New Counter-Terrorism Office to Build Partnership with Member States on Countering Transnational Threats, Secretary-General Tells General Assembly

SG/SM/18453-GA/11891
22 February 2017

New Counter-Terrorism Office to Build Partnership with Member States on Countering Transnational Threats, Secretary-General Tells General Assembly

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres remarks to the General Assembly on the informal suggestion to create a new office for counter-terrorism, in New York today:

Mr. President, let me begin by thanking you for your valuable support in convening this informal meeting.

I also want to thank all of you for your flexibility and understanding.  We had initially intended to meet two weeks ago — but Mother Nature intervened.  The snow is now gone — and it is good to be with all of you today.

Allow me to begin with a little context.  Today’s discussion is part of a broader effort to reach out and engage with the General Assembly on three areas of reform [that] I have mentioned in my December address.

First, the peace and security strategy, operational setup and architecture — giving adequate priority to prevention and sustaining peace.

Second, reform of the United Nations development system — improving coordination and accountability to better support Member States in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Third, management reform — to simplify procedures and decentralize decisions, with transparency and accountability.  To Member States, to ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] and in general to the General Assembly.

In areas that fall under my authority, I am already working to advance progress.  For example, I have established in the Secretariat an executive committee to assist me in taking decisions on issues of strategic consequence across all pillars of our work, and a new policy to ensure protection of whistle-blowers was already approved.

We are working to establish a clear road map with benchmarks to achieve gender parity across the system.

I hope to come to you soon on proposals to take special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.

I thank you for coming together today to focus on making progress on the urgent challenge of counter-terrorism.

As you are aware, paragraph 70 of resolution 70/291 requested that I prepare a report with the following three substantive elements.

First, to review the capability of the United Nations system to assist Member States, upon their request, in implementing the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in a balanced manner.  Second, it asks for suggestions to strengthen United Nations system capability.  Third, it requests suggestions on improving the mobilization of resources for capacity-building projects and strengthening cooperation with international and regional organization.

Today’s meeting is an opportunity to informally exchange views on the way forward, and in particular, with regard to my suggestion that was circulated to all Member States by the President of the General Assembly.

I strongly believe that a transparent and inclusive process will be critical to improving the efficiency of our actions and structure.  And it is that spirit in which I join you today.

We are all appalled by barbaric acts and atrocities committed by terrorist groups.  Recent attacks around the world show how widespread the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism have now become.  At the same time, terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any nationality, culture, religion or ethnic group.

The interconnected nature of today’s crises and the impact of violent extremism and terrorism touch upon many aspects of our work.  The Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by the General Assembly in 2006 rests on four pillars:  pillar one, measures to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; pillar two, measures to prevent and combat terrorism; pillar three, measures to build States’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the United Nations system in this regard; and pillar four, measures to facilitate the promotion and protection of human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis of the fight against terrorism.

Preventing Violent Extremism fits in the overall United Nations prevention framework and derives specifically from Pillars I and IV.

To seek more efficiency, coordination and coherence of United Nations counter-terrorism efforts — as well as step up capacity-building assistance to Member States — I am pleased to present a specific suggestion for your consideration.  I will briefly introduce this proposal and ask Under-Secretary-General [Jeffrey] Feltman to provide a more detailed presentation.

The United Nations’ counter-terrorism work is currently focused on three activities:

First, assessment and analysis undertaken by the Security Council-mandated secretariat bodies.  This includes the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate — or CTED — and the ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant]/AQMT [Al-Qaida Monitoring Team] Monitoring Team.

Second, coordination and coherence, primarily undertaken by the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) Office in DPA [Department of Political Affairs] and through its 12 Thematic Inter-Agency Working Groups in priority areas of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

Third, capacity-building undertaken by [the] United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) together with other CTITF entities — such as UNODC [United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime] and OHCHR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights] — in collaboration with United Nations country teams.

My informal suggestion is the following:  To move the CTITF Office and the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre out of the Department of Political Affairs and create a new office for counter-terrorism.  This office would be headed by a new Under-Secretary-General (USG).

I might recall that the only objective is to improve efficiency — not to change the different mandates in the field of counter-terrorism.  This new office would not have supervisory responsibilities over CTED, or other Security Council subsidiary bodies.  It would report through me to the General Assembly.  CTED will continue to provide gap analysis and reporting to the Security Council.

The five main functions of the new USG and office would be:  First, to provide leadership on the counter-terrorism mandates entrusted to me from across the United Nations system; second, to enhance coordination and coherence across the 38 CTITF entities to ensure the balanced implementation of the four pillars of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Strategy; third, to strengthen the delivery of United Nations counter-terrorism capacity-building assistance to Member States; fourth, to improve visibility, advocacy and resource mobilization for United Nations counter-terrorism efforts.

And finally, to ensure that due priority is given to counter-terrorism across the United Nations system and to see that the important work on Preventing Violent Extremism is firmly rooted in the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

I want to be clear.  This suggestion for a new office for counter-terrorism will not impinge upon the national sovereignty of any Member State.  Any activities of the new office would be in support of and upon the request of Member States, who have the primary responsibility to implement the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

This new office is not about interfering or intervening.  Our aim is to build a new partnership with Member States on countering the transnational threat of terrorism which needs to be addressed urgently.

I look forward to hearing your views as well as your subsequent written submissions within the next two weeks.  Your perspectives will be taken into account in my report.  This report will review the United Nations’ capabilities, identify strengths, weaknesses and gaps.  The report is due by May.  I intend to issue it as soon as possible.

I will be working closely with the President of the General Assembly to continue this consultative approach.

Of course, the suggestions contained in the report will also require the engagement of the Fifth Committee and the ACABQ [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions].

I hope that through this reform effort — and with the support of the General Assembly — we can together boost our impact in responding to the growing needs of Member States and regional organizations for support in implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in a balanced and comprehensive manner.

You have my full commitment to work with you in a transparent and inclusive manner to ensure the credibility and effectiveness of the United Nations’ counter-terrorism efforts.

Once again, I look forward to your views on this important effort.

For information media. Not an official record.