Deeply Concerned by Terrorists’ Gains in Sahel, Elsewhere, Secretary-General Tells Security Council Human-Rights Based Approach crucial to End Scourge

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the United Nations Security Council open debate on “Countering Terrorism and Preventing Violent Extremism by Strengthening Cooperation between the United Nations and Regional Organizations and Mechanisms”, in New York today:

I commend the Government of Mozambique for convening this timely debate.  Terrorism is the root and result of many of the problems under discussion by this Council. 

Terrorism tightens its grip by seeking out and exploiting weaknesses and instability in political, economic and security systems.  By preying on the fears and vulnerabilities of people facing grinding poverty, hunger and famine.  By exploiting inequalities and social exclusion to aggravate tensions.  By trading in the timeless evils of prejudice and discrimination targeting specific groups, cultures, religions and ethnicities.  By engaging in criminal activities like money laundering and illegal mining, as well as the trafficking of arms, drugs, precious minerals, antiquities and human beings.  By promoting lies, hatred and disinformation in cyberspace.  By keeping women and girls under a constant cloud of intimidation, as well as outright sexual and gender-based violence.  And by flouting or ignoring the rule of law, from international human rights law, humanitarian law and refugee law and other international norms and standards to the values embedded in the United Nations Charter.

No age, no culture, no religion, no nationality and no region is immune.  But the situation in Africa is especially concerning.  Despair, poverty, hunger, lack of basic services, unemployment, and unconstitutional changes in government continue to lay fertile ground for the creeping expansion of terrorist groups to infect new parts of the continent.

I am deeply concerned by the gains terrorist groups are making in the Sahel and elsewhere.  Community by community, they are trying to extend their reach.  The trail of terror is widening, with fighters, funds, and weapons increasingly flowing between regions and across the continent — and with new alliances being forged with organized crime and piracy groups.  And the online world provides a global platform to spread violent ideologies even further.

Just as terrorism drives people apart, countering it can bring countries together.  We see this across Africa, which is home to a number of regional counter-terrorism initiatives.  From joint efforts in the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, Mozambique and beyond.  To the renewed determination of African leaders to tackle this evolving threat — as seen at the recent Extraordinary Summit of the African Union on terrorism and unconstitutional changes of government.

The United Nations stands with Africa to end this scourge.  That includes this Council’s policy guidance, technical assistance and support for sanction regimes.  It includes the Counter-Terrorism Committee’s 65 assessment visits to ensure compliance with Security Council requirements — which resulted in thousands of actionable recommendations to Member States to improve responses.  It includes our work through the Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact to bring together diverse United Nations agencies, Member States, regional parliaments and civil society to support joint efforts across the continent. 

Above all, it includes our ongoing close collaboration with the African Union and regional and subregional African organizations.  We’re delivering tailored assistance to African Member States — including in the areas of prevention, legal assistance, investigations, prosecutions, reintegration and rehabilitation, and human rights protection.  We’re co-organizing with Nigeria the upcoming African Counter-Terrorism Summit.  We’re strengthening our work together on important peace initiatives, such as the Independent High-Level Panel on Security and Development in the Sahel.

And we’re tirelessly advocating for a new generation of robust peace-enforcement missions and counter-terrorism operations, led by the African Union with a Security Council mandate under Chapter VII and with guaranteed, predictable funding, namely through assessed contributions.  I urge Member States to support this vital work.

The eighth review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in June — co-facilitated by Canada and Tunisia — will be a critical opportunity to strengthen our work and find new ways to more effectively tackle structural conditions that create fertile ground for terror to spread.  It will also be a reminder that we need to place human rights at the centre of our efforts.

Terrorism represents the denial and destruction of human rights.  And so the fight against it will never succeed if we perpetuate the same denial and destruction.  Evidence shows that counter-terrorism efforts that are solely security-focused rather than human-rights based can inadvertently increase marginalization and exclusion and make the situation even worse.

The proposed New Agenda for Peace will set out a holistic and comprehensive approach to building more peaceful and stable societies in which terror and violent extremism have no home.  Through prevention, by addressing the economic and social conditions that can lead to terrorism in the first place.  Through inclusion, by ensuring that counter-terrorism strategies reflect the lived experiences of all communities and constituencies — especially minorities, women and young people.  And by always placing human rights and the rule of law at the core of all that we do.

At every step, we commit to upholding the essential rights and dignity of terrorism’s victims and survivors by supporting and helping to heal those who have been harmed and displaced.  It is in their names — and in the memory of those who have been killed by terrorism and violent extremism — that we will continue our work to end this scourge, once and for all.

Thank you to this Council and all Member States for standing with us in these essential efforts in Africa, and beyond.

For information media. Not an official record.