Sixth Committee (Legal) — 68th session

Measures to eliminate international terrorism (Agenda item 110)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/68/100)

This item was included in the agenda of the twenty-seventh session of the General Assembly, in 1972, further to an initiative of the Secretary-General (A/8791 and Add.1 and Add.1/Corr.1). At that session, the Assembly decided to establish the Ad Hoc Committee on International Terrorism, consisting of 35 members (resolution 3034 (XXVII)).

The General Assembly considered the item biennially at its thirty-fourth to forty-eighth sessions, and annually thereafter (resolutions 34/14536/10938/13040/6142/15944/2946/5149/6050/5351/210, 52/164,52/16553/10854/11055/15856/8857/2758/8159/4660/4361/4062/7163/129, 64/118, 65/34 and decision 48/411).

At its fifty-first session, the General Assembly established an Ad Hoc Committee to elaborate an international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings and, subsequently, an international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism, to supplement related existing international instruments, and thereafter to address means of further developing a comprehensive legal framework of conventions dealing with international terrorism (resolution 51/210). Through the work of the Committee, the Assembly has thus far adopted three counter-terrorism instruments. The Committee is currently engaged in discussions on the elaboration of a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

At its sixty-seventh session, the General Assembly decided to recommend that the Sixth Committee, at the sixty-eighth session of the Assembly, establish a working group with a view to finalizing the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and continuing to discuss the item included in its agenda by resolution 54/110 concerning the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations. The Assembly also decided that the Ad Hoc Committee should, on an expedited basis, continue to elaborate the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and continue to discuss the item included in its agenda by resolution 54/110 concerning the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations. The Assembly further decided that the Ad Hoc Committee should meet in 2013 in order to fulfil this mandate and that its future meetings should be decided upon subject to substantive progress in its work (resolution 67/99).

The Ad Hoc Committee met at the United Nations Headquarters from 8 - 12 April 2013 (A/68/37).

Consideration at the sixty-eighth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th 19th and 28th meetings, on 7, 8, 9 and 30 October and on 8 November 2013 (see A/C.6/68/SR.2-5, 19 and 28). For its consideration of the item, the Committee had before it the Report of the Secretary-General on measures to eliminate international terrorism (A/68/180) and the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996 (A/68/37).

Statements were made by the representatives of Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)), Egypt (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)), Australia (on behalf of Canada, New Zealand and Australia (CANZ)), Cuba (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)), the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), the Russian Federation (on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)), Tajikistan (on behalf of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)), the European Union, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Pakistan, Mexico, China, Senegal, Belarus, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Japan, South Africa, Colombia, Chile, the Russian Federation, the Sudan, Turkey, Qatar, Norway, the United Republic of Tanzania, Malaysia, Maldives, Nicaragua, Libya, Cuba, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, the United States of America, Viet Nam, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, the Philippines, Egypt (on behalf of the African Group), Iraq, Serbia, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Kenya, Nigeria, the Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Bangladesh, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Algeria, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Morocco, India, Uganda, Yemen, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kuwait, Eritrea, Uruguay, Thailand, Myanmar, Israel, Mongolia, Lebanon, Monaco, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Rwanda, Montenegro, Mauritania and Indonesia. The representative of Iran (Islamic Republic of) made a statement in the exercise of the right of reply.

The Vice-Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee established by resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996 introduced the report of the Ad Hoc Committee (A/68/37).

In their general statements, delegations reiterated their firm condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, as well as their commitment to contribute to the international fight against terrorism. In that regard, it was underlined that no cause could justify terrorism. Some delegations also stressed that terrorism should not be associated with any religion, culture, ethnicity, race, nationality or civilization. Terrorism was described by delegations as a flagrant violation of international law and a grave threat to international peace and security. Further, it was noted that terrorist attacks affected all States, and that no population was immune. The negative effects of terrorist acts, including the erosion of law and order, the destabilization of structures of governance and the negative impact on economic growth were also highlighted. It was also stated that any actions taken to counter-terrorism must accord with the Charter of the United Nations and international law, including human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, as well as the respect for the rule of law and due process.

States that had not yet done so were called upon to ratify or accede to the universal and regional instruments to counter terrorism. It was also expressed that the international legal regime to counter terrorism must continue to evolve in order to take account of the sophistication of the terrorist threat.

Delegations supported the continued development of the overall normative framework to counter terrorism. The importance of implementing international obligations and building capacity at the national level was identified as a key aspect of strengthening the international legal framework to counter terrorism.  Assistance from international and regional organizations in this regard was welcomed.  Some delegations pointed to the need for a clear definition of terrorism and echoed the importance of distinguishing it from the exercise of the right to self-determination of peoples under foreign occupation, colonial or alien domination. In this connection, several delegations made reference to General Assembly resolution 46/51 of 9 December 1991.

Delegations noted that the international community had made significant achievements in the fight against international terrorism; it was also recognized, however, that more work was required given the persistence and complexity of the problem.  In this regard, recent attacks, such as those in Nairobi, Kenya and in Peshawar, Pakistan, were deplored and it was suggested that such acts should motivate the Committee to make substantive progress in its consideration of the item. An increased focus on counter-terrorism efforts in the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes region and the Sahel was also identified as a priority.

The proliferation of small arms and light weapons, the persistence of conflicts, the effects of piracy and the lack of good governance were described as challenges that must be overcome to successfully counter terrorism. It was also asserted that safe havens for terrorists must be eradicated. At the same time, it was pointed out that the effort to counter terrorism should not be used as an excuse to intervene in the internal affairs of States in contravention of the Charter of the United Nations. Concern was also expressed over the unilateral imposition of sanctions as a means to counter terrorism.

Delegations reiterated the importance of cooperating through international, regional and sub-regional arrangements in the efforts to combat terrorism.  The provision of technical assistance and capacity-building, in particular for developing countries, was again mentioned as an area requiring improvement.

Delegations underscored the central role of the United Nations in counter-terrorism efforts and reiterated their support for the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, calling for its full implementation in a transparent and comprehensive manner.  It was suggested that a recommitment to addressing the conditions conducive to terrorism could provide dividends in the effort to counter terrorism within the framework of the Strategy.  It was also suggested that the fourth biennial review of the Strategy in 2014 could serve as an important opportunity to reinvigorate international efforts to counter terrorism. It was further suggested that increased preparatory work prior to the review of the Strategy could contribute to better substantive progress during the review session itself.

Delegations also welcomed the efforts of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) and called for it to strengthen its role in capacity-building and coordination. The CTITF was encouraged to enhance its activities aimed at the balanced implementation of the four pillars of the Strategy, affording each pillar equal attention, and to do so in full cooperation with and with the participation of States. While welcoming the coordinating and assistance role of the United Nations, some delegations also reaffirmed the primary responsibility of States in the implementation of the Strategy. The integral role of regional and sub-regional organizations was also highlighted. The importance of adequate funding for the CTITF was also expressed.

Some delegations also welcomed the work of the Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) and the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED). Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) was recognized by delegations as a central instrument in the fight against international terrorism. Delegations called for continued and coordinated efforts to combat international terrorism through these bodies.

The role of the CTITF and CTED in identifying gaps in the counter-terrorism strategies of States was also welcomed. The I-ACT initiative was also referenced as an example of what could be achieved through coordinated multilateral action.

Some delegations also welcomed the continued work of the United Nations Centre for Counter-Terrorism to foster international cooperation and to strengthen the Organization’s capacity-building efforts within the framework of the Strategy. Delegations emphasized the importance of supporting the Centre so that it could realize its potential and highlighted the need for clearer working methods on its various projects. Efforts taken to support the work of the Centre through financial contributions and capacity-building were recognized and welcomed. 

The continuing focused work of the Security Council in countering terrorism, as well as the improvements made by the Council in the implementation of its sanctions regimes, was again generally welcomed. In this regard, references were made to the sanctions imposed against Al-Qaida, the Taliban and associated individuals and entities. Some delegations also highlighted the importance of the 1540 (2004) Committee in countering the threat of terrorists and other non-State actors from gaining access to nuclear, radiological and biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery. The necessity of addressing the threat of nuclear terrorism was also specifically identified as an important element in the comprehensive effort to counter terrorism.

The Council was also encouraged to continue to improve its working methods with regard to sanctions to ensure that its sanctions regimes were independent, fair and impartial; and that its decisions were transparent and taken in accordance with due process standards. The case law of international courts on the issue was also recognized. The strengthened role of the Ombudsperson, whose mandate was renewed in December 2012, was also supported. Some delegations called for greater involvement of designating States in delisting decisions. 

Support was also expressed for the proposed creation of a United Nations Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, which would enhance the coherence and coordination of United Nations counter-terrorism efforts. 

A number of delegations stressed the importance of multilayered approaches to countering terrorism. The development of public-private partnerships was also identified as a means to effectively counter terrorism within the general framework of the Strategy.  The importance of tailoring the Strategy for its implementation in specific regional, sub-regional or national contexts was also expressed. Collaborative training exercises held between governments, international organizations and regional groups were also identified as important elements in preparing the international community to address the terrorist threat.

Some speakers highlighted the role played by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and in particular the Terrorism Prevention Branch, in capacity building, promoting the universal ratification of international counter-terrorism instruments and identifying best practices. Delegations also welcomed recent joint efforts on the part of CTED and UNODC to assist States in developing techniques to investigate and prosecute terrorist acts. The importance of prosecuting individuals suspected of terrorism, in general, was also expressed. It was stated that such prosecutions were vital in the effort to punish those responsible for terrorism and that they also served to prevent subsequent terrorist acts. The need for increased specialized legal training on counter-terrorism was also identified as an area for further action.  References were also made to the role of the specialized agencies in this area.  

Delegations described the on-going efforts of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and emphasized the benefits of its flexible and informal format.  Reference was also made to regional and sub-regional initiatives, such as the ASEAN Comprehensive Plan of Action on Counter Terrorism, the ASEAN Regional Forum on Counter-Terrorism, the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure, the OAS Inter-American Terrorism Task Force, as well as counter-terrorism initiatives of the CSTO and SAARC.

Several delegations stressed that the fight against terrorism should include proper support and protection for victims of terrorist attacks. Reference was made to the important role victims could play in countering violent extremism. In the same vein, the important work of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism was recalled. The issue of witness protection was also highlighted as an area for further development.

Several delegations noted that long-term prevention was critical in the fight against terrorism, and should be pursued in parallel with short-term efforts to investigate, prosecute and punish terrorism.  Support was expressed for addressing the root causes of terrorism as part of a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy. In this regard, a number of conditions conducive to the emergence and spread of terrorism were highlighted, including poverty, unemployment, civil unrest and lack of education. Particular reference was also made to efforts to address socio-economic disparities, particularly the eradication of poverty and increasing access to education.

Delegations also expressed the view that increased efforts should be made to support local communities, the private sector, civil society and the media to create greater awareness about terrorism and to build capacity to address the threat.  The importance of creating partnerships between law enforcement and security agencies and local communities was also highlighted, as was the necessity of preventing undue harm against civilians in efforts to counter terrorism. Delegations underscored the importance of greater exchanges of information between law enforcement agencies. 

The need to address incitement of terrorism was also underlined by some delegations, as was as the importance of countering the use of information and communication technologies to spread extremist ideology. The resulting threat of home-grown terrorism and self-radicalization among young persons were also identified as vital issues for consideration by the international community.

Several delegations underscored the importance of inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue and interaction. The view was expressed that such approaches would broaden mutual understanding, foster a culture of tolerance and reintegrate extremists into society.  Attention was also drawn to the necessity of further work concerning countering radicalization and extremism, including through educational initiatives and forums for interreligious and intercultural dialogue such as the Alliance of Civilizations.

Cyber-terrorism was also highlighted as a matter of international concern requiring concerted action and dialogue.

Suicide attacks were identified as a persistent problem requiring continued attention and study.  It was asserted that approaches taken thus far to eradicate such attacks had not been successful.  Rape and other forms of sexual abuse were also referenced as instruments of terrorizing civilian populations in conflict zones that must be addressed.

A number of delegations also underlined the pernicious role that money laundering played in supporting terrorist activity. Several delegations reiterated that the payment of ransoms to terrorist groups constituted one of the main sources of the financing of terrorism and was a matter of grave concern for the international community. Several delegations also noted the increase in incidents of kidnapping and hostage-taking with the aim of raising funds for terrorist purposes.  Support was expressed for cooperation and action in this area, including on the legal and financial aspects of the issue. All Member States were urged to cooperate in banning the payment of ransoms to terrorist groups.  

Some delegations highlighted the importance of cooperating with international partners, including the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), in order to leverage expertise and technical assistance to prevent money laundering and the transmission of funds to terrorist actors; the new methodology of the FATF for assessing compliance, as well as the stronger emphasis on effective implementation rather than technical compliance, were also welcomed.

Attention was drawn to the possible acquisition by terrorists of weapons of mass destruction, as well as the close links between terrorism and transnational organized crime. The collective need to interdict and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was emphasized.  The Proliferation Security Initiative was referenced as an important mechanism in this regard. The establishment by INTERPOL of a global piracy database, as well as the efforts of the United Nations Trust Fund for the Fight against Piracy were also welcomed. The recently concluded Arms Trade Treaty was also identified as an important development to address the illicit spread of small arms and light weapons. Conversely, the regional spread of weapons from conflict zones was identified as a development that could increase terrorist activity. 

Some delegations also called on States to enhance border and transportation security, in particular through the monitoring of the movement of dual-use items and ensuring the safety and security of ports and shipping facilities.

Several delegations reiterated the importance of the conclusion of the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, noting the recent negotiations in the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly Resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996.  Recalling the numerous prior successes of the Ad Hoc Committee in developing sectoral terrorism conventions, a number of delegations stressed that the transnational aspects of terrorism called for a collective, international response, and that the adoption of a comprehensive international terrorism convention would contribute substantially to the strengthening of the international legal framework on terrorism. 

A number of delegations welcomed the efforts of the Ad Hoc Committee to resolve the outstanding issues relating to the draft comprehensive convention, noting that since 2000 the negotiations had focused on the question of a definition of terrorism.

It was recalled that three options were considered by the Ad Hoc Committee at its sixteenth session, namely, (a) the adoption of the proposal made by the Coordinator at the 2007 session of the Ad Hoc Committee, (b) the preparation of a consolidated text comprising all proposals relating to the unresolved issues and agreeing to suspend negotiations until the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly, and (c) the abandonment of negotiations on the comprehensive convention. Noting that the Ad Hoc Committee had agreed on the second option and that formal negotiations would be suspended until 2014, several delegations encouraged Member States to use the pause to garner the requisite political will to overcome the existing differences.  Some delegations expressed frustration, however, that the negotiations remained at an impasse and that more progress had not been achieved in the Ad Hoc Committee. It was also noted that the postponement of further negotiations until the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly was indicative of the substantial challenges that remained. States were urged to show flexibility in order to bring the negotiations to a close, though it was also emphasized that work on the draft convention should be guided by the principle of consensus.  The consolidated set of draft articles appended to the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee was highlighted as a useful reference point when formal negotiations resumed. 

A number of delegations reiterated their support for the proposal made by the Coordinator at the 2007 session of the Ad Hoc Committee and considered that it constituted a viable compromise solution. Some other delegations also recalled their preference for earlier proposals relating to the scope of the convention, stressing the need for a clear legal definition of terrorism, which distinguished terrorism from the legitimate struggle of peoples in the exercise of their right to self-determination from foreign occupation or colonial domination.  The view was also reiterated that the draft convention should address all forms of terrorism, including State terrorism, and that it should cover those acts by armed forces that are not covered by, or are not in conformity with, international humanitarian law.  A number of delegations underscored that any legal framework for combating terrorism must comply with existing international law, including international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law. 

On the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations, some delegations reiterated their support for the proposal, indicating that such a conference would serve as an important way forward. According to another view, discussions on the proper forum for work on outstanding issues should be secondary to efforts to garner the political will to resolve the substantive disagreements which remain.  It was also stressed that the convening of a conference should not be linked to the conclusion of the draft convention.

In order to adapt the working methods of the Sixth Committee to new realities and priorities, it was suggested once more that the Committee should consider the agenda item of “Measures to eliminate international terrorism” on a biennial basis, alternating with the biennial review by the General Assembly of the United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 19th meeting, on 30 October, the representative of Canada, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Measures to eliminate international terrorism” (A/C.6/68/L.13).

At its 28th meeting, on 8 November, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/68/L.13 without a vote. At the same meeting, the representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Cuba and Nicaragua made statements in explanation of position after the adoption of the draft resolution (see A/C.6/68/SR.28).

Under the terms of the draft resolution, the General Assembly would, inter alia, decide, taking into account the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Committee that more time was required to achieve substantive progress on the outstanding issues, to recommend that the Sixth Committee, at the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly, establish a working group with a view to finalizing the process on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism as well as discussions on the item included in its agenda by Assembly resolution 54/110 concerning the question of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations.  It would also encourage all Member States to redouble their efforts during the intersessional period towards resolving any outstanding issues.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-ninth session (2014).


Quick Links

Key Documents