Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorist Acts: Linkage of Counter-terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime - Security Council Open VTC

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06-Aug-2020 02:05:21
Briefing Security Council on linkages between terrorism, organized crime, Executive Director notes greater efforts needed in cross-border cooperation.

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Collective responses to counter-terrorism and organized crime are needed now more than ever before, as the COVID-19 pandemic poses new challenges to vulnerable States, United Nations officials told the Security Council in a video conference meeting on 6 August.

Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said that, during the pandemic, national authorities may see organized criminal groups and terrorists seeking to capitalize on and exploit new vulnerabilities. Transit patterns are shifting in view of travel restrictions and lockdown measures, adding further challenges for border security. Presenting findings of the Secretary-General’s latest report on actions taken by Member States and United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact entities to address linkages between terrorism and organized crime (document S/2020/754), she highlighted key points, including measures taken by more than 50 Member States and United Nations agencies and recommendations for action going forward. Member States had emphasized a range of adopted measures, including ratifying relevant legal instruments, fighting money-laundering, terrorist financing and corruption by strengthening financial intelligence units and strengthening border security and international coordination by collecting and analysing passenger data.

Outlining recommendations in the report, she said Member States indicated that more efforts were needed in cross-border cooperation, including through regional platforms, bilateral information‑sharing agreements and the exchange of law enforcement liaison officers. Several areas were identified for intensified action to fully respond to resolution 2482 (2019) and to further develop and disseminate the good practices reported by Member States, including such steps as strengthening land, air and sea border security through data collection tools, control systems and enhanced coordination. The report also focused on the importance of measures targeting specific links between terrorism and organized crime, for example, between drug trafficking and terrorism financing, while highlighting the need for more research to better understand the nature of these linkages and the vulnerabilities of different sectors to exploitation. As part of the Global Compact, UNODC remains committed to leveraging its experience and expertise on organized crime and terrorism, she said.

Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, provided an overview of the first Virtual Counter-Terrorism Week on the theme “strategic and practical challenges of countering terrorism in a global pandemic environment”. Noting that more than 1,000 people participated, including representatives of 134 Member States, 88 civil society and private sector organizations, 47 international and regional organizations and 40 United Nations entities, he said discussions demonstrated a shared understanding and concern among Member States that terrorists are generating funds from illicit trafficking in drugs, goods, natural resources and antiquities, alongside kidnapping for ransom, extortion and other heinous crimes. Speakers highlighted a significant rise in cybercrime in recent months, with a 350 per cent increase in phishing websites in the first quarter of 2020, with attacks primarily on hospital and health-care systems, hindering their vital work in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers also noted the importance of ensuring that efforts to address the nexus between terrorism and organized crime are proportionate to the threat and fully respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. These views will feed into a postponed second, in-person counter-terrorism week in 2021, which will coincide with the seventh biennial review of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

The world has yet to fully understand the impact and consequences of the pandemic on global peace and security, and more specifically on organized crime and terrorism, he continued. Terrorists are exploiting the significant disruption and economic hardships caused by COVID-19 to spread fear, hate and division and radicalize and recruit new followers. The increase in Internet usage and cybercrime during the pandemic further compounds the problem. The Secretary-General’s report includes several examples of how the Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact entities are providing capacity-building support and technical assistance to Member States. Highlighting some of his office’s joint efforts with partners, he said initiatives include assisting Member States in such areas as counter-financing of terrorism, helping to develop a project with partners to enhance criminal justice responses to stop trafficking of small arms and light weapons, and leading the United Nations Countering Terrorist Travel Programme, with 36 nations now formally participating. His office also helps Member States to manage violent extremist prisoners, a crucial element in addressing the nexus between terrorism and organized crime, and supporting efforts to prevent these groups from gaining access to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials and dual use equipment, including through the “darknet”. While resolution 2482 (2019) emphasizes the need for cooperation for a global response, more work needs to be done to study how these linkages evolve. Member States are rightly focused on tackling the health emergency and human crisis caused by COVID-19, which has the potential to act as a catalyst in the spread of terrorism and violent extremism by exacerbating inequalities, undermining social cohesion and fuelling local conflicts. “We must continue our fight against terrorist groups and criminal networks to deny them the opportunity to exploit the COVID-19 crisis,” he said. “Collective action and international cooperation are needed now more than ever.”

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