10 September 2002


Press Release


Almost a year to the day after the terrorist attacks on the United States, an expert report outlining new ways the United Nations can contribute to the international battle against terrorism has been released at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The report, prepared for Secretary-General Kofi Annan by a group of senior United Nations officials and outside experts, identifies the policy dimensions of terrorism for the United Nations, and offers a series of 31 recommendations on steps the Organization can take to further address the problem.

While counter-terrorist activities have been on the agenda of the United Nations almost since its inception, this report, by the United Nations Policy Working Group on the United Nations and Terrorism, aims to provide a strategic conceptual framework for future efforts.  It concentrates on areas where the United Nations has a comparative advantage over other entities, and aims to ensure the Organization adds value to, rather than duplicates, international efforts.

The Group argues that the United Nations must project a clear and principled message that terrorism, whatever the cause in whose name it is undertaken, is unacceptable and deserves universal condemnation.  It notes that terrorist acts constitute an assault on human rights.  But the report also makes clear that human rights must be respected in the fight against terrorism.  It warns that the United Nations should be wary of offering, or being perceived to be offering, a blanket endorsement of measures taken in the name of counter-terrorism, and that its efforts to reduce terrorism must not be at the expense of its core responsibilities.

The United Nations Policy Working Group on the United Nations and Terrorism is chaired by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast, and was established at the Secretary-General’s behest in October of 2001.  Secretary-General Kofi Annan will consider the report’s recommendations. 


The Working Group’s recommendations fall into three categories:  activities to dissuade groups from embracing terrorism (12 recommendations), activities to deny groups and individuals the means to carry out terrorist acts

(12 recommendations), and efforts to sustain a broad-based international cooperation in the struggle against terrorism (7 recommendations). 


Under the rubric of dissuasion, the Group identifies three broad areas of United Nations activity and has made 12 recommendations. 

The first area concerns international treaties and conventions against terrorism, which the United Nations has used to establish an international legal framework that makes both terrorism and support for terrorism illegal.  Amongst its recommendations to strengthen this regime, the Group proposes that the Organization stress to its Member States the importance of adhering to and implementing the 12 existing United Nations anti-terrorism conventions, particularly the 1999 Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. 

It also proposes that the Secretary-General call on States to supplement their anti-terrorist activities by signing and ratifying the Palermo Convention against transnational organized crime -– an international treaty that commits States to a range of measures for mutual legal assistance, extradition, law-enforcement cooperation and technical assistance to combat organized criminal activity that crosses national boundaries.

The second bundle of recommendations to dissuade terrorists focuses on ensuring that human rights are never derogated in efforts to overcome terrorism. Among those recommendations are a proposal that the United Nations publish a digest to guide governments and others on those elements of human rights law that have greatest application to counter-terrorist activities.

The third focus of dissuasion is the strengthening of non-legal norms against terrorism; that is, convincing communities that terrorist activities are unacceptable.  Amongst the report’s suggestions for strengthening non-legal norms are proposals for a series of public information and education activities by the United Nations aimed at spreading the anti-terrorism message, with a special focus on areas where populations have supported terrorism in the past.


At the centre of the United Nations work to deny terrorists the means to carry out terrorist acts is the work of the United Nations Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee -– a committee established in the wake of 11 September 2001 to implement the stringent prohibitions on funding and supporting terrorism established by Security Council resolution 1373.  The resolution was adopted unanimously on 28 September 2001.

The report recommends that the United Nations provide additional support to the Counter-Terrorism Committee.  It suggests the United Nations Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention consider drafting model legislation that could be used by States to incorporate Security Council resolution 1373 into their national laws.  Among other recommendations, the report proposes that the United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs consider producing an annual review of the potential use of weapons of mass destruction in terrorist acts, the results of

which could be made public, and that civilian police on United Nations peacekeeping missions receive training to identify and counter terrorist groups.


A variety of internal and external measures are proposed to enhance international cooperation against terrorism, including that the United Nations feature terrorism as a key agenda item at its annual high-level meeting with regional organizations.  The report calls for more coherence in the way the United Nations liaises with key non-United Nations bodies, including Interpol, and suggests the United Nations Department of Political Affairs be appointed the focal point for the Organization for political and strategic issues related to counter-terrorism.  It also proposes that discussions of anti-terrorism activities feature at the regular meetings at which senior staff coordinate activities across the entire United Nations system of agencies and programmes.

UN Policy Working Group on the United Nations and Terrorism

Other members of the Group are Hans Corell, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel; Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna; Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; Jayantha Dhanapala, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs; Michael Doyle, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General; Ibrahima Fall, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs; Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Special Assignments in Africa; Edward Luck, Director, Centre on International Organizations, Colombia University; David Malone, President, International Peace Academy; Edward Mortimer, Director of Communications, Office of the Secretary-General; Giandomenico Picco, Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations; Bertrand Ramcharan, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights; Michael Sheehan, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations; Danilo Türk, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs; and Brian Urquhart, former Under-Secretary-General.

The full text of the report of the United Nations Policy Working Group on the United Nations and Terrorism –- including all its recommendations -- can be found on the United Nations  Web site at http://www.un.org.terrorism/a57273.doc.

Further details about United Nations activities against terrorism can also be found at www.un.org/terrorism.  Information on the 12 United Nations anti-terrorism treaties can be found at untreaty.un.org/English/Terrorism.asp

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For information media. Not an official record.