Global Cooperation in Protecting Critical Infrastructure Vital, Speakers Say at Security Council Briefing on Terrorist Threats to International Peace
Speaking today on the protection of critical infrastructure from terrorist attacks, Security Council members noted the need to strengthen international cooperation and information sharing between countries, while also highlighting the importance of regional and national initiatives and counter-terrorism strategies.
Briefing the 15-nation organ, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001) concerning counter-terrorism, highlighted the importance of resolution 2341 (2017). That text called on Member States to develop their own strategies to reduce the risks posed to critical infrastructure by terrorist attacks. He also emphasized that international cooperation was particularly relevant to address security concerns related to cross-border interdependencies of critical infrastructures.
In addition, he commended the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate for its proactive engagement since the adoption of resolution 2341 (2017), as well as its work in developing an initiative aimed at raising awareness of the requirements of that text.
The representative of France underscored the importance of international collaboration, emphasizing that the protection of critical infrastructure in Europe required cooperation between the members of the European Union. Furthermore, her country had put in place several policies related to the security of critical infrastructure, including national policies that covered transportation, health and communications systems, and other areas.
Equatorial Guinea’s delegate said that he was encouraged by the regional initiatives that were being put forward by the Counter-Terrorism Committee, although he noted the lack of African initiatives. The mechanisms for implementing resolution 2341 (2017) should be included in regional and national counter-terrorism strategies, he said.
Several delegates, including the representative of Ethiopia, spoke on the protection of the airline infrastructure from terrorist attacks. That industry had often been the primary target of terrorists, he said, underscoring that a series of measures had already been put in place to enhance aviation security. He cautioned that it remained vulnerable to such attacks, and there was a need for greater international cooperation in closing any loopholes that might be exploited by terrorists. While there were many international treaties and conventions on civil aviation matters, there had not been a text dedicated to that issue, and the adoption of resolution 2341 (2017) was an important step.
The representative of the United States said that terrorists were targeting “soft” targets, and the international community needed to do more to raise awareness of those risks, not only between Governments but also with the private sector. In addition, the United Nations and regional organizations must share good practices and take all measures to manage the risk of attacks against critical infrastructure and soft targets.
The Netherlands’ delegate said that recent attacks on locales such as concert halls, markets and hotels had shocked the world. “We cannot, and will not, change our way of life or give in on our freedoms,” she stressed, cautioning States that they should enhance their resilience through appropriate risk assessments.
Also speaking today were the representatives of China, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Peru (in his national capacity), Poland, Bolivia, Sweden, Côte d’Ivoire and Kuwait.
The meeting began at 3:09 p.m. and ended at 4:40 p.m.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001) concerning counter-terrorism, said that it was increasingly important to ensure the protection of critical infrastructure from terrorist attacks. For national security, public safety and the economy of the concerned States, as well as for the well-being and welfare of their populations. Resolution 2341 (2017) called on Member States to consider developing their strategies for reducing risks to critical infrastructure from terrorist attacks. The resolution also encouraged all States to make coordinated efforts to improve their preparedness for such attacks. International cooperation was particularly relevant to addressing security concerns related to cross-border interdependencies of critical infrastructures, between countries and sectors.
The Counter-Terrorism Committee, with the support of Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, played a key role in the promotion of international cooperation and in identifying gaps, vulnerabilities and trends, he said. He commended the Directorate for its proactive engagement in that area since the adoption of resolution 2341 (2017), including on its identification of a number of excellent initiatives, including the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection and the Commonwealth of Independent States Anti-Terrorism Center. The Directorate was developing an initiative aimed at raising awareness of the requirements of resolution 2341 (2017) and enhancing the capacities of States in that regard.
There was a need to further encourage all States to define what constituted critical infrastructure in their respective national contexts, he continued. States should also develop national strategies for reducing risks and incorporate those into their national counter-terrorism plans. States bore the responsibility for the protection of critical infrastructure, but private owners of such infrastructure and of “soft” targets should address their needs and reduce vulnerabilities. It was also vital that Governments and the private sector shared information on threats and vulnerabilities.
AMY NOEL TACHCO (United States) said that terrorists continued to evolve and adapt their abilities to exploit weaknesses, which made it clear that much more needed to be done to protect critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks. Resolution 2341 (2017) helped move forward concerted efforts to raise awareness and expand knowledge about the danger of terrorist attacks against critical infrastructure. Returning foreign terrorist fighters continued to plot attacks, which required more coordinated efforts on the global scale. Terrorists were also targeting soft targets, and in that connection, the international community must continue to do more to assess and raise awareness of the risks, not only between Governments but also with the private sector. The United Nations and regional organizations must share good practices and take all measures to manage the risk of attacks against critical infrastructure and soft targets. In the United States and many other countries, private companies owned the vast majority of critical infrastructure, which underscored the need for collaborative efforts between the private and public sectors.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations was one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and in that context his country was seriously concerned about terrorist threats against critical infrastructure. Protecting such infrastructure was key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the West African region. Securing critical infrastructure was required for the protection of water and food sources, the provision of education, health and employment, the development of renewable energy sources, the security of air, land and sea transport, the improvement of economies and the well-being of people. Equatorial Guinea was encouraged by the regional initiatives that were being put forward by the Counter-Terrorism Committee, although he noted the lack of African initiatives. The implementation of resolution 2341 (2017) complimented the objectives of other Council resolutions and the mechanisms for implementing it must be included in regional and national counter-terrorism strategies. He called on the international community to support the development of initiatives to protect critical infrastructure in Africa, including in the most vulnerable countries.
MA ZHAOXU (China) said that terrorism was a common enemy of all humankind. Faced with the awfulness of threats posed by it, the international community should adopt a zero-tolerance policy, regardless of the location or justifications of terrorists. International counter-terrorism efforts must fully respect the sovereignty of the countries concerned. The international community should jointly respond and address the root causes that bred terrorism, and, in that regard, should help countries to eradicate poverty. Terrorism should not be linked with a particular religion or ethnicity. All countries should take measures to stop the movement of terrorist fighters and curb the spread of their ideology. Concrete measures should be adopted to implement resolution 2341 (2017) to protect critical infrastructure from terrorist attacks, he said.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said that with growing threats of terrorism and violent extremism, the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to attacks by terrorists had been a source of great concern. The airline industry had often been the primary target of terrorists and a series of measures had already been put in place to enhance aviation security. However, that industry remained vulnerable to such attacks and there was a need for greater international cooperation in closing any loopholes that might be exploited by terrorists. The protection of critical infrastructure could be said to have been partly addressed by international treaties and conventions related to civil aviation, maritime security and nuclear weapons. However, there had not been any text dedicated to that issue and the adoption of resolution 2341 (2017) represented an important step to effectively counter terrorist attacks against critical infrastructure.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) noted that several recent terrorist attacks had demonstrated that critical infrastructure remained an appealing target for terrorists. Resolution 2341 (2017) underscored the importance of the threat to critical infrastructure at the international level. The resolution focused on the prevention of possible attacks, the importance of identifying the main vulnerabilities and the need for national and international cooperation through the exchange of knowledge and experience. Close cooperation with the private sector was also crucial. Protecting the population and guaranteeing that the nation’s critical infrastructure was maintained was of key importance for her Government. France had put in place several policies related to the security of critical infrastructure, including a set of national policies established in 2006 which covered 12 areas, including those related to transportation, health and communications systems. Protecting critical infrastructure in Europe required increased cooperation between the members of the European Union, which was why France had contributed to the development of the European Programme for the Protection of Critical Infrastructure, which was also supported by the Directorate.
STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) stressed that critical infrastructure remained an attractive target for terrorist groups. A central feature of resolution 2341 (2017) was to highlight the responsibility of States to improve their strategies to protect critical infrastructure. The United Kingdom’s national security strategy recognized the importance of protecting critical infrastructure from all risks, including from natural hazards. States should strive to develop plans that helped them prepare for multiple eventualities and to ensure coherence between multiple agencies. Civil aviation remained a target for terrorists and guarding against that risk remained a key priority for the United Kingdom. In that context, his country was investing in new technology that would enhance aviation security, including by working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on its global aviation security plan. He emphasized the importance of developing strong partnerships between States and private industry to counter the threats to critical infrastructure. Often the private sector owned or managed parts of such infrastructure, which meant that it had a duty to protect those assets.
IGOR V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) said that the terrorist threat had taken on a broad geographical expanse. Terrorists used breaches in border control systems for cross-border crossings, harnessed new technology to garner new recruits and were also investing in legal businesses. Infrastructure facilities in airports, communications systems or banks were highly attractive to terrorists. The situation was complicated by the fact that parts of critical infrastructure were interdependent and did not function in one jurisdiction alone. It was important that there be sharing of information in the international community, with the United Nations playing a leading role. He welcomed the work of Directorate in that area. The Council had at its disposal a raft of decisions on the protection of infrastructure from terrorist threats, including resolution 1373 (2011). That resolution incorporated instruments on the primary responsibility of States in combating terrorism and protecting their own territories from terrorist threats. Among the targets in the Russian Federation was its fuel and energy plants, and in 2011 special commissions were set up to monitor power plant infrastructures in terms of how protected they were against terrorism.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said that because of serious damage done to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in 2017, there had been a change in the strategy and tactics of conducting criminal activities of that structure and its affiliated groups. It was expected that there would be a transition from an open armed confrontation to conducting covert, targeted terrorist attacks, including against critical infrastructure facilities, in the form of both physical and cyberattacks. Those threats became more acute when considering the increasing digitalization of national economies. Nuclear security was among the most important responsibilities of Member States. Kazakhstan, as a leader for the movement for a nuclear-free world, attached special importance to reliable control over the use, storage and trafficking of nuclear materials. Considering the recommendations of the Directorate and the decisions and resolutions of the Council, the draft State programme to counter religious extremism and terrorism in Kazakhstan in 2018-2020 was presently awaiting approval. That programme envisaged measures for the active involvement of the non-governmental sector in the prevention of religious extremism and terrorism.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), speaking in his national capacity, emphasized that it was of great importance that the United Nations assess the efforts of Member States to protect critical infrastructure and devise preventive measures within the framework of their national strategies. It was also vital to focus on the reconstruction of critical infrastructure that had been damaged, he said, adding that the destruction of such assets, particularly in the energy sector, could result in chaos and fear.
LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands), noting that financial networks, energy facilities and food distribution systems often transcended national borders, called on States to address several priorities in their efforts to protect those critical facilities. Soft targets such as concert halls, markets and hotels must be protected, she stressed, noting that recent attacks on such locales had shocked the world. “We cannot, and will not, change our way of life or give in on our freedoms,” she stressed, urging States to enhance their resilience through appropriate risk analyses and assessments. As critical infrastructure was privately owned in many nations, the private sector must be involved, including through the establishment of knowledge-sharing networks such as the Netherlands’ national cybersecurity centre and its various information sharing and analysis centres. Additionally, multilateral action was needed, with the Directorate playing a central role in mapping countries’ capacities to protect infrastructure and identify possible gaps.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said resolution 2341 (2017) sent a strong message on the importance of cooperation in the fight against terrorism. It was essential that efforts to protect critical infrastructure be comprehensively planned, implemented and tested. Poland took an approach that assumed all types of risk, and had developed plans for many types of destruction and threats. While the threat to some elements of national infrastructure might be theoretical, in other areas there was a high probability. Transport networks were under serious and enduring threats from terrorists. As such, States must cooperate to strengthen infrastructure, while private companies must ensure that essential services were provided.
PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) said that sharing knowledge was essential in providing a high level of protection for critical infrastructure. The complex global network relied on critical infrastructure and today’s terrorist scenarios now extended beyond countries and regions to become a global problem. The international community must strengthen its exchange of information. Resolution 2341 (2017) urged Governments with the relevant capacities to provide assistance and transfer technology, while fully respecting sovereignty.
IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden) underscored the need to “build resilience into our thinking” on critical infrastructure, with a wide range of actors working together to improve awareness and prevent, respond to and recover from incidents and crises. In that regard, the Swedish Civil Contingency Agency had developed an Action Plan for the Protection of Vital Societal Functions and Critical Infrastructure, while the Counter-Terrorism Cooperation Council gathered over a dozen national agencies behind the goal of increasing Sweden’s capacity to counter the phenomenon. Outlining Sweden’s ongoing preparation and scenario trainings, he said efforts must also continue at the intergovernmental level, with country visits by the Directorate playing a key role. Dialogue should also be deepened with the International Maritime Organization (IOM), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), among others.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) said that through the adoption of resolution 2341 (2017), the Council had shown a full grasp of the damage that terrorist acts could cause on critical infrastructure. The transnational nature of such violence required States to be more vigilant and to take part in a global, coordinated and effective response. He called on States to obtain the appropriate means for protecting critical infrastructure. Strengthening cross-border efforts was an important aspect of counter-terrorism efforts through the pooling of relevant tools and sharing of information, experiences and good practices. In 2015, his country’s national assembly had adopted a law on the suppression of terrorism, as well as signed and ratified the main counter-terrorism legal instruments that existed both regionally and nationally.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said it was increasingly important to protect critical infrastructure from terrorist attacks, as it represented an easy and attractive target. Critical infrastructure was important due to its role in citizens’ daily lives. Each State had the responsibility to determine the concept of critical infrastructure and the best means to protect it. Following a recent terrorist attack in Kuwait, the Government had enacted laws aimed at preventing such violence, in line with relevant Security Council resolutions. It was important to adopt common measures against terrorists, including those denying terrorists access to the means needed to carry out attacks. He encouraged States to cooperate with the INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in combating terrorism.