Threat, Impact of Extremist Groups Remains High, Widespread, Secretary-General Warns at First Meeting of Counter-Terrorism Coordination Committee

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s remarks to the first meeting of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Compact Coordination Committee, in New York today:

I believe that the fact that the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force becomes the new United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact Task Force is not just a change of name.  Many people think this is a change of name, but it is part of a reform.  The Compact can enhance our collective approach to counter-terrorism across the United Nations system.

When I took office, I was determined to reform the United Nations counter-terrorism architecture as part of a more board approach to what I then called diplomacy for peace.  I believe that we have made solid progress.

The Office of Counter-Terrorism is providing strategic leadership, as demonstrated by the successful United Nations Counter-Terrorism week in June.  I am very grateful to Vladimir Voronkov for his leadership. 

Joint capacity-building projects are making a difference in the countries and regions most affected by terrorism.  The United Nations counter-terrorism architecture is now better coordinated and organized around fundamental objectives.  This new Compact between 36 United Nations entities — plus the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the World Customs Organization — will provide a clear framework and solid platform for cooperation.

For example, the landmark Passenger Name Record project, supported by the Dutch Government, will help secure international borders in a time when foreign fighters from Syria and elsewhere are seeking safe havens and battlegrounds in troubled parts of the world.  We are engaging countries like Iraq and Afghanistan in a more holistic manner and forging partnerships with regional actors for more regular sharing of analysis and information.  And we are also reaching out to victims of terrorism, their families and communities to ensure they are supported.  Their rights and well-being remain central to all our efforts.

I encourage this Committee to take ownership of the Compact in a number of key ways.  First, our counter-terrorism efforts should be guided by the General Assembly’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  The Strategy has become the backbone that binds the 38 entities together.

The Compact also fosters close collaboration between the Security Council mandated bodies and the rest of the United Nations system.  I commend the excellent cooperation between our colleagues Vladimir Voronkov [Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism] and Michèle Coninsx [Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate], not least through their joint field missions.

Second, we must keep the focus on national ownership.  Third, I encourage even closer cooperation among the Compact Task Force entities to deliver evidence-based programmes and projects. 

Fourth, we must lead by example by fighting terrorism in a manner that fully respects international human rights standards and the rule of law.  Policies that limit human rights only end up alienating the very communities they aim to protect and which normally have every interest in fighting extremism.  As a result, such policies can effectively drive people into the hands of terrorists and undermine our efforts on prevention.  We must also ensure the meaningful participation of civil society partners in our work.

Fifth, the Compact helps us to move towards a clear and common monitoring and evaluation framework.  Sixth, the Compact also helps us to develop a joint resource mobilization strategy so that entities are not competing for limited funding.

Colleagues, we are now at an important moment for counter-terrorism.  Despite recent successes against Da’esh and its affiliates, the threat posed by returning and relocating fighters, as well as from individuals inspired by them, remains high and has a global reach.

This year’s Global Terrorism Index by the Institute for Economic and Peace indicates that despite a 27 per cent fall in the number of deaths from acts of terrorism worldwide, the impact of terrorism remains widespread, with 67 countries experiencing deadly attacks.  This is the second-highest recorded number of countries in the past 20 years.  The risk is higher when we consider less sophisticated attacks against soft targets that are difficult to prevent.

We have also witnessed the rise of violent extremism, that is conducive to terrorism, in many different contexts.  An essential part of our prevention agenda is addressing root causes and grievances that are so often manipulated by groups.  Terrorist organization like Da’esh and Al-Qaida continue to twist religion to serve their ends.

At the same time, neo-Nazi and far right groups are also using the Internet as a platform to mobilize support across borders, exploit economic anxieties, radicalize, recruit and carry out attacks.  It is our duty to protect communities from violent extremist groups and their hate-speech whoever they are. 

Terrorists are also likely to use technologies such as drones, artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and 3D printing to facilitate new and innovative attacks.  We must use our unique convening role to help countries design and implement approaches to this security challenge that these technologies represent.

With well-crafted programmes that support the rule of law and address the root causes of radicalization, your work and the work of this Coordination Committee have a real chance to make a difference.

Thank you again for all you have done collectively to get us to this point.  Again, I am deeply appreciative of the work that the Office of Counter-Terrorism has been developing in the last year.

For information media. Not an official record.