Sixth Committee Speakers Argue over Definition of Terrorism, State-Sponsored Actions, as Debate on Global Response to Menace Continues
The Sixth Committee (Legal) continued its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism today, with many delegates disagreeing on how to finalize a comprehensive convention on the matter and develop a global response to a threat that has yet to be defined, particularly when identifying State-sponsored actions. (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3633.)
The United States’ representative said that Al-Qaida and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) have metastasized throughout Africa and Asia by way of branches and affiliates. As well, State sponsors of terrorism — like Iran — are pursuing their interests through proxies and partners such as Hizbullah. Spotlighting China’s actions against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang, she added: “These are not counter-terrorism efforts; they are abuses.”
China’s delegate, however, calling those allegations baseless, highlighted how preventive measures, such as education, have been used to deradicalize in his country. More to the point, countries are using human rights as a pretext to interfere in the affairs of other States, he observed. Calling on all States to practise true multilateralism, he nevertheless cautioned against linking terrorism to specific countries or nationalities.
Venezuela’s representative, stressing that terrorism should not be used as a pretext to advance neocolonial agendas, described a dangerous, structured network of Colombia-trained mercenaries used to overthrow national Governments. This industry of death — supported by Bogota and Washington, D.C. — should be dismantled, he urged.
The representative of Syria also condemned the practice of States using terrorism as an excuse to implement their political and economic agendas, emphasizing that the phenomenon of terrorism includes actions by certain countries in the form of destabilizing economic and media terrorism. Syria was one of the first to call for an international conference to define the term “terrorism”, he added.
Pakistan’s delegate pointed to terrorism committed by States, saying that his country has been a victim of continued attacks financed and supported by its neighbour. India conducts State terrorism against the people of Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where occupying forces have killed over 96,000 and use rape as a weapon of war, he said.
The representative of India, conversely, said that Pakistan masquerades as a victim of terrorism when it is the biggest perpetrator and supporter of the same. She urged States to end the stalemate preventing the adoption of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism, noting that: “When right action is not taken at the right time, then it is time itself that causes the action to fail.”
Calling for a concerted response to the threat, Eritrea’s delegate underscored the precarious situation in the Horn of Africa, where terrorist elements capitalize on conflict-created vacuums to further destabilize societies. Countries in the region must be able to set their priorities freely, he emphasized, without external political influence or interference.
Outlining another issue, Mexico’s representative expressed concern over abusive and illegal measures to combat terrorism, which often fuel terrorist groups, and spotlighted the abuse of Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations to use force against non-State actors. He also underlined the need to incorporate the impact of notions of “masculinities” in strategies to prevent terrorism and violent extremism that lead to terrorist acts.
“I am sure terrorists love it,” Sri Lanka’s delegate remarked, pointing out that the inability to conclude negotiations on the convention illustrates the deep divides within the international community. Drawing attention to his country’s 30-year experience and the fact that Sri Lanka is one of the few States that have defeated the scourge, he called for a “loud and clear” multilateral response that terrorism will not be tolerated.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Oman, Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, El Salvador, Ecuador, Ghana, Viet Nam, Mali, Burkina Faso, Switzerland, Peru, Hungary, Japan, Guatemala, Nigeria, Nepal, Armenia and Georgia.
The representative of China spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Sixth Committee will next meet at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 7 October, to continue its consideration on measures to combat international terrorism.
GENG SHUANG (China), noting the progress in international counter-terrorism operations, said that the terrorist forces have accelerated their pace in Africa and South-East Asia, using new technologies to disseminate their ideologies and raise funds. Noting that some countries are using human rights as a pretext to interfere in the affairs of others, he said that the pandemic has exacerbated poverty and North‑South divides, which will feed the growth of terrorism. Calling on all States to practice true multilateralism, he said the international community must fully leverage the central coordinating role of the United Nations. Cautioning against linking terrorism to specific countries or nationalities, he also stressed the importance of eliminating the root causes of terrorism.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said that his country is a victim of continued terrorist attacks, financed and supported by its neighbour. India is conducting State terrorism against the people of Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where occupying forces have killed over 96,000 Kashmiris and used rape as a weapon of war. Also condemning India’s supremacist Hindutva ideology as the worst manifestation of Islamophobia and bigotry, he said that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, one of the oldest fascist movements in the world, has killed thousands of Muslims in pogroms and killings across India. Calling for a comprehensive approach addressing not only the symptoms of terrorism but also its underlying root causes, he voiced concern about the stigmatization of Islam and Muslims.
HAZAA MOHAMMED SAIF AL REESI (Oman) highlighted measures taken by his country to support international efforts combating terrorism, with a view to definitively eliminating this threat through all possible legal means. Underscoring that Oman has acceded to all international conventions and treaties on combatting terrorism, its financing and money-laundering, he said that the Government’s policy in this area is based on the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and international law. Further, Oman strives to spread a culture of peaceful coexistence, sustainable development and peace between peoples and nations, and rejects extremism and thought that incites terrorism, regardless of motivation.
ELIZABETH MARYANNE GROSSO (United States), recalling the nearly 3,000 lives lost to terrorism on 11 September 2001, said that the United Nations plays a critical role in strengthening Member States’ capacity to counter terrorism while respecting human rights and the rule of law. Also noting the loss of 13 Americans and 200 Afghans in a September terrorist attack at Kabul Airport, she underscored that terrorism remains a serious concern. Al-Qaida and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) have metastasized throughout Africa and Asia by way of branches and affiliates. Right-wing extremists pose a serious threat, and State sponsors of terrorism ‑ like Iran ‑ continue to pursue their interests through proxies and partners such as Hizbullah. She also spotlighted Xinjiang, voicing her objection to China’s mass detention and forced sterilization of the Uyghur population. “These are not counter-terrorism efforts; they are abuses,” she emphasized.
GUILLERMO ROQUE FERNÁNDEZ DE SOTO VALDERRAMA (Colombia), condemning all acts of terrorism, welcomed the work done during the seventh review of the United Nations Global Counterterrorism Strategy. Drawing attention to the global problem of drugs and transnational crime, he said it is vital to focus on where terrorism and criminal organizations are finding shelter and gaining territory. Money-laundering is a well-known source of terrorism financing, he noted, calling on the international community to develop cybercapacities to break the vicious cycle between terrorism and transnational crime. Also stressing the role of human rights, he said: “That is what distinguishes us from the aggressors.”
MAITÊ DE SOUZA SCHMITZ (Brazil) noted that the repudiation of terrorism is enshrined in her country’s Constitution as a guiding principle of its foreign policy. However, the current set of conventions prohibiting well-specified acts related to terrorism lacks the unity and coherence that a comprehensive convention against international terrorism would provide. The stalemate in negotiations to that end is linked to the absence of a universally agreed-upon definition of terrorism, she said, adding: “Every year, we formally meet in the working group, where the same arguments are repeated and no progress is made.” Calling for strong political will, she added that convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations could provide the momentum needed to build necessary bridges.
JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay) emphasized that his country’s commitment to countering terrorism and its financing has become part and parcel of its domestic law. Further, Paraguay is party to 16 international legal instruments to combat terrorism. Underscoring the importance of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, he noted the important work done by regional and subregional organizations in applying the same and called on such organizations to continue to strengthen their cooperation in this regard. A genuine fight against terrorism must pinpoint the phenomenon’s root causes. Education, poverty eradication and social justice are the best tools for building a world free from this scourge. He also expressed support for establishing a working group to conclude a legally binding convention that includes a precise definition of the term “terrorism”.
CARLOS EFRAIN SEGURA ARAGON (El Salvador) expressed concern over the increasingly clear link between transnational organized crime and terrorism. These twin threats have affected the integration of society in his country, along with development and the well-being of the youth. In response, the Government has prioritized this issue in the domestic legal framework and, among other initiatives, has implemented a territorial control plan to guarantee the safety of the population by recovering territory besieged by terrorists and gangs. Further, the Government works to ensure protection for victims of terrorism and transnational organized crime, emphasizing access to justice and psychosocial support services to facilitate recovery and reintegration into society.
CRISTIAN ESPINOSA CAÑIZARES (Ecuador), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, noting that it weakens the entire international community. Recalling the violent acts carried out in the northern parts of his country by violent groups connected with transnational crime, he said that it is vital to tackle money-laundering and other factors that facilitate terrorism. He also stressed the importance of enhancing State capacity to address the mistrust and intolerance caused by lack of education and opportunities. In that regard, he welcomed the adoption of the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
KHALILAH HACKMAN (Ghana), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that terrorism in the Sahel and the West African subregion continues to threaten the peace and stability needed for socioeconomic development. Within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) subregion, countries continue to work closely on border surveillance, early warning systems and legal assistance on criminal matters, including transboundary crimes. The Accra Initiative was launched in 2017 by Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo in response to growing insecurity linked to violent extremism in the region. It is an important counter-terrorism framework built on intelligence sharing and security and intelligence personnel training, as well as the carrying out of joint cross-border military operations. Terrorist groups continue to be emboldened in their actions due to funding received through formal and informal channels. Ghana has already paid $5 million out of the $10 million pledged to the ECOWAS Regional Security Fund, she said, calling for the mobilization of international funding in the fight against violent extremism.
PABLO ADRIÁN ARROCHA OLABUENAGA (Mexico), noting the anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks, said that abusive and illegal measures to combat terrorism often fuel terrorist groups. He voiced concerns about the abuse of Article 51 of the Charter to use force against non-State actors. As well, he underlined the necessity to incorporate the impact of notions of “masculinities” in strategies to prevent terrorism and violent extremism that lead to terrorist acts. Turning to measures taken at the national level, he outlined his country’s legislative efforts to combat the financing of terrorism. Governments must focus on warding off radicalization as they turn to post-pandemic reconstruction of social fabric, he stressed, also spotlighting the importance of abiding by the restrictions on small arms and light weapons.
SEMERE AZAZI AMIR (Eritrea), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, pointed out that terrorism is more likely to spread - and have a more severe impact ‑ in conflict zones, a point highlighted in the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Terrorist elements take advantage of vacuums created during conflict, with serious destabilizing effects on societies. He stressed that full implementation of the Strategy is important for a unified, current global response to terrorism, including countering emerging threats such as the use of technology to spread terrorist content in cyberspace. Underscoring the precarious situation in the Horn of Africa region, he stressed the need for countries therein to freely set their priorities, without external political pressure or undue interference in their efforts to promote peace and stability in the region.
QUYEN THI HONG NGUYEN (Viet Nam), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), pointed out that the poverty, employment discrimination, hatred and injustice stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic are bound to be exploited by terrorists going forward. To counter this, the international community must maintain solidarity and unity. To that end, there is a need for increased synergies within the United Nations system, where regional and subregional organizations and local communities play a greater role. The international community must also address the root causes of terrorism ‑ including political, social and economic injustices — through poverty eradication, economic development and national reconciliation.
ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Group and the Organization of Islamic States (OIC), said that no region, country or civilization is safe from terrorism. Lamenting the deaths of more than 15 Mali soldiers in his country today, he said that the social cohesion in Mali has been affected by its fragile security situation. The United Nations is the ideal place to formulate a collective response to terrorism, he stressed, highlighting the 55 instruments that illustrate the international response to terrorism and violent extremism. Calling for sustainable funding for the G5 Sahel Joint Force, he said a comprehensive global approach must tackle the root causes affecting countries like his and others in the subregion.
JOAQUÍN ALBERTO PÉREZ AYESTARÁN (Venezuela), condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, said that criminal attacks generate terror and undermine Governments. His country has experienced this scourge even in the midst of the pandemic. He described the existence of a dangerous and structured network for transnational organized crimes that uses Colombia-trained mercenaries to overthrow national Governments. This industry of death, which has the support of Bogota and Washington, should be dismantled, he said, adding that terrorism should not be used as a pretext to advance neocolonial agendas. The undue use of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and drones to perpetrate terrorist attacks warrants immediate attention, he said, calling for genuinely inclusive multilateral action.
OUINIBANI KONATE (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that, while the situation relating to ISIL/Da’esh seems to be under control in the Middle East, it has significantly worsened in recent years in the Sahel region. There, unprecedented levels of violence are jeopardizing development efforts and have led to loss of life and mass displacement. Urgent action is needed, as those living in the West African region do so in constant fear of terrorist attacks. For its part, the Government has taken steps to prevent and manage conflict, to prevent radicalization, to counter extremism and to combat money-laundering and terrorist financing. Underscoring that terrorism is fueled by poverty, he also detailed several national efforts to promote development and resilience.
VINCENT OLIVIER RITTENER (Switzerland) said that, in regards to the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, pillar 1, addressing measures to prevent radicalization and violent extremism, as well as pillar 4 on ensuring respect for human rights and the S rule of law, needed to be strengthened. He further welcomed the use of stronger wording in relation to international humanitarian law and the addition of wording on the role and involvement of civil society in bolstering the implementation of the Strategy. Noting that a new paragraph on strengthening the evaluation mechanisms of the Strategy has been inserted at the instigation of Norway and Switzerland, he voiced regret that the final wording adopted is somewhat weak and, in particular, that the human rights-based approach under pillar 4 has not been fleshed out.
ISABEL LASO GELDRES (Peru) said that, to eradicate terrorism, the international community must take action to effect social cohesion, promote respect for others, reduce inequality and combat racism and poverty. Efforts must be made to create more-inclusive societies, with increased focus on national development policies according to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Noting that terrorists continue to threaten international peace and security despite military defeats and loss of territory, she said that the fight against terrorism must employ military means when necessary, but must also be preventative in nature. Global counter‑terrorism efforts must not only prevent terrorists’ use of the Internet, but also combat cybercrime, terrorist financing and the illicit trafficking in drugs and weapons, recognizing the ties between terrorism and organized crime.
ZSUZSANNA HORVÁTH (Hungary), associating herself with the European Union, outlined challenges that arose from pandemic-related social isolation and rising political and economic pressures. Such challenges can exacerbate existing grievances, undermine counter-terrorism measures and heighten international terrorist threats, she noted. Although there is an elevated online threat level, terrorism still manifests itself in the real world by causing tremendous suffering, as seen in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Nice and Vienna last October and November. In addition to its presence in various international stabilizing efforts and contributions to development assistance in the Middle East and Africa, Hungary is ready to support initiatives aimed at tackling international terrorism through understanding its ideological roots and finding practical solutions. In that context, Hungary was honored to co-host one of the high-level regional conferences focusing on the Western Balkans leading up to the second Counter-Terrorism Week of the United Nations in Budapest in November 2019, she said.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) voicing deep concern that the collective response to terrorism has been hindered by competing priorities, said the inability to conclude negotiations on the convention show the deep divides within the international community. “I am sure terrorists love it,” he said, calling for a “loud and clear” multilateral response that terrorism will not be tolerated. Reaffirming the important role of the United Nations in global counter-terrorism, he drew attention to his country’s thirty-year experience. Sri Lanka is one of the few States that have defeated the scourge, he said, emphasizing that the world cannot afford to turn a blind eye to some terrorists and not others. Highlighting the sophisticated use of technology and social media by terrorists, he said a dangerous new dimension of contemporary terrorist networks is their use of educated people with impeccable backgrounds to raise funds and spread their ideologies.
MAHO SUGIHARA (Japan) said that advancing the rule of law was critical in the fight against terrorism. It is essential not only to bring terrorists to justice but also to facilitate the social and economic reintegration of perpetrators. Japan has staunchly supported the prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration initiative of the Counter‑Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate. Turning to the enforcement of law in cyberspace, she said there is a growing demand to boost the law enforcement capabilities of Member States to leverage open-source information. Japan has supported the United Nations Office of Counter‑Terrorism’s programme to improve the investigative skills of law enforcement officials in Asia through capacity-building on the use of open‑source information. She also noted the importance of promoting peace and stability at sea, as underpinned by the rule of law. “A peaceful and stable ocean serves the entire international community,” she said.
EDGAR DANIEL LEAL MATTA (Guatemala), noting that all States are vulnerable to terrorist attacks, underscored the importance of strengthening the role of various United Nations bodies involved in counter-terrorism and enhancing cooperation between them in implementing the four pillars of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. He also underscored the connections between transnational crime and terrorism, stressing that the existing international legal framework to prevent such ties is a valuable tool for all States. The lack of an international convention, despite the passing of years, has limited the international community’s ability to tackle these terrible acts, he said, calling for increased cooperation towards that goal.
KAJAL BHAT (India) said: “When right action is not taken at the right time, then it is time itself that causes the action to fail.” To that end, she pointed out that India took the initiative to pilot a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism in 1996. Urging States to end the stalemate preventing the adoption of such a convention, she said that instrument would strengthen the existing framework of global anti-terrorism conventions. Further, normative efforts at the United Nations should collaborate with other fora, such as the Financial Action Task Force ‑ of which India is a member ‑ to identify and remedy weaknesses in anti-money-laundering and counter-terror financing frameworks. She also said that Pakistan has, once again, misused this forum to repeat its litany of lies and masquerade as a victim of terrorism when it is the biggest perpetrator and supporter of terrorism. Jammu and Kashmir “is, and will always be, a part of India”, she stated.
ELIE ALTARSHA (Syria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, condemned the practice of some States that use terrorism as a pretext to implement their political and economic agendas. Recalling that his country has suffered from terrorism since the 1980s ‑ the worst form of which resurfaced 10 years ago and continues today ‑ he said that certain Governments have played a primary role in exporting terrorism to Syria through foreign terrorist fighters and the provision of clandestine training and financing to terrorists. The phenomenon of terrorism includes actions by certain countries, such as economic terrorism through the imposition of unilateral coercive measures and media terrorism through the spreading of misinformation, to destabilize peace and stability. He added that his country was one of the first to call for an international conference to define the term “terrorism” and underscored that tackling terrorism in one place while leaving it to spread in another will not eradicate the threat.
GEORGE EHIDIAMEN EDOKPA (Nigeria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Group and the OIC, noted the rampant use of social media platforms for terrorist recruitment. Praising the United Nations for the successful hosting of the second counter-terrorism week in June, he voiced support for the full implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Also welcoming the establishment of regional offices for counter-terrorism training in Nairobi and Rabat, he said this will improve capacity-building in Africa. Noting that terrorism destabilizes the structures of governance and has adverse effects on development, he pointed out that his country is no stranger to the activities of terrorists. Recalling the atrocities of the Boko Haram, he said its activities are under continuous scrutiny and surveillance.
INDIRA GOHIWAR ARYAL (Nepal), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the pandemic has ravaged lives and livelihoods in unprecedented ways, curtailing economic activities and access to education while increasing unemployment. This created an environment conducive to terrorism, making counter-terrorism more challenging than ever, she underlined, calling for stronger cooperation through a multilateral approach. On a national level, her country is closely working with the Financial Action Task Force to prevent terrorist financing. She emphasized the need for financial and technological assistance to developing countries in preventing and combating terrorism and the importance of sharing intelligence as a crucial aspect of global fight against terrorism. As part of maintaining international peace and security, Nepal is contributing to peacekeeping operations, she added, calling for an early conclusion of the draft comprehensive convention against international terrorism.
DAVIT KNYAZYAN (Armenia) said that the COVID‑19 pandemic has created conditions conducive for radicalization and the recruitment of terrorists. Terrorists misuse information and communication technology to propagate their radical ideology and increase recruitment. From September to November 2020, thousands of foreign terrorist fighters and mercenaries were employed in the large-scale military aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh. The poor financial and social conditions in the territories of north Syria contributed to the recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters and their subsequent relocation. Recruitment of such fighters from the Middle East and their transfer to Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone has been extensively documented. Azerbaijan, together with its external supporters, bears direct responsibility for sponsoring the flow of international terrorists into the region, in violation of numerous United Nations resolutions.
GVARAM KHANDAMISVILI (Georgia), aligning himself with the European Union, said it is necessary to tackle traditional and non-traditional terrorism threats. His country has made outsize contributions to the fight against terrorism, he said, calling for redoubled efforts to tackle its root causes. His Government is working actively to develop efficient and coordinated counter-terrorism measures at the legislative and law-enforcement levels. Highlighting laws that tackle money-laundering and terrorism financing, he said that despite these measures, the continued illegal occupation of Georgian territories by the Russian Federation prevents the Government from carrying out counter-terrorism activities fully.
Rights of Reply
The representative of China, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the United States delegate used the platform of the Sixth Committee to make baseless allegations against his country. China has taken a series of preventive measures that drew on the concept of using education to deradicalize. Thus, there has not been a single case of violence in Xinjiang in recent years, he pointed out. The right to life and right to development for people in that region is guaranteed. A lie is a lie even if repeated a thousand times, he stressed.