CTED making an effort on border control in the Sahel and Maghreb region
Effective border control is key to the effective implementation of counter-terrorism measures pursuant to Security Council resolution 1373 (2001). As it is often said, border control is the first line of defence against the movement of terrorists across borders and the illegal cross-border movement of goods and cargo.
But it is easy said than done when it comes to the situation in the Sahel and the Maghreb region. Issues and problems are complex and intertwined in particular against the new trends and challenges of terrorist activities in that part of the world. Over the past years, the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) has been able to conduct a number of assessment visits to States in the region and in this regard has acquired first-hand experience on the ground.
It is under such circumstances that CTED decided to elaborate an initiative to facilitate the organization of annual meetings of border-control officials of Member States of the Sahel and the Maghreb aimed at strengthening border control cooperation in the region and implementation of relevant provisions of resolution 1373 (2001). The first annual meeting took place in Nouakchott, Islamic Republic of Mauritania, from 13 to 15 May 2014. The meeting was funded by the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) of the Counter-terrorism Implementation task Force (CTITF) Office and is a direct follow-up action to the March 2013 CTED - UNCCT/CTITF Conference on Border-Control cooperation in the Sahel and the Maghreb.
The event received a handsome turnout: participants from the 11 States of the Sahel and the Maghreb were invited to come and got engaged in a lively and heated discussion on border-control challenges and gaps which were common to all States of the region, as well as search for the proper ways and means to maximize the use of available resources and strengthen cooperation both within and among States of the region. What were worth noticing were the parallel roundtables for police, customs and intelligence officials, in which the border police discussed cooperation and sharing of good counter-terrorism practices in the region and heard case studies presented by Mauritania and Niger on the management of lengthy desert borders and border regions. The customs roundtable included a presentation by Tunisia on policies and lessons learned in controlling cash couriers and the physical cross-border transport of cash and bearer negotiable instruments, as well as a presentation by Morocco on risk assessment related to travellers at the Airport of Casablanca. Mali also make a presentation on lessons learned with respect to terrorist recruitment and coordination within the framework of its current security crisis. International organizations specialised in border matters, such as WCO, INTERPOL, ICAO, IOM, CAERT and the UFL, also added their voices in sharing the expertise and knowhow, as well as tools and schemes on effective management of border control.
The impressive scene is that States in the region were able to discuss among themselves external and internal terrorism threats and the corresponding challenges in the context of controlling vast and porous borders, particularly land borders in the desert, maritime and air borders. Such challenges related to lack of financial and human resources; lack of technology, databases and specialist skills; and the general lack of intra-State and inter-State cooperation. Meanwhile States were also able to share good practices (e.g., in mounting rapid responses to cross-border terrorist attacks, including crime-scene preservation, and in conducting joint border patrols), as well as their experience of military involvement in border management, including in designated military zones. Participants stressed the importance of involving (trans-) border communities in the management of borders in the fight against terrorism and the importance of doing so in a clandestine manner.
CTED, being part of the exercise, also chaired and moderated four plenary sessions, and co-facilitated the customs and intelligence network roundtables. CTED also took the opportunity to engage with representatives of participating Member States and organizations concerning current and planned projects, activities, and areas of potential cooperation, including follow-up to the Rabat conference.
It is believed that effective border control do require unremitting collective endeavours of States and organizations with both strong political commitment and sufficient means and resources. It is seen as part of any comprehensive and integrated national counter-terrorism strategy, pursuant to Security Council resolution 1963 (2010). Therefore the game is not over: the participants welcomed such opportunity and expressed the need to hold such meetings on an annual basis.