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19 December 2014 – Amid a proliferation of well-funded and well-organized transnational criminal activities in Africa, the Middle East and beyond, the United Nations Security Council today adopted a resolution spotlighting its concern over the ties between cross-border crime and terrorism and called on UN Member States to ramp up efforts in combatting the two activities.
In today’s unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member Council said it is “gravely concerned” by the financing obtained by terrorist groups through illicit activities – such as the trafficking of drugs, people, arms and artefacts – and reaffirmed the international community’s need to supress the monetary lifeline which keeps the terrorist threats active.
Delivering his remarks to the Council, Jeffrey Feltman, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that the world had been reminded yet again this week “why we must not tire in our efforts to counter terrorism, following the despicable attack on a school in Pakistan by the Taliban.”
He emphasized that the need for urgent action to address terrorism and its transnational linkages is regrettably well illustrated, for example by the intensification of Boko Haram activities across the Lake Chad Basin region of Central Africa. In the Secretary-General’s recent visits to Africa, he was constantly reminded that terrorism and cross-border crime cannot be addressed separately, Mr. Feltman told the Council.
“Efforts to combat terrorism will not bear fruit unless we combine law enforcement actions with measures to strengthen good governance, rule of law and human rights,” he said, stressing that “we will not uproot the ideologies that lead to violence if we do not win over hearts and minds.”
Also addressing the Council, Ambassador Tete Antonio, the representative of the African Union to the UN, acknowledged that cross-border criminal activities in Africa contributed to the onset of conflicts and further complicated management and resolution efforts. Vast swathes of ungoverned territory – in northern Mali and across the Sahel belt as well as in Central Africa and in Somalia – provide criminal and terrorist groups with a “deadly convergence” point where they could thrive undisturbed.
In the Sahel – a vast expanse of territory stretching from Mauritania to Eritrea, including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan – the Ambassador explained that drug and arms trafficking, human smuggling, kidnapping-for-ransom, and illicit proliferation of arms and money laundering had become “intimately intertwined” with the financing of terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
In addition, he said, kidnapping-for-ransom in the Sahel had become “an integral financing model” for the spread of terrorist activities in Africa and globally.
At the same time, a limited government presence in northern Mali had spawned an environment conducive for cross-border trafficking whereas in Central Africa, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a known militant group accused of numerous human rights violations, fuelled its operations through the poaching of elephants and illegal trade in ivory.
“The African Union has not remained idle in the face of these threats,” Mr. Antonio told the delegates. Nonetheless, he remarked, greater efforts should be made to encourage collaboration between neighbouring states sharing such threats along their borders and strengthen early warning mechanisms to clamp down on any potential situations of conflict that could be exploited by terrorist groups.
Recognizing the nexus of criminal and terrorist activities, the new Security Council resolution stressed the need for Member States “to work collectively to prevent and combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations” and called upon the international community to strengthen border management.
The text also stressed the importance of strengthening trans-regional and international cooperation on a basis of “a common and shared responsibility to counter the world drug problem and related criminal activities,” adding its encouragement for Member States to block and prevent terrorist groups from benefitting from transnational organized crime.
“The porous African borders have long served to bring communities together, facilitate trade, and have contributed to the prosperity and the enriching diversity of our people. But porous need not translate into threats and risks of crime and terrorism,” Mr. Antonio continued.
“There is therefore a need for innovative, collaborative and inclusive approaches that are led by the concerned states, based on confidence and transparency among them, and without hindrances nor restrictions on legal cross-border flows of people and trade.”