Speakers Stress Need to Address Root Causes of Terrorism, Violent Extremism amidst Fallout from Pandemic, as General Assembly Continues Debate on Global Strategy
Continuous review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is necessary to ensure that the international response remains relevant as the dynamic threat posed by terrorism evolves, Member States stressed in the General Assembly today, as debate continued on the resolution titled “The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy: seventh review”, adopted unanimously on 30 June (for background, see Press Release GA/12343).
Welcoming that resolution’s adoption by consensus, many Member States stressed the need to address the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism amidst the fallout of COVID-19. Increased inequality and isolation resulting from the pandemic, along with the global shift into the online space to facilitate social distancing, has strengthened terrorists’ ability to radicalize and recruit as hate speech and propaganda proliferates over the Internet.
Speakers emphasized that the Global Strategy must react appropriately to these emerging threats, demonstrated by rising terrorist activity motivated by xenophobia, racism and intolerance. Many also urged the international community to tackle the documented link between terrorism and organized crime and to counter terrorist narratives with messages of peaceful coexistence. Others highlighted the importance of national ownership of counter-terrorism measures, detailing national efforts on the domestic and international levels to tackle this phenomenon, while still others spotlighted the challenges facing the global counter-terrorism response.
Pointing out one such obstacle was Brazil’s representative, who said that, despite seven reviews of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Member States still do not agree on what constitutes terrorism. While constructive ambiguity may have allowed the Assembly to achieve consensus on the Strategy over the years, this lack of clarity must not become the norm, and he welcomed the resolution’s call for Member States to conclude a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.
The representative of India also called for agreement on a universal definition for the term “terrorism”, pointing out that the lack thereof continues to hamper States’ ability to eliminate this phenomenon. He warned against justifying terrorism in any way — whether on grounds of religion, ideology, ethnicity or race — as doing so would diminish the international community’s collective fight against this scourge.
“Terrorism is terrorism is terrorism,” stressed Israel’s representative, who expressed hope that the Assembly will adopt a zero-excuses and zero-tolerance policy when the Global Strategy next comes up for renewal in 2022. He expressed regret that some of the resolution’s provisions could be interpreted as excusing or justifying acts of terrorism and the killing of innocents.
The representative of Syria also took issue with certain aspects of the latest review, which he said witnessed an attempt by some Member States to prioritize their own narrow interests. Fighting terrorism, he stressed, cannot be a pretext for interfering in the internal affairs of States, to launch aggression or to occupy parts of another country’s territory.
Ukraine’s representative concurred on that point, urging all States to uphold the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity mentioned in the resolution. She said that the Russian Federation is manipulating information and inciting violent activity to interfere in Ukraine’s internal affairs. These and other acts must be condemned and punished to ensure that all perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of terrorist activity be brought to justice, wherever they might be.
The representative of Kenya, noting that her country has experienced the effects of terrorism first-hand, stressed the need for Member States to move past normative debates and instead implement practical counter-terrorism measures to give effect to the Global Strategy. She also underscored that constant, regular review of the same is essential to mitigating the dynamic threat posed by terrorism.
Also speaking were the representatives of Peru, Norway, Qatar, Venezuela, Egypt, Switzerland, Iran, Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Nepal, El Salvador, Paraguay, Pakistan, Indonesia, Guatemala, Côte d’Ivoire, Singapore, Malaysia, Armenia and Mexico.
The General Assembly will next meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 7 July, to conclude its debate on counter-terrorism.
GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel) said that for his country, the adoption of the resolution “The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy: seventh review” (document A/75/L.105) was neither a theoretical nor an academic exercise. Negotiations on that text coincided with relentless terrorist attacks by Hamas, backed by Iran, which saw Israeli civilians in bomb shelters and Palestinians being used as human shields in Gaza. Israel is pleased that several issues it raised during negotiations are reflected in the text, including the acknowledgement of an uptick in hate speech targeting religious and ethnic communities. However, it is extremely disappointing that some provisions in “L.015” could be interpreted as excusing or justifying acts of terrorism and the killing of innocents. “Terrorism is terrorism is terrorism” and it can never be explained away, he said, adding that Israel hopes that the General Assembly will adopt a zero-excuses and zero-tolerance policy when the Strategy next comes up for renewal in 2022.
NÉSTOR POPOLIZIO (Peru) emphasized the importance of tackling inequality and other sources of violent extremism, in line with national strategies and the Sustainable Development Goals. This is a battle of ideas that must be won with a message of peace and reconciliation. He emphasized that the crisis arising from the COVID-19 pandemic could exacerbate terrorism in the medium and long term, leaving people vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment. He stressed the need to prevent the abuse of social networks and welcomed the review process’s recognition of the role of civil society and the private sector in confronting online terrorist content. He also stressed the need to tackling the link between terrorism and transnational organized crime, saying that “tackling one means tackling the other”.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) said despite international conventions and Security Council resolutions, and despite seven reviews of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Member States still do not agree on what exactly constitutes terrorism. Constructive ambiguity might have allowed the Assembly to achieve consensus on the Strategy over the years, but this lack of clarity must not become the norm. Brazil welcomes the renewed call, contained in “L.105”, for Member States to do all they can to conclude a comprehensive convention on international terrorism, and for Member States to respect and protect the right to privacy, including with regard to digital communications, when countering terrorism, he said.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) stated that the entirety of the United Nations must play a central role in the international community’s collective response to terrorism. She stressed the need to: focus on prevention by addressing the root causes of violent extremism; ensure that women participate fully in counter-terrorism measures; and avoid human rights abuses and the shrinking of civic space when combating terrorism. While welcoming the adopted resolution, she said that its final version missed several opportunities to take needed action, including implementing better human rights oversight of United Nations counter-terrorism efforts and monitoring such efforts to ensure impactful deliveries. She expressed hope that the Office of Counter-Terrorism will take action in these areas over the next two years.
TALAL RASHID N.M. AL-KHALIFA (Qatar) detailed Government actions on the national level to combat terrorism, including the continued development of legal frameworks to counter this phenomenon and the financing thereof and the launching of several initiatives to fight terrorism amongst young people. Qatar also participates in global counter-terrorism measures, including the Global Coalition to Defeat Da’esh/ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant], and is one of the leading donors to the Office of Counter-Terrorism, facilitating its work in capacity-building and policy support. Qatar also coordinates with the private sector on the international level to counter terrorism in Africa and, in December 2020, led an initiative to open a counter-terrorism centre in Doha under the aegis of the United Nations.
JHON GUERRA SANSONETTI (Venezuela) said that there is a growing trend towards a unilateralism that illegally attempts to classify sovereign nations as supposed sponsors of terrorism. Right-wing violent extremists in particular seek to exploit divisions with the sole purpose of fanning the flames of tension. Terrorism must be distinguished from peoples exercising their legitimate right to self-determination. He said that the Government of the United States, faithfully following in the steps of the previous Administration, is making vicious use of the COVID-19 pandemic to perpetrate criminal acts of economic terrorism, posing a grave threat to Venezuela. There is no good terrorism or bad terrorism, he said, adding that in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century, international cooperation must be strengthened in all arenas — and terrorism is no exception to that principle.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) said that it is an undeniable truth that terrorism knows no borders. Unfortunately, the latest review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy witnessed an attempt by some Member States to prioritize their own narrow interests. Fighting terrorism cannot be a pretext for interfering in the internal affairs of States, to launch aggression or to occupy parts of another country’s territory. He drew attention to Syria’s long and vast experience in combating terrorism and called for practical steps to dry up financing flows to such groups as Da’esh, the Al Nusra Front and their affiliates. He went on to say that concerned States cannot shirk their responsibilities for attacks carried out by foreign terrorist fighters against Syrian citizens.
AHMED ABDELAZIZ AHMED ELGHARIB (Egypt), aligning himself with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), highlighted several important updates included in the adopted resolution, including the removal of any mention of Islam when referring to Da’esh and the recognition of growing far-right extremism based on discrimination and Islamophobia. He also pointed out that the resolution reaffirms the critical role played by national institutions in combating terrorism, but stressed that recognizing and assisting these efforts does not mean prioritizing security solutions to the detriment of other parts of a comprehensive global response. He also detailed national efforts to counter terrorist narratives and financing and implement Security Council resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1373 (2001).
OLENA SYROTA (Ukraine), aligning herself with the European Union, welcomed the resolution’s adoption by consensus and urged all States to uphold the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity mentioned therein. The growing proliferation of State-sponsored terrorism is of particular importance to Ukraine, as the world has witnessed the “obvious terrorist component” of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. The Russian Federation has engaged in a broad range of hybrid-warfare techniques in Ukraine, is providing funds, weapons and training to illegal armed groups and is carrying out cyberattacks against critical infrastructure and Government agencies. Further, it manipulates information and incites violent activity to interfere in Ukraine’s internal affairs, including the production of fake information alleging terrorist activity in temporarily occupied Crimea. She stressed that these and other acts must be condemned and punished to ensure that all perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of terrorist activity — wherever they might be — are brought to justice.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said that in the context of international mobilization against the pandemic, States must remain united in combating terrorism. That requires cooperation between Member States, the United Nations, civil society and the private sector, she said, adding that joint efforts must be consistent with international law and the rule of law if they are to be effective and sustainable. She added that for Switzerland, the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy must retain a focus on international humanitarian law, human rights and preventing violent extremism.
MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) honoured the late Major General Qasem Suleimani, who was a prominent figure in the fight against Da’esh in Iraq and Syria before his assassination by United States forces in 2020. Stressing the need for national ownership and leadership in combating terrorism, he said socioeconomic and political challenges — as well as illegitimate military interventions and occupations — constitute the main drivers of terrorism and violent extremism. No State has the right to commit acts of aggression, interference in the internal affairs of other nations or condone human rights violations under the pretext of fighting terrorism. He also voiced concern that unilateral coercive measures undermine the efforts of targeted countries to counter terrorism, while harming ordinary people and contributing to the phenomenon’s root causes. As such, the unilateral listing of Member States or their constitutionally established institutions — accusing them of supporting terrorism — contradicts the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and must be rejected. He expressed serious concern over unanswered questions regarding how and why foreign terrorist fighters from countries that claim to pioneer human rights were radicalized and deployed and tasked with committing acts of terrorism in the Middle East, and over the fact that those same countries refuse to repatriate those fighters and their families.
NASEER AHMED FAIQ (Afghanistan), noting that his country is on the front line of the fight against terrorism, as well as a victim of terrorism, said: “We cannot claim to be safe unless we vanquish this threat globally.” Member States must be united and that will happen when they are all on the same page. During negotiations on “L.105”, Afghanistan emphasized the need to address root causes, as well as cohesive efforts to curtail the resourcing of terrorist groups. The international community must also tackle the illegal narcotics trade, as well as the trade in materials uses to manufacture improvised explosive devices and other ordnance. The rights of victims of terrorism must be recognized, protected and promoted, he said, emphasizing that “their experiences and stories matter”.
Ms. FARREY (United Kingdom) welcomed strong language in the resolution around human rights, as well as guidance on involving civil society in counter-terrorism efforts. Respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law are central to preventing terrorism and implementing successful counter-terrorism efforts. She welcomed the increased coordination and coherence of United Nations counter-terrorist actions and stressed the importance of building stronger partnership with the private sector and others to address threats emerging from new technologies. She also warned that inequalities and grievances exposed and exacerbated by the pandemic could prompt an increase in terrorist recruitment.
TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan), aligning himself with the OIC, said his country understands the scourge of terrorism first-hand, having been the target of externally directed terrorist attacks meant to achieve political ends. Stressing Azerbaijan’s commitment to all its bilateral and multilateral obligations aimed at curbing the threat of terrorism, he cited a rise in terrorist activities motivated by intolerance, extremism, violent separatism, hate-fuelled ideas, racist ideology and extensive disinformation campaigns in media and social networks. “Terrorism is used to advance the policies of aggression, occupation and ethnic cleansing against sovereign States, often with involvement of foreign terrorist fighters,” he said, referencing instances in which ethnic diaspora organizations facilitated the recruitment and transfer of terrorists or otherwise supported them. Instances of shielding and glorifying terrorists also cannot be tolerated, he said, welcoming the Assembly’s adoption of a resolution proposed by Azerbaijan on that matter. Among other things, he underscored that States are obliged to suppress the mobilization of foreign terrorist fighters and strengthen border security, and that no amnesty or early prisoner release should be granted for perpetrators of terrorist acts.
T.S. TIRUMURTI (India) recalled that, 15 years ago, Member States agreed that there can never be any justification for acts of terrorism, regardless of who, where, when or why they are committed. Calling on States not to squander the gains achieved so far, he warned against justifying terrorism in any way — whether on the grounds of religion, ideology, ethnicity or race — which would diminish the collective fight. “Let us not forget that before 9/11 happened, the world was divided into ‘your terrorists’ and ‘my terrorists’,” he said, noting that the attack in New York led to an acceptance of the fact that terrorism in one part of the globe can also impact other countries and regions. “Twenty years later, we are now seeing attempts to divide us once again, by adopting new terminologies under the guise of ‘emerging threats’ such as racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism, violent nationalism and right-wing extremism,” he said, warning against such divisions in the world’s collective understanding and calling for agreement on a universal definition of the term “terrorism”, which continues to hamper countries’ ability to eliminate it together.
MIRGUL MOLDOISAEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said that the fight against terrorism should be waged under the auspices of the United Nations and in compliance with international law, international humanitarian law and human rights. She recalled that in March, her country, with the Organization’s support, repatriated 79 children of Kyrgyz citizens from Iraq under a programme that envisions their rehabilitation, reintegration and return to a safe and peaceful life. She went on to say that containing, suppressing and preventing terrorist attacks — and the prosecution of terrorism suspects — should remain a priority during and after the pandemic.
YASSER HALFAOUI (Morocco) welcomed the adopted resolution’s recognition of terrorists’ increased use of the Internet to spread extremist content, as growing reliance on information and communications technology during the pandemic strengthened such groups’ capacity to recruit and spread propaganda. Prevention measures are necessary, which require investment in socioeconomic development and improved access to education and basic services to respond to the root causes of terrorism. Noting growing terrorist challenges throughout Africa, he welcomed the Office of Counter-Terrorism’s commitment to strengthen its presence on the continent. He added that, given increased inequality and isolation resulting from the COVID-19 crisis and growing xenophobia and racism both online and offline, the international community must strengthen its efforts to focus on positive narratives and messages of peaceful coexistence.
GHANSHYAM BHANDARI (Nepal), noting that the pandemic has provided a fertile ground for organized crime and terrorism, said that terrorist groups use anti-immigrant narratives, racial hatred and religious intolerance to stoke social dissention. These challenges, along with others such as arms races, climate change and natural hazards, warrant a concerted, coordinated multilateral response with the United Nations at the centre of these efforts. For its part, Nepal has implemented strong institutional and legal frameworks to counter terrorism domestically and works to effectively implement the seven different international counter-terrorism instruments to which it is a party. He also emphasized the need to provide financial and technological assistance to developing countries to bolster their capacity to combat this phenomenon, including strengthening the exchange of intelligence, data and admissible evidence to bring perpetrators to justice.
CARLOS EFRAIN SEGURA ARAGON (El Salvador) said that there is no doubt that the Strategy is one of the most important initiatives taken by the Assembly. El Salvador remains gravely concerned by the links between some forms of transnational organized crime and terrorism, he said, reaffirming the need to strengthen cooperation at many levels to combat that scourge. He underscored the Herculean efforts being made by his country’s police force which have brought the homicide rate and some other crimes to historically low levels. El Salvador stands ready and willing to pursue negotiations for the Strategy, during its eighth review, to include stronger language on a potential international convention on terrorism.
MANUEL ALCIBÍADES RUIZ DÍAZ (Paraguay) said that anti-terrorism efforts must always safeguard international humanitarian law and human rights while also ensuring that societies are safe and secure. Paraguay stands in solidarity with the victims of terrorism, especially children and other vulnerable groups. More effective measures are needed to address the impact of terrorist groups on peace, security and the global economy, he said, emphasizing that the fight against terrorism is at the crux of the global agenda, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan), aligning himself with OIC, said that his country has been at the forefront of the international fight against terrorism for more than a decade, suffering greatly from terrorism sponsored from abroad. The most recent manifestation of externally supported terrorism in Pakistan was the recent attack in Lahore, and he stressed that those responsible for organizing, financing and supporting this and other attacks must be held accountable. One of the most important purposes of reviewing the Global Strategy is to keep it relevant, and he welcomed the resolution’s call for Member States to counter the trend of attacks based on xenophobia, racism and intolerance and the spread of conspiracy theories and hate online. The international community must also address the root causes of violent extremism, and he called on the Security Council to address situations of prolonged conflict, foreign occupation and denial of the right to self-determination.
MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia), aligning himself with OIC and the “MIKTA” group (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia), welcomed the resolution’s adoption by consensus and said that international cooperation must adapt to the dynamic, evolving threat posed by terrorism. The delicate compromise that Member States achieved in the resolution should serve as a foundation for future synergy, and he expressed hope that the Global Strategy can address the issue of duplication so the United Nations can effectively deliver capacity-building to Member States at their request. He also welcomed the resolution’s recognition of new and emerging threats, including the misuse of new technology, and emphasized that common efforts to counter terrorism must include all stakeholders, including civil society, the media, religious leaders, women, youth, the private sector and victims of terrorism.
EDGAR DANIEL LEAL MATTA (Guatemala) said that due to its geographic position, Central America, including his country, has been besieged by transnational organized crime networks engaged in money-laundering and trafficking in people and weapons. Such networks have inexhaustible financial resources and terrorists can benefit from their existence. International, regional and subregional cooperation must be improved with the goal of strengthening national efforts, he said, underscoring his country’s commitment to the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime.
GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) said that like other countries in West Africa, his nation suffers greatly from terrorism, including most recently an attack in the north of his country that left four Ivorian soldiers dead. Prevention must be at the heart of counter-terrorism priorities, including through the eradication of root causes and combating violent extremism. He called for increased international cooperation in the areas of technical assistance and capacity-building, as well as urgent action to address cybercrime and cyberattacks.
YONG-ERN NATHANIEL KHNG (Singapore) said that periodic review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is important to ensure its continuing relevance and responsiveness to the needs of Member States. He welcomed the resolution’s adoption by consensus, as it is critical that the United Nations sends a strong, united message against the global threat of terrorism. He also supported new language regarding the need to address radicalization and recruitment in prisons, which is a serious issue for many countries that requires greater international cooperation. Noting Member States’ principal responsibility to implement the Global Strategy, he detailed national efforts to counter terrorism in line with the Strategy’s four pillars and called for greater intelligence-sharing among the international community, which is key to preventing terrorist attacks.
SYED MOHAMAD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia), associating himself with the OIC, welcomed the Assembly’s spirit of consensus on the current item and called for concerted action to combat terrorism. He welcomed updates to the review resolution, including the long-overdue removal of the term “Islamic” from the name of one terrorist organization. Warning against attributing terrorism to any particular religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group, he stressed that Da’esh “is neither Islamic, nor a State” and called on all Member States and United Nations entities to mainstream the name “Da’esh” when referring to the group. Citing worrying instances of growing Islamophobia and intolerance, he said terrorist groups are also exploiting the COVID-19 crisis for their nefarious ends, including feeding the conspiracy theories and narratives they rely on to attract followers. “Left unchecked, the increasing intolerance concerning race and ethnicity is bound to break communities,” he stressed, spotlighting Malaysia’s status as a multireligious, harmonious, pluralistic society and reiterating the importance of “winning hearts and minds” in the psychological war against terrorism.
NJAMBI KINYUNGU (Kenya), noting that her country has experienced the effects of terrorism first-hand, said that constant, regular review of the Global Strategy is essential to mitigating the dynamic threat posed by terrorism. Detailing national counter-terrorism efforts — including a national strategy launched in September 2016 that laid out non-coercive approaches to address violent extremism — she said that Kenya is prepared to share lessons learned with other Member States to enhance the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. She stressed the need for Member States to move past normative debates and instead implement practical counter-terrorism measures to give effect to the Global Strategy, also welcoming the establishment of United Nations counter-terrorism offices in Kenya and Morocco that will help support the region’s counter-terrorism efforts in partnership with host Governments.
DAVIT KNYAZYAN (Armenia) underlined his country’s commitment to the implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy across its four pillars, while noting that the pandemic’s socioeconomic impact and lockdowns have created a conducive environment for radicalization and terrorist recruitment. Welcoming the resolution’s recognition of the growing threat of foreign terrorist fighters serving as power proxies in conflict zones, he said the recruitment and transfer of foreign terrorist fighters from the Middle East to Nagorno Karabakh has led to gross human rights violations, war crimes and atrocity crimes. Meanwhile, the coronavirus has fuelled hate, xenophobia and polarization. The global community must redouble efforts to prevent the malicious use of cyberspace for terrorist purposes by addressing hate speech that targets ethnic and religious groups. He also cited the issue of State-led and State-sponsored radicalization — which aims to build identity by dehumanizing certain ethnicities and nations — and rejected attempts to associate any particular country, race, religion, culture or nationality with terrorism.
PABLO ADRIÁN ARROCHA OLABUENAGA (Mexico) said that a reported 320 per cent increase in terrorist attacks on ethnic or racial grounds in 2020 is a problem that requires immediate attention. The Secretary-General’s report identified the challenge posed by far-right groups and white supremacists, yet it was not possible to include an explicit reference to them in the resolution. The fight against terrorism will be won through development, education, employment opportunities, social justice and gender equality, not by military action or force, he emphasized. “Violence always generates more violence,” he said, adding that counter-terrorism efforts must not stray beyond the limits set by international law, including the Charter and its provisions on the use of force.