Terrorism ‘an All-Out Assault on Our Shared Values, an Affront to Humanity’, Secretary-General Tells Global Coordination Compact Meeting

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

The creation of the Office of Counter-Terrorism was the first organizational reform that I have launched, naturally, with the support and the decision made by Member States, as soon as I started my functions as Secretary-General.  And I must say that I didn’t expect it to go as far as you’re able to go now.  I am very pleased to join you for the eighth meeting of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact.

Since its launch, the Compact has demonstrated a fundamental truth that countering and defeating terrorism depends on collaboration.  By bringing together United Nations agencies and Member States with our many partners — in line with the coordination and coherence mandate of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism — this forum is designed to better coordinate responses and approaches, while sharing experiences and best practices.

While the overall number of deaths from terrorism has declined, the threat remains.  As we will discuss today, the threat to Africa — in particular — is in fact increasing.

Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 48 per cent of deaths attributed to terrorist groups globally last year.  Groups like Al-Qaida, Da’esh and their affiliates are continuing to grow in the Sahel and make inroads into Central and Southern Africa.  They are exploiting power vacuums, long-standing interethnic strife, internal weaknesses and State fragilities.

In conflict-affected countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya and Somalia, terrorism has intensified cycles of violence, fuelling further instability, undermining peace efforts, and setting back development goals.  And within largely peaceful countries — such as Mozambique and the United Republic of Tanzania — terrorists are now seeking to exploit and manipulate societal grievances and mistrust in governments.

Despite these challenges, I am convinced that progress is possible.  My visit to Borno State in Nigeria last month strengthened my conviction.  Once a stronghold of Boko Haram, Borno State is now on the road to reconciliation and reintegration.

Horror is turning to hope.  I met people eager to restart their lives — including children who were once associated with Boko Haram, and women who are committed to ending the cycles of violence and discrimination under which they have suffered for so long.

The United Nations family is standing with them — and we will continue our support as they rebuild their lives, and work to renew the social contract between people, communities and Government.

And I was extremely impressed by the strategy implemented by the Governor of Borno State, which is a strategy to re-establish trust between government and people.  And based on the trust between government and people, to create the conditions to completely dismantle the mechanisms of recruitment of Boko Haram, and even to be able to reintegrate into society many of the former fighters of Boko Haram.

I was so impressed by the meetings I had with former fighters in one of the centres, with the meetings I had with victims and with this sense that Boko Haram, that was born in Borno State, is now clearly losing ground because the people have assumed largely, themselves, the capacity to undermine the work and the terrorist actions of Boko Haram.

It is also abundantly clear that we cannot effectively address terrorism without tackling the conditions conducive to its spread.  Weak institutions, inequalities, poverty, hunger and injustice all provide fertile ground for terrorist recruitment and violent extremism.  That’s why taking an integrated and holistic approach is an essential part of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

It means investing in health, education, protection, gender equality and justice systems accessible to all.  It means creating truly democratic systems and processes, so every person can have a voice in the future of their communities and countries — and trust that their voices will be heard and reflected.  It means placing human rights and rule of law as the foundation of our work.

Upholding human rights is critical to tackling some of the world’s most complex problems, and must be at the centre of our counter-terror efforts.  This is our duty, our legal obligation and our strategic imperative.

And it means this Compact continuing to support Member States in their counter-terror efforts — from technical assistance and capacity-building, to helping build institutions that are people-centred, and grounded in human rights and the rule of law.  Building the support — and marshalling the resources — to carry out this work is fundamental to the success of both the United Nations Strategy and of the Compact.

I look forward to hearing your ideas on how we can gather more groups and countries to our cause.  Unfortunately, I will have to leave, but I was already guaranteed that I would have a detailed readout of the different interventions in the meeting.

At every step, we must never forget that terrorism is not only an attack on innocent people.  It represents an all-out assault on our shared values — justice, equality and the inherent rights and dignity of every person.  Terrorism and violent extremism are a repudiation of all that we work for, year in and year out, at the United Nations.  They are an affront to humanity.

Your discussions today will be critical to moving the counter-terror agenda forward and safeguarding universal values.  Through this Compact, let’s continue gathering more ideas and more support for this urgent work.

For information media. Not an official record.