related Security Council resolution on that topic a year ago, work in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and elsewhere had intensified.
DAMARIS CARNAL (Switzerland) emphasized that respect for international law — in particular human rights law and international humanitarian law — was paramount in the fight against terrorism. Expressing concern about the impact on humanitarian and medical assistance resulting from measures adopted to combat the scourge, she said it was the international community’s collective responsibility to ensure that global and national measures did not obstruct efforts to assist victims of armed conflict and other activities undertaken in accordance with international humanitarian law. She also voiced support for the United Nations essential role, including the new United Nations Counter‑Terrorism Office. In addition, efforts to ensure a harmonized and balanced implementation of the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy as well as the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism were welcomed. Switzerland — as the new co‑Chair of the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law Working Group — would place particular emphasis on the gathering, sharing and use of evidence; administrative measures; juvenile justice; and the role of women.
JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico), condemning the unprecedented growth of terrorism, said that it was urgent to pursue joint action, particularly with a preventive approach. The international community must continue updating national and regional legal frameworks to match the evolution of terrorist groups. Ideologies which fuelled violent extremism were spreading like wildfire, particularly among young people. While stressing the obligation borne by the entire international community to put in place comprehensive strategies against international terrorism, he added that it was crucial to do so without stepping outside the bounds of international human rights obligations. Failure to uphold the rule of law would make a mockery of the prevention strategies and fan the flames of xenophobia and racism.
OMER DAHAB FADL MOHAMED (Sudan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, underscored regional cooperation and commended the General Assembly’s adoption of a consensus resolution regarding the restructuring of the United Nations to combat terrorism. He voiced hope that the new Counter‑Terrorism Office would respect the sovereignty of Member States, and that there would be further capacity‑building in order to combat the scourge. The fight against terrorism was a fight to defend human values and to uphold the rule of law. For that reason, international and regional cooperation should be bolstered to protect people and facilities in a more effective manner. His country had ratified all international conventions on terrorism.
MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria), speaking for the African Group and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that he valued the sincere engagement of the Secretary‑General for a successful review of the United Nations counter‑terrorism architecture and welcomed the establishment of the Counter‑Terrorism Office. He also renewed the African Group’s support of the Ad Hoc Committee to fulfil its mandate in drafting a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. He also reiterated the Group’s willingness to work actively with other delegations to continuously refine the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy, as well as to achieve consensus regarding the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.
The African Group had established the African Centre for Study and Research on Terrorism in Algiers to serve as a structure for centralizing information, studies and analyses on terrorism and terrorist groups and to develop counter‑terrorism capacity‑building programmes, he continued. The Centre played an important role in guiding the counter‑terrorism efforts of the African Group, and worked in collaboration with a number of regional and international partners to ensure coherent and coordinated counter‑terrorism efforts in the continent.
VASSANA MOUNSAVENG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that terrorists had been employing techniques and tools that were easily accessible, such as knives, vans and trucks, which made it hard to prevent all acts of terrorism. For the fight against terrorism to be more effective, its root causes should be addressed. His country had played an active role in regional cooperation frameworks and, as a member of ASEAN, remained committed to implementing the Community’s Convention on Counter‑Terrorism. At the international level, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic had ratified 13 relevant international conventions on counter‑terrorism. He welcomed the establishment of the Counter‑Terrorism Office, which aimed to strengthen the coordination and coherence of the Organization and help Member States implement the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy.
The representative of Qatar, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, commended the appointment of Under‑Secretary‑General Vladimir Voronkov to lead the Counter‑Terrorism Office. Serious work was required to achieve a comprehensive convention on international terrorism, he said, adding that “the world needs this convention more than ever”. Reaffirming his country’s fundamental position on the need for convention to contain a clear definition of terrorism that did not link it to any particular religion or community or ethnic group, he also said that the international community must make a clear distinction between terrorism and the legitimate struggles of people living under colonial occupation.
The representative of Japan, welcoming the creation of the Counter‑Terrorism Office as well as numerous relevant resolutions in the Security Council, spotlighted the recent adoption of Council resolution 2370 (2017) on preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons, and resolution 2368 (2017) on updating sanctions imposed on ISIL/Da’esh, Al-Qaida and associated individuals and groups. As part of that effort, in 2016 Japan had announced that it would provide over 45 billion yen in comprehensive counter‑terrorism support in Asia and help train 2,000 counter‑terrorism personnel over the next three years. It had emphasized the reinforcement of border security, capacity‑building of law enforcement agencies and the creation of tolerant societies through poverty alleviation and educational and vocational support. Outlining the security measures Japan was putting in place as it prepared to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, s/he went on to note that strong legal regimes were also needed to combat terrorism.
The representative of Morocco, noting that his country was one of the first States to support the Secretary‑General’s efforts to set up an office for counter‑terrorism, expressed “delight” in that far‑reaching decision. Despite efforts to combat terrorism, that threat was still taking victims and sparing no country. Nothing could justify a terrorist attack, he stressed, adding that it was necessary to evaluate the responses of different States, including those that undermined the sovereignty of others. Expressing concern regarding the return of foreign fighters, especially in the Sahel and Maghreb regions, he said that bilateral cooperation was necessary to prevent them from mobilizing young people.
The representative of Libya, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, emphasized that terrorism was a global phenomenon that could not be tied to any religion, creed or ethnic group. Any actions taken needed to be based on the sovereignty of States, he added, voicing his concern about the omnipresent nature of terrorism with persons of all nationalities working as foreign fighters for terrorist organizations. Terrorism also dovetailed with crimes such as human trafficking, drug trafficking and a whole raft of other activities, as such groups often found their finance streams in transnational organized crime. A close eye should be kept on information technologies that were used to disseminate hate speech and terrorist rhetoric. Foreign terrorist fighters were active in Libya and it was vital that Libyan institutions received the support they needed to tackle those groups, he said.
SHI XIAOBIN (China) said that the war on terror was a protracted one and the international community should seek greater consensus. States should adopt a comprehensive approach and increase efforts to crack down on the recruitment and movement of terrorists, cut off their financing channels and curb their abuse of social media. Attention should also be paid to what had given rise to terrorism in the first place. States should devote efforts to eradicate poverty, improve livelihoods, address development needs and facilitate intercivilization dialogue and exchanges. The United Nations should also play a leading role, fully tapping the potential of existing counter‑terrorism organs and improving their coordination. As a victim of terrorism, China’s fight against the “so‑called ‘East Turkestan’” terrorists, represented by the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement, was his country’s core concern and constituted an important part of the international fight against terrorism.
DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union, said her country was focused primarily on addressing conditions conducive to — as well as the root causes of — radicalization and violent extremism that led to terrorism. Prevention programmes were of utmost importance. The Western Balkans would “stay in Da’esh’s sight” due to its geographic position as a possible transit route between Europe and Syria/Iraq. For that reason, the Government had proposed the development of the Western Balkans Counter‑Terrorism Initiative and the Integrative Internal Security Governance concept, which prioritized the prevention of violent extremism, the fight against serious and organized crime and border security. Noting that both had been endorsed by the Council of the European Union, she also outlined related national efforts, including recent amendments to Slovenia’s criminal code which introduced stricter provisions on terrorism.
YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that since 2014, his country had seen several terrorist attacks. Legal and institutional reforms had positioned the country to deal with the problem, including the adoption of a new anti‑terrorism law and the creation of a specialized police unit trained in counter‑terrorism. Given that one of the root causes of terrorism was poverty, the Government had created programs to improve access to basic services and improve local governance. Appealing to the international community to support regional counter‑terrorism efforts in the Sahel, he added that cross‑border cooperation was one of the most effective ways to fight terrorism.
NONTAWAT CHANDRTRI (Thailand), associating himself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, outlined several national efforts to combat the phenomenon, including the continuous strengthening of his country’s domestic counter‑terrorism framework. Thailand also remained committed to the implementation of the 2007 ASEAN Convention on Counter‑Terrorism and had also become a party to 9 international legal instruments related to anti‑terrorism, with the intention of also joining the remaining 10 instruments. At the global level, the finalization of the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism would contribute significantly to countering the phenomenon. He therefore called on all States to step up their efforts to finalize that draft instrument and work together “in good spirit” to ensure that it contained a clear and precise definition of terrorism. In addition, he underscored the need to address terrorism’s root causes, including by eradicating poverty, promoting social inclusion, ensuring better access to basic rights and resources and fostering interfaith dialogue and tolerance.
The representative of El Salvador, aligning himself with CELAC, said that at the domestic legal level, his Government had enacted a law to counteract terrorism that was adopted in 2016 to prevent, investigate and punish all relevant crimes, including the financing of terrorism. It was crucial, in prosecuting terrorism, that State institutions be strengthened. The Attorney General of El Salvador had also stepped up counter‑terrorism training in order to better assist victims of terrorism, as well as to tackle terrorist financing. El Salvador had also participated in projects of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), including regional training on terrorism at international airports so that it could identify passengers of risk.
NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon) said that the word “terrorism” was used so often and so loosely, especially amidst political turmoil, that it had lost a clear meaning. For example, some acts were irresponsibly labelled terrorism if they were carried out by members of one religion. It had also been observed that the right to resist foreign occupation and the right to self‑determination were often wrongly equated with terrorism. However, by contrast, criminal acts by settlers illegally occupying the territory of a foreign State did not qualify as terrorism, but merely as violent acts. It was important to define terrorism in the context of the Working Group on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.
DEKALEGA FINTAKPA LAMEGA Togo, associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that, given the increasing threat of terrorist attacks, his Government had not waited before adhering to different international legal instruments for countering the phenomenon. It also had adopted a national law against terrorism as part of its criminal code. The country was also actively involved in the fight against transnational crime, he said, stressing that all the countries of the United Nations must step up their efforts to secure peace and development throughout the world. Terrorism knew no borders and greater international and regional cooperation, as well as the pooling of resources was needed.
ALINA JULIA ARGÜELLO GONZÁLEZ (Nicaragua), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and CELAC, condemned all forms of terrorism, including State‑sponsored terrorism. Furthermore, any condemnation that went beyond words should be framed by law, and the prosecution of perpetrators should be within the rule of law. The balanced approach of the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy was vital, she said, noting that her Government had participated in its fifth review. The United Nations should serve as a counter‑weight to terrorism and a harbinger of light and peace, she underscored.
AMIT HEUMANN (Israel) said that the past summer had witnessed some of the most horrific terror attacks, from Egypt to London, and from Mali to Mosul, leaving a trail of death, blood and grief across the globe. Israel had not been spared from that devastating trend, he noted, describing how a terrorist had broken into the house of the Salomon family and stabbed to death the family’s 70‑year‑old grandfather, his daughter and his son. The Israeli Government, committed to the rule of law and the value of life, had recently adopted a new comprehensive counter‑terrorism law to combat emerging threats while ensuring due process rights. Calling for a zero‑tolerance policy on terrorism, he added that “we cannot continue applying different standards to different terror groups”.
The representative of Ukraine, stressing the importance of multilateral cooperation in tackling terrorism, said that enhancing international judicial cooperation on the matter must go hand in hand with addressing the threat’s root causes. His Government had exposed and dismantled parts of the ISIL network operating in Ukraine. The common goal of the international community should be to bring to light not only the perpetrators but also the organizers of terrorism. Ukraine had acquired experience in dealing with that problem in the eastern parts of the country because the Russian Federation had violated its obligation to refrain from providing support to terrorists.
The representative of Cuba, associating him/herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and CELAC, said the practice by some States to finance, support or promote “regime change”, as well as messages of intolerance or hatred, including through modern information and communication technologies, violated both the principles of the Charter and international law. Strongly condemning the unilateral acts of some States that abrogated the right to make politically motivated lists, s/he said such acts contravened international law, as they undermined the central authority of the General Assembly in the fight against terrorism. “The international community cannot accept that, under the banner or a supposed fight against terrorism, certain States carry out acts of aggression, directly or indirectly against sovereign peoples” in flagrant violation of human rights law and international humanitarian law, s/he stressed, also voicing support for the adoption of a general convention on international terrorism that would bridge existing legal gaps in the definition of that phenomenon.
GEORG SPARBER (Liechtenstein) said that, as a member of the Group of Like‑Minded States on Targeted Sanctions, his country would continue to promote terrorism‑related sanctions regimes. Avoiding conflicts between the provisions of such regimes and other obligations of States under international law — including human rights law — was of direct relevance to the Council’s work on sanctions. As well, the work of the Ombudsperson to the ISIL and Al-Qaida sanctions committee had made positive contributions to those ends. Respect for human rights and international humanitarian law must be a part of the fight against terrorism. However, in practice it was often just an afterthought. Governments actively involved in combating terrorism must avoid contributing to outcomes that betrayed the values “that are often attacked by terrorists themselves”. In that regard, overly broad domestic definitions of terrorism could threaten the right to freedom of expression and association, and mass surveillance could undermine the right to privacy. “The erosion of respect for international humanitarian law can encourage perceptions of injustice that may eventually facilitate radicalization and the recruitment of terrorists,” he warned, reiterating the call that a general convention on counter‑terrorism be negotiated in only one forum — namely, the Plenary — and that the item be taken off the Sixth Committee’s agenda in order to avoid duplication.
ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said terrorism in all its forms and manifestation was a violation of law and a threat to the economic and social development of communities. He welcomed the establishment of the Counter‑Terrorism Office. Terrorism continued to plunge the world into mourning, and inflicted pain and suffering on all people without distinction. As well, the transnational nature of terrorism did not find its roots in one particular State or area but was, in fact, opportunistic. Since 2001, the terrorist threat had moved from the Middle East to Africa and other regions. Terrorism was the result of interaction between political, economic and social factors. There was also unjustified military intervention that created fertile ground for terrorist recruitment.
The representative of Senegal, associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that terrorist attacks sought to induce a collective psychosis by causing widespread panic. Rejecting all attempts to stigmatize Muslims and link the peaceful religion of Islam with terrorism, she added that Muslims were to a far greater degree victims rather than perpetrators of terrorism. “We know what we need to do,” she said, calling on the international community to move from words to actions, such as cutting off financing for terrorist groups. It was vital to “starve terrorists” of their funding, which was often drawn from transnational crime and illicit exploitation of natural resources.
TORE HATTREM (Norway) said that his country was playing an important role in the efforts against ISIL, both militarily and by allocating resources to provide life‑saving and stabilizing support in areas liberated from that armed terrorist group. Noting that the root causes that led to the rise of ISIL were still present, he added that inclusive political systems and solutions were critical to avoid a resurgence of terrorism. The international security landscape had changed dramatically over the last few years. The United Nations must streamline and coordinate core activities related to conflict prevention, development, education and other fields considered essential for countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism.
SUHAIMI TAJUDDIN (Malaysia), associating himself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that it was vital for the root causes of terrorism to be addressed effectively. He welcomed the establishment of the Working Group aimed at finalizing the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism. His Government was committed to tackling the threat of terrorism, based on a belief that preventative measures were the most effective way to address it. In recent years, new laws had been enacted, including the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, the Special Measures Against Terrorism in Foreign Countries Act 2015 and the National Security Council Act 2016. At the international level, Malaysia was a State party to 9 of out 14 legal instruments concerning counter‑terrorism.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, calling terrorism “a transnational scourge”, stressed that eradicating that global threat meant unifying all efforts around the four strategic pillars of the counter‑terrorism strategy, including sharing best practices. Her country had participated in a number of regional and international coalitions against terrorism, and had modernized its counter‑terrorism laws. Stressing the need to prevent the financing of terrorism, she said there should be no tolerance to those who gave funding and shelter to terrorist groups. Reaffirming the importance of tolerance and pluralism, she also added that it was necessary to increase understanding between religions and cultures. In order to uphold the prevention principle, her country had established a ministry of tolerance as well as an Islamic wisdom council.
SONALI SAMARASINGHE (Sri Lanka), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, pointed out that her country had suffered under the yoke of terrorism for 30 long years, and condemned all acts of terrorism as unjustifiable and criminal, regardless of their motivation. International networks with linkages to organized crime were a critical lifeline for violent extremists and terrorist groups. Therefore, it was imperative that all Member States pool their resources and share intelligence. In many parts of the world, violent extremism targeted vulnerable and marginalized communities, children, minorities, women and girls. While every effort must be taken to prevent refugee and asylum efforts from being abused, she added, “let us not close our borders or our hearts too tightly that we fail to protect the poor, weak, vulnerable and marginalized among us.”
Remarks by General Assembly President
MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, noting that the promotion of international law lay at the heart of the United Nations mandate, said that the Sixth Committee had an important role in answering the call of the United Nations Charter to create conditions in which justice and respect for international law could be maintained. The International Law Commission provided a good starting point for exploring ways to strengthen the work of the Organization. The creation of the Commission was an example of the General Assembly taking action to ensure the primacy given to international law by the Charter.
While many United Nations activities aimed to help build strong institutions, he cautioned, those efforts would be in vain if those leading them failed to respect the rule of law in their own work. That included corruption, fraud and any other behaviour which ran counter to the Organization’s principles. In that vein, the Committee’s work on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts remained critical.
International law could not be frozen in time, he added. It must adapt to changing circumstances and new developments. The growth and spread of terrorism was a good example of those changing circumstances. When future generations looked back at the current historic period, terrorism would be seen as one of the biggest challenges faced by the world. A big challenge needed a big response, and the review of the Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy was a crucial element of that response. Expressing hope that continued work on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism would enable it to be soon finalized, he called on the Committee to approach discussions on that topic with renewed energy.
Turning to the principle of the rule of law, he added that strong institutions and justice systems were needed to hold perpetrators accountable. The absence of rule of law was often a root cause of conflict. Terrorism bred quicker in conflict contexts, and therefore the principle must be seen as a valuable tool for prevention of conflict and terrorism. Furthermore, it could not be restricted to one mandate or one entity. “If we fail in this, so too will all our work across the three pillars,” he said. Without rule of law, no one Sustainable Development Goal could be achieved, no person’s rights could be fully protected and no peace could last.Read more