Threats to International Peace and Security caused by Terrorist Acts: International Cooperation in Combating Terrorism 20 Years After Adoption of Resolution 1373 (2001) - Security Council Open VTC

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12-Jan-2021 02:29:58
20 years after adopting landmark anti-terrorism resolution, Security Council resolves to strengthen international response against heinous acts, in Presidential Statement.

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Marking the twentieth anniversary of the landmark anti-terrorism resolution adopted in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, the Security Council today renewed its determination to further strengthen the unified and coordinated international response against those heinous acts.

Acting under a temporary silence procedure induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, Tunisia, Council President for January, issued a presidential statement (document S/PRST/2021/1), in which the 15-member organ reaffirmed that terrorism in all forms and manifestations continues to constitute one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.

Reiterating the obligations of Member States to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorism, the Council highlighted the need to enhance cooperation among its various relevant committees and develop effective partnerships among the United Nations, regional and subregional organizations in countering terrorism.

Recognizing the significant challenges many Member States face in countering terrorism and violent extremism, the Council underscored the importance of a whole‑of-government and whole-of-society approach, as well as cooperation with all relevant stakeholders, particularly civil society, encouraging the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and youth in this process. It expressed solidarity with countries that have suffered terrorist attacks and its support for the survivors and victims of terrorist violence, including sexual and gender-based violence.

Further, the Council expressed its concern over the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes, stressing the need for Member States to act cooperatively when taking national measures to prevent terrorists from exploiting technology and communications for their acts.

The Council also reaffirmed that Member States must ensure that any counter‑terrorism measures comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law, noting that failure to do so contributes to increased radicalization to violence and fosters a sense of impunity. Also expressed was the Council’s concern that foreign terrorist fighters increase the intensity, duration and intractability of conflicts and may pose a serious threat to their States of origin, transit and destination.

Underscoring the importance of strong coordination and cooperation between the Counter-Terrorism Committee and its Executive Directorate (CTED) and the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, the Council further underlined those entities’ invaluable aid to Member States through technical assistance and identifying capacity gaps to implement resolution 1373 (2001) and relevant subsequent texts.

In the ensuing videoconference meeting, briefers and delegates assessed the implementation of resolution 1373 (2001) on counter-terrorism, which set out various measures for Member States and established the Counter-Terrorism Committee, a subsidiary body of the Security Council.

Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, said that, since the Council bolstered the fight against the threat posed by terrorism to international peace and security by rapidly adopting resolution 1373 (2001) and thus establishing the Counter-Terrorism Committee in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, the threat of terrorism has persisted, evolved and spread, causing unspeakable human suffering and loss. Al-Qaida has proven resilient despite the loss of numerous leaders; it pioneered a dangerous transnational model of regional franchises exploiting local fragilities and conflicts. Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) was able to harness social media to mobilize and recruit followers worldwide, creating a foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon of an unprecedented scale.

“In the face of these threats, this Council has provided critical impetus and guidance for Member States to demonstrate unity of purpose and action, stepping up national efforts and international cooperation,” he said. This has led to important successes, helping Member States to bring terrorists to justice and to disrupt more attacks. ISIL’s territorial aspirations in Iraq and Syria were defeated, although it remains a threat in the region. Terrorists have sought to exploit disruptions arising from COVID-19, he warned, attempting to benefit from the setbacks to the development and human rights agendas, riding on the wavetops of polarization and hate speech amplified by the pandemic. The threat has become even more difficult to prevent, with low-cost, low-tech attacks against soft targets by so-called lone wolves. “Terrorists are adapting quickly, keen to exploit cyberspace and new technologies, linkages with organized crime, as well as regulatory, human and technical gaps in national capacities,” he said, noting that their tactics are appealing to new groups across the ideological spectrum, including racially, ethnically and politically motivated violent extremist groups.

As a multilateral way forward to effectively prevent and defeat terrorism, he outlined key measures needed, including: international solidarity through practical collaboration and impactful capacity-building; law enforcement and criminal justice responses, as mandated by the Council, to detect, deter and bring terrorists to justice; a renewed commitment to address the underlying conditions and drivers of terrorism that enable it to sustain and spread; a strategic investment in building resilience to terrorism; and engaging more with youth, civil society, the private sector and the scientific community in the fight against the scourge. Public-private partnerships are vital in this regard.

Since 2001, the Council has built upon resolution 1373 (2001) to develop a comprehensive set of measures and guidance for Member States to prevent and counter terrorism, taking on new issues and strengthening attention to international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, he said. Concurrently, supporting Member States’ efforts to implement these requirements has grown as a matter of priority for the United Nations system, guided also by the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy since 2006. “Today, we are more coherent and coordinated than ever in providing this support, thanks to the reform of the counter-terrorism architecture initiated by the Secretary-General in 2017,” he said, citing flagship programmes on countering terrorist travel and financing, and on prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of former combatants.

Michèle Coninsx, Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, called the adoption of resolution 1373 (2001) “a seminal moment” when the international community acknowledged the severity of the threat posed by transnational terrorism. Over the subsequent two decades, the United Nations has been at the centre of multilateral efforts to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

“We must continue to remember and honour all victims and survivors of terrorism; promote their rights and needs; and provide them with avenues for healing through justice and support,” she said. In adopting resolution 1373 (2001), the Council established the Counter‑Terrorism Committee to monitor, promote and facilitate States’ implementation of its provisions. Noting that the Committee Executive Directorate was established by resolution 1535 (2004), she said it is charged with assessing States’ implementation of counter-terrorism measures, facilitating the delivery of technical assistance and analysing trends. Its mandate — expanded by more than 20 other Council resolutions — is underpinned by a human-rights‑compliant and gender-sensitive framework.

She described the evolution of the terrorist threat over the last two decades, citing the “dramatic” rise of ISIL/Da’esh, its defeat as a territory‑holding entity and its destructive legacy, which has seen the emergence of affiliates in South Asia, South-East Asia, the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin and in Southern and Eastern Africa. Countering use of the Internet by terrorist groups for recruitment, financing and planning purposes will likewise remain a priority.

Touching on lessons learned, she said the introduction by some States of overly broad domestic counter-terrorism legislation has led to overreach by authorities, human rights violations and suppression of dissent. “We must ensure that future counter-terrorism policies respect the rule of law and are both human‑rights-compliant and gender‑sensitive,” she said, urging States to instead engage all sections of society — including religious, community and women leaders, educators, youth and social workers — in the development of counter-terrorism strategies. They should ensure implementation of national plans and seek to address underlying grievances. She went on to advocate for a “One UN” approach to assist States in developing and implementing effective counter-terrorism measures, while also addressing conditions conducive to terrorism and violent extremism.

Fatima Akilu, Executive Director, Neem Foundation, said her involvement in counter‑terrorism and countering violent extremism — first as part of Government and now as part of civil society — gives her a unique vantage point to survey the landscape. When she established the Neem Foundation in 2016, her team designed and implemented a reintegration programme for people leaving Boko Haram, a trauma‑based programme to address the psychological impact of the insurgency, early warning mechanisms to spot signs of radicalization and a reintegration programme for defectors.

To truly combat terrorism, however, Member States and civil society must cooperate, she said, noting that, while the United Nations recognizes the importance of partnering with civil society, this approach is not always applied by Member States. “When Member States and civil society come together, we have the very best chance of combating terrorism in the long term,” she underscored. Outlining examples, she said the Neem Foundation is working with the Multinational Task Force in the Lake Chad Basin and the Lake Chad Basin Commission to devise a strategic action plan to counter Boko Haram. She also touched on the African Union and the Lake Chad Basin Commission partnership — through the Regional Strategy for the Stabilization, Recovery and Resilience of the Boko Haram Affected Areas — to screen, prosecute, rehabilitate and reintegrate terrorist suspects. The Lake Chad Basin Commission also partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in setting up the first regional platform for civil society groups to work with Governments in devising rehabilitation and reintegration plans.

She went on to stress that women and girls have been disproportionately affected by insurgency and conflict. They are often subjected to gender-based violence at the hands of insurgents and community members alike — sometimes even caregivers. For many women in rural or poor urban communities, where there is often an absence of governance, the only services they receive are from civil society groups. Governments can work with these organizations to identify victims and ensure access to services are expanded for them. “As a current member of civil society, I believe that we are a critical source of expertise, capacity‑building, local knowledge” she said, adding: “We are in a unique position to advise Governments, while providing an evidence base for their policies.” If invited, civil society groups can help build State capacity to prevent terrorism in the areas of negotiation, rehabilitation, reintegration, services for women and girls, as well as adherence to human right norms.

After the briefings, Council members took the floor.

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