16 February 2007
General Assembly
GA/10571

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Counter-Terrorism Briefing

PM Meeting


SECRETARY-GENERAL BRIEFS GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON GLOBAL COUNTER-TERRORISM STRATEGY,


SAYS ‘THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM IS OUR COMMON MISSION’

 


Counter-Terrorism Online Handbook Launched


“The fight against terrorism is our common mission,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this afternoon, as he briefed the General Assembly on progress in implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and unveiled a new tool -– the Counter-Terrorism Online Handbook -- in the world body’s efforts to fight terrorism.


Urging Member States to demonstrate that they were up to the task, he said the international community was challenged to do so by victims and survivors around the world.  It was also challenged by the people of communities and countries whose economies and well-being were damaged by the impact of terrorism.  “We cannot fail any of them,” he said.


With the march of technology outpacing efforts to stop it from strengthening the terrorists’ arsenal of destruction, the threat of terrorism continued to grow, he said.  Last September, the Assembly had taken a historic step forward by adopting the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  Never before had 192 countries agreed on an analysis of the threat of terrorism and come together to formulate a comprehensive collective response.  For the first time, Member States had resolved to take concrete actions to combat terrorism in a coordinated manner, at the national, regional and international levels, agreeing also that conditions existed that could be conducive to the spread of terrorism.


In the course of a few short months, the United Nations system had mobilized around the Strategy with vigour, he said.  Much of the work of the implementation had been shouldered by the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF).  Bringing together 24 United Nations entities across the United Nations system, the Task Force worked under mandates from the Assembly, the Security Council and various specialized agencies, funds and programmes.  Already the Task Force had developed a programme of work and had established working groups to carry forward a first set of initiatives to implement the Strategy.


Created by the Task Force to support joint efforts, the Counter-Terrorism Online Handbook provided Member States, regional organizations and United Nations country teams with a single, easily accessible tool for information on Task Force activities and resources, he said.  Just as the Strategy was a living document, the Handbook would be updated and expanded on an ongoing basis.  He urged Member States to take full advantage of the tool and of the numerous resources the United Nations had to offer in the effort to fight terrorism.


Describing the briefing as an opportunity to take stock of the Strategy’s implementation, Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain agreed that terrorism represented one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.  Countering it was a daunting challenge that could only be accomplished by working together.  Adopted last September by consensus, the Strategy was a unique document covering a range of issues relating to the fight against and protection from terrorist attacks.  Implementing the Strategy was a truly collective effort for which everyone bore responsibility.


Also briefing the Assembly, Richard Barrett, Coordinator of the Monitoring Team of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to 1267 (1999), noted that, when adopting the Strategy, the Assembly had emphasized the need to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.  While that was not an easy task, it needed to be a fundamental part of the response to terrorism at all levels.  The Task Force had taken full note of the importance of addressing conditions as a part of the Strategy.  While there were many common factors, the reason people became terrorists varied widely and most conditions were beyond the scope of any one State to address. 


When the Strategy was adopted, it was obvious that Member States had to react in a fast, efficient, effective and sustained manner to implement it, Jean-Paul Laborde, Chief of the Terrorism Prevention Branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said.  In meeting that challenge, Member States should be able to rely on adequate assistance, whenever required.  Technical assistance could not take place in a vacuum, but needed to be imbedded in and steered by an overall policy.  For that reason, the Task Force was exploring ways to facilitate multidimensional technical assistance needs.  The Handbook would allow people to access information about the various assistance providers and contact them as quickly as desired. 


In another briefing, Ngonlardge Mbaidjol, Director of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York, said that effective implementation of the Strategy must, at a minimum, include a commitment to addressing the conditions that were conducive to the spread of terrorism, while fostering the active participation of, and leadership by, civil society, condemning human rights violations and prohibiting them by law, and giving due attention to the rights of people whose human rights had been violated.  Promoting human rights legislation and supporting victims of both terrorist acts and counter-terrorism measures were two ways the United Nations system could pursue human rights.


Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security David Veness added that, in the context of the Strategy, the Assembly had encouraged the United Nations to work with Member States and relevant international, regional and subregional organizations to identify best practices to prevent terrorist attacks on especially vulnerable targets.  The risks were regrettably and regularly demonstrated by brutal terrorist attacks carried out in public places, religious venues and crowded areas.  Recognizing that no single Member State had the answer to all the challenges, the strategy of sharing best practices had been devised and an initiative to protect vulnerable targets advanced. 


Following the Secretary-General’s briefing, Robert Orr, Chairman of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, introduced the Online Handbook and provided a visual presentation.


The Assembly will meet again at a time to be announced.


Statements


Sheikha HAYA RASHED AL KHALIFA ( Bahrain), President of the General Assembly, said that terrorism represented one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.  Countering it was a daunting challenge that could only be accomplished by working together; otherwise, the threat could grow, affecting many more innocent people.  Last September the General Assembly adopted by consensus the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, a unique document covering a range of issues relating to the fight against and protection from terrorist attacks. 


She said that everyone realized the importance of the need for counter-terrorist measures to comply with international law, including the United Nations Charter and all international conventions and protocols.  The Strategy identified how the United Nations system could enhance State capacity to counter the threat from terrorism and reaffirmed the Assembly’s vital role in fighting its spread.  Today was an opportunity to take stock of the implementation of the Strategy.  The Strategy must be implemented by all parties:  Governments, United Nations agencies, the private sector and civil society.  That was a truly collective effort for which everyone bore responsibility.


United Nations Secretary-General BAN-KI MOON said terrorism hurt all nations and took its toll on human beings of every age and income, culture and religion.  It struck against everything the United Nations stood for.  “The fight against terrorism is our common mission,” he said.


With the march of technology outpacing efforts to stop it from strengthening the terrorists’ arsenal of destruction, the threat of terrorism continued to grow, he said.  The challenge before the international community was clear:  it needed to take collective and concerted action to prevent terrorism from posing an existential threat to humankind.  Last September, the Assembly had taken a historic step forward by adopting the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  Never before had 192 countries agreed on an analysis of the threat of terrorism and come together to formulate a comprehensive collective response.  By adopting the Strategy, the Assembly had reaffirmed its position as the United Nations primary deliberate body.


For the first time, Member States had resolved to take concrete actions to combat terrorism in a coordinated manner, at the national, regional and international levels, he said.  For the first time, they had agreed that conditions existed that could be conducive to the spread of terrorism.  They agreed that to defeat terrorism, it was necessary to take on those conditions.  They also agreed to take political, operational and legal measures to prevent and combat terrorism in all its forms, while strengthening the individual and collective capacity of States and the United Nations to do so.  Finally, they had agreed that protecting human rights and the rule of law was central to the fight against terrorism.


In the course of a few short months, the United Nations system had mobilized around the Strategy with vigour, he said.  Much of the work of the implementation had been shouldered by the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), whose institutionalization had been welcomed by Member States last September.  Bringing together 24 United Nations entities across the United Nations system, the Task Force worked under mandates from the General Assembly, the Security Council and various specialized agencies, funds and programmes.  Already the Task Force had developed a programme of work and had established working groups to carry forward a first set of initiatives to implement the Strategy, including assisting Member States in implementing the Strategy in an integrated manner, factoring counter-terrorism prevention into conflict prevention, providing a forum for addressing political and economic exclusion, enhancing technical assessment, delivery and follow-up and finding ways to meet international standards for countering financing of terrorism.


The last few months had shown how United Nations entities could accomplish far more by working together than on their own, he said.  “But let me be clear:  whatever we can do can succeed only if you, the Member States, take full ownership of the Strategy and its implementation -- within your countries as well as regionally and globally,” he said. 


To support joint efforts, the Task Force had created a Counter-Terrorism Online Handbook, he said.  The purpose was to give Member States, regional organizations and United Nations country teams a single, easily accessible tool for information on Task Force activities and resources.  Just as the Strategy was a living document, the Handbook would be updated and expanded on an ongoing basis.  He urged Member States to take full advantage of the tool and of the numerous resources the United Nations system had to offer in the effort to fight terrorism.


“Together, we must demonstrate that we are up to the task,” he said.  “Whether we like it or not, our generation will go down in history as one that was challenged to protect the world from terrorism.”  The international community was challenged to do so by victims and survivors in New York, Bali, Nairobi, Riyadh, Bombay, Casablanca, Istanbul, Dar Es Salaam, Beslan, London and Madrid –- where the trial of the 2004 bombings had just opened yesterday, reminding the world that the wounds of such an attack never fully healed.


The international community was also challenged by the people of communities and countries whose economies and well-being were damaged by the impact of terrorism, he said.  “We are challenged to do so by those who could become the vulnerable targets of the next attack.  We cannot fail any of them.  Let us unite in this mission,” he said.


ROBERT ORR, Chairman of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, gave a visual presentation introducing the Online Handbook, which was now up and running.  He explained how to access the Handbook and demonstrated several of its features, including searches by theme, geographic region and keyword.  He emphasized that the Handbook would continue to be updated.  Future enhancements could include mechanisms for adding information concerning regional and subregional organizations and for sharing best practices.  He encouraged Member States to provide feedback on the Handbook, in order to make it as user-friendly as possible.


RICHARD BARRETT, Coordinator of the Monitoring Team of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to 1267 (1999), said that, when adopting the Strategy last September, the General Assembly had emphasized the need to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.  While it was not an easy task, it needed to be a fundamental part of the response to terrorism at all levels, as called for by the Strategy.  The Plan of Action attached to the Strategy had a long list of factors that the Assembly considered as contributory to the spread of terrorism.  It also recognized that the list could not be considered exhaustive. 


He said the Task Force had taken full note of the importance of addressing conditions as a part of the Strategy.  The Task Force aimed to promote a system-wide approach to all elements of the Strategy and had examined a working group to address why the appeal of terrorism remained so pervasive.  While there were many common factors, the reason people became terrorists varied widely.  The subjectivity made it difficult to address the overall phenomenon, presenting the international community with a challenge.  Most conditions were beyond the scope of any one State to address.  Promoting dialogue had to go hand in hand with, among other things, better governance and social inclusion programmes, in particular for young people. 


He added that, in conjunction with regional and international bodies, the working group had begun by looking to see what work was at hand to identify key motivating factors common to terrorists and terrorist groups, with the overall goal of identifying where it could add value.  The working group would aim to bring together international, regional and national initiatives, and would promote the information exchange between States and regional organizations, especially concerning common issues.  It would also examine initiatives it might arrange under the United Nations to promote joint action. 


The Strategy recognized that international action was required at all levels to deal with the spread of terrorism, he said.  The working group sought to make best use of the United Nations resources to identify why some people became terrorists, helping the international community to find ways to reduce the chance of others from following in their footsteps.


JEAN-PAUL LABORDE, Chief of the Terrorism Prevention Branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said that, when the Strategy was adopted, it was obvious that Member States had to react in a fast, efficient, effective and sustained manner to implement it.  In meeting that challenge, Member States should be able to rely on adequate assistance, whenever required.  Consequently, delivering technical assistance effectively was equally essential.  In order to obtain the best results, technical assistance could not take place in a vacuum; it must be imbedded in and steered by an overall policy.  Policy implementation must be supported by technical assistance, especially capacity-building support.  Those actions must further be reinforced through monitoring and evaluation of the Strategy’s implementation.  Technical assistance must be delivered in a mutually reinforcing manner, reaching out to the various actors, such as criminal justice officials, law enforcement agencies, transport companies, the financial sector, victims and civil society at large.


For that reason, the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force was exploring ways to facilitate multidimensional technical assistance needs.  The Handbook was one of the tools that would allow people to reach all the necessary information about the various assistance providers of the Task Force and contact them as quickly as desired.  The Task Force had also initiated work on how to evaluate better technical assistance delivery.  A working group within the Task Force had been created to consider how to enhance the ability to support joint efforts.  All of that required strong support, as well as the active involvement of all stakeholders.  The Strategy was a powerful shared tool to address one of the major current threats.  While it was obviously the responsibility of Member States to implement the Strategy, the Task Force would help countries to make the best possible use of that tool.


DAVID VENESS, Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security, noted that, in the context of the Global Strategy, the General Assembly had encouraged the United Nations to work with Member States and relevant international, regional and subregional organizations to identify best practices to prevent terrorist attacks on especially vulnerable targets.  Interpol had been invited to work with the Secretary-General, so that proposals could be submitted to that effect.  The Assembly had also recognized the importance of developing public and private partnerships in that area.  The risks were regrettably and regularly demonstrated by brutal terrorist attacks carried out in public places, religious venues and crowded areas.  The impact of the attacks was global, resulting in death and injury. 


Recognizing that no single Member State had the answer to all the challenges, and that some might value information and assistance, the strategy of sharing best practices had been devised, he said.  In that regard, an initiative to protect vulnerable targets had been advanced.  Bringing together a number of bodies, the focus of working group activities was to reduce the risks of death and harm to innocent civilians. 


Continuing, he said the working group had developed three priority themes, namely a mechanism for the collection and exchange of global best practices, a structured approach to research on techniques and practices and specific consideration of the additional vulnerability of civilians caught in conflict and disaster.  The working group was exploring options to encompass public and private partnerships.  In pursuing its work, the working group placed a high premium on cooperation and information from Member States.  That support was essential to reduce harm and save lives.


NGONLARDGE MBAIDJOL, Director, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York, said that effective implementation of the Strategy would require effective measures to combat terrorism, as well as the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law.  At a minimum, it must include a commitment to:  addressing the conditions that were conducive to the spread of terrorism, while fostering the active participation of, and leadership by, civil society; condemning human rights violations and prohibiting them by law; and giving due attention to the rights of people whose human rights had been violated. 


He said that, with the Task Force, the United Nations was well-placed to assist in implementing the Strategy.  The working group on victims of terrorism had recently proposed a full-day event to galvanize support for counter-terrorism efforts among Member States and others by highlighting the plight of victims and giving them an important forum to voice their needs. 


He said that the Strategy affirmed the United Nations role in strengthening the legal architecture by promoting the rule of law, respect for rights and the criminal justice system in countering terrorism.  The working group on protecting human rights would help provide technical assistance to Member States.  Promoting human rights legislation and supporting victims of both terrorist acts and counter-terrorism measures were two ways the United Nations system could pursue human rights.


In closing remarks, General Assembly President Sheikha HAYA said Member States would have an opportunity to exchange views in the future.  She would consult Member States on how best to proceed in that regard.  While striving to implement the Strategy, Members were also duty bound to continue efforts to finalize the comprehensive convention on international terrorism as soon as possible.  The Ad Hoc Committee had concluded its session yesterday.  She was encouraged by the positive spirit displayed by delegations on progress made during the session on issues concerning the convention.  Member States must remain steadfast in their commitment to finalize the convention.  The Assembly would provide the international community with a legal instrument that would enhance efforts in countering the threat of terrorism and making the world a safer place for all.


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