General Assembly Actions to Counter Terrorism

In the past years Member States have advanced their counter-terrorism work through the General Assembly on both, the legal and the operational tracks. The Assembly's norm-setting work has been marked by recent successes in adopting conventions aimed at suppressing terrorism financing, bombings and access to nuclear material. Member States work to strengthen coordination on practical actions to counter terrorism culminated in the recent adoption of the first ever Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

View of the General AssemblyThe General Assembly has focused on terrorism as an international problem since 1972. In the 1970s and 1980s it addressed the problem through resolutions. During this period the General Assembly also adopted two counter-terrorism related conventions: the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons in 1973 and the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages in 1979.

It was in December 1994 that the Assembly once again redirected attention to the issue of terrorism through a Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism. A supplement to this Declaration established an Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism in 1996. Since the adoption of this Declaration the Assembly has been addressing the terrorism issue consistently.

In recent years, in the framework of the Assembly's Ad Hoc Committee (on terrorism) as well as the Working Group of the Sixth Committee, considerable progress has been made in the elaboration of international instruments. Since 1997, Member States have completed work on three specific counter-terrorism instruments, covering specific types of terrorist activities: the 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

Currently, Member States are negotiating a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism. The convention would complement the existing framework of international anti-terrorism instruments.

Only through strong political will, and by implementation and delivery, can we realize our hopes of a world free of terrorism (…). This requires multi-national efforts that go beyond traditional and localized approaches. No nation, acting alone, no matter how powerful it is, can prevent every threat from being carried out.

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the 66th General Assembly in remarks at the third biennial review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, 28 June 2012

World leaders at the 2005 September Summit unequivocally condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes. Building on this historic platform, the Summit also requested Member States to work through the General Assembly and adopt a counter-terrorism strategy - based on recommendations from the Secretary-General - that would promote comprehensive, coordinated and consistent responses at the national, regional and international level to counter terrorism.

Acting on those recommendations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan submitted to the General Assembly an elaborate set of recommendations in a report on 2 May 2006. Those recommendations formed the initial basis of a series of consultations by Member States that lead to the adoption of a global counter-terrorism strategy for the United Nations. The strategy is in the form of a resolution (A/RES/60/288) with an annexed plan of action. With this strategy the General Assembly has concretely reaffirmed and enhanced its role in countering terrorism. The strategy also calls for the Assembly to monitor implementation and to review and update the strategy. The first review was held in September 2008.

Member States held further reviews of the Strategy in September 2010 and, more recently, in June 2012 to share experiences and good practices in addressing the threat of terrorism. In its latest report on the activities of the UN system in implementing the strategy, the Secretary-General noted that five years after the adoption of the Strategy good progress had been made in its implementation. He also underscored the necessity to continue to develop national and regional Strategy implementation plans to maximize the comprehensive nature of the Strategy as well as the UN system’s coherent support to it.

As terrorist threats remain high in many regions of the world, countering the appeal of terrorism has emerged as a priority. Ahead of the third review of the Strategy, the President of the General Assembly hosted a symposium on promoting dialogue, understanding and countering the appeal of terrorism on 27 June 2012, in New York. The meeting focused on dialogue and understanding as key elements of the UN strategic approach to countering the appeal of terrorism.

Following the third biennial review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy on 28-29 June 2012, the General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution renewing its unwavering commitment to strengthening international cooperation to prevent and combat all forms of terrorism. Member States also emphasized the need to promote worldwide solidarity in support of the victims of terrorist acts and highlighted the role that they can play in countering the appeal of terrorism.