5 September 2008


5 September 2008
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



By adopting the global Strategy to fight terrorism two years ago, the General Assembly had shown its willingness and ability to take collective and practical action on a daunting, complex and politically sensitive global challenge, Assembly President Srgjan Kerim told correspondents today, at a press conference held in conjunction with the first review meeting of the action plan being held at Headquarters.

Joined by the Chairman of the Counter-Terrorism Strategy Implementation Task Force, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning Robert Orr, Mr. Kerim said, to put it bluntly, the Assembly had been able to rise above differences and endless debates, and agree on what needed to be done and what was doable.  The current two-day review -- and the resolution to be adopted at its conclusion -- demonstrated that Member States were not only recommitted to the Strategy’s principles and action points, but that they wanted to forge ahead with implementation of the Strategy.  The active participation of Member States demonstrated that the Strategy was important to their counter-terrorism efforts.

He added that the Strategy was not just in and of itself important, but an integrated component of the full Assembly agenda.  When it considered such topics as fostering the dialogue among cultures, advancing the Millennium Development Goals or promoting human security, those questions were also considered in the light of questions related to the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.

The debate so far had demonstrated that Member States had responded to the request to provide concrete examples of implementation, either through ratification and implementation into domestic laws of international conventions, conclusion of anti-terrorism documents at the regional level, hundreds of training seminars and cooperation projects on capacity-building, technical assistance, descriptions of measures that had strengthened border controls, banking systems, and law enforcement or intelligence sharing.  A framework of national, bilateral, regional and global initiatives had been described and it was exactly what the Assembly had called for in the Strategy.

Also, he said, the resolution would request the United Nations entities to continue to facilitate the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, while reminding that all measures to fight terrorism must be in compliance with international law, in particular with human rights and refugee law, as well as international humanitarian law.  The adoption of the resolution had particular meaning, because it provided for follow-up and continued involvement of the Assembly in the counter-terrorism Strategy.

Throughout the sixty-second session of the Assembly, he added, the Implementation Task Force had worked closely with the Assembly and Member States to prepare the review meeting and to set up a mechanism within the United Nations that would allow for a continuous and relentless flow of efforts in dealing with counter-terrorism efforts in the United Nations, which was a top priority.

Mr. Orr told reporters that the Assembly President had summarized precisely the reason why implementation of the Strategy had been made such a priority.  Often with the adoption of a high-profile strategy, there was a tendency to let events go on auto-pilot.  But, with the President making the issue a priority, he had ensured that the Counter-Terrorism Strategy had not taken that direction.  States had remained seized of the matter and had consequently deepened the Strategy in that way.

The United Nations had come a long way in its work on terrorism in the two years since the Strategy had been adopted, he said.  Prior to its adoption, there had been good resolutions on the matter and some concrete activities, but there had not been a comprehensive approach on fighting terrorism that was universally accepted.  The challenge in a good document like the Strategy was in the fact of seeing it implemented in detail and as broadly as possible.  In the Assembly, countries were reporting on how much they had done.  The Strategy had mobilized efforts at the national level, where most counter-terrorism activities took place.

At the international level of the United Nations, he said the Task Force was now working with 24 United Nations entities on counter-terrorism.  Only a handful worked on the issue full-time, which was an indication of how anti-terrorism could be mainstreamed into other areas such as human rights, which had an impact on counter-terrorism outcomes.  Harnessing the system together had been a continual process over the past two years and significant progress had been made in subgroups of the Task Force and in the Task Force as a whole.

Asked about how the upcoming symposium on victims of terrorism had been organized and funded, Mr. Orr said that funding for the event had been solicited from all Member States and four had supplied funding.  The door was still open to others who might want to attend.  Funding was welcome from the General Assembly on all aspects of the Strategy.  There was a big, bold Strategy, but no funding decisions by the Assembly, so voluntary funding had to be sought for implementation.  No part of the process could in any way be considered non-transparent.  In response to a follow-up question, he added that the victims who would attend the symposium would be a globally representative group of victims of terrorism.

Responding to another question, Mr. Kerim said the strength of the Strategy lay in a consensual, unified approach to fighting terrorism.  Terrorism had not stopped or gone away, but there was consensus on measures for dealing with it.

Mr. Orr added that the emphasis was on the fact that the Strategy was a framework that would continue to evolve, through review processes.  The tremendous impact of the Strategy was that it had integrated previously diverse views on an approach.  Before the Strategy, some nations had emphasized the need to address root causes of terrorism and others had called for mechanisms to stop the flow of funding of terrorists.  Now, all countries talked about all aspects of an approach to terrorism through the four pillars of the Strategy.

Asked about the sticking points in articulating a definition of terrorism so that agreement could be reached on a comprehensive convention, Mr. Kerim said States were very intent on not creating any further obstacles in their individual efforts to fight global terrorism.  The continued lack of success in articulating that definition did not reflect negatively on the consensus reached on the Strategy.

Mr. Orr added that States had “parked” the issues involved in the definition when they adopted the Strategy, saying they could go forward on the challenge without a definition.  Real steps had been needed to address a concrete problem and States had put aside their ideological differences to accomplish it.  Of course, agreement on a definition of terrorism would help in the battle against the phenomenon and maybe States would be energized enough by the review to agree on one.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.