Despite the international community's efforts to stop terrorism and stem the flow of foreign fighters joining the terrorist organization that calls itself the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the number of fighters has more than doubled in a year and a half. It is estimated that over 30,000 individuals from over 100 countries-more than half of all of the United Nations Member States-have joined the ranks of ISIL as foreign terrorist fighters.
Nothing can ever justify an act of terrorism. No religious pretext can ever excuse violent methods. At the same time, we will never be able to defeat terrorism long term unless we address conditions conducive to its spread. Several Security Council resolutions pertaining to the most serious threats to international peace and security generally, and to terrorism specifically, have underlined this, inter alia, in Security Council resolutions 1963 (2010), and 2129 (2013). The first pillar of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (A/RES/60/288) also resolves to address conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. More recently, the Secretary-General's Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (A/70/674) elaborates on what some of these conditions may be: lack of socioeconomic opportunities; marginalization and discrimination; poor governance, violations of human rights and the rule of law; prolonged and unresolved conflicts; and radicalization in prisons.
In September 2015, the world's leaders agreed to the next generation of development-related goals, and on 1 January 2016, the 17 ambitious global objectives that collectively go by the name of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into effect. Crucial in their own right as a means to galvanize the international community's efforts to tackle serious development-related challenges ahead, the SDGs can also directly and indirectly help our efforts to counter terrorism by addressing conditions conducive to its spread.
The first of the 17 SDGs aims to "end poverty in all its forms everywhere." Extreme poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 1990. While this is a remarkable achievement, one in five people in developing countries still live on less than US $1.25 a day, and millions more make just above this daily amount. Poverty is more than the lack of income and resources to ensure a sustainable livelihood. It also takes the form of hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as the lack of opportunities to participate in decision-making. Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality.
SDG 4 aims to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and to promote lifelong learning. Obtaining a quality education is the foundation for improving lives and sustainable development. Major progress has been made towards increasing access to education at all levels, as well as increasing enrolment rates in schools, particularly for women and girls. Basic literacy skills have improved tremendously, although continued efforts are needed to make even greater strides towards achieving universal education goals. A concrete example would be to extend equality in primary education between girls and boys to all levels of education in all countries.
SDG 5 is focused upon achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. Today, women and girls still suffer discrimination and violence in every part of the world. Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, it is a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.
SDG 8 prescribes the promotion of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all. Not only does nearly half of the world's population still live on the equivalent of about US $2 a day, but in too many places having a job does not guarantee the ability to escape poverty. A continued lack of decent work opportunities and insufficient investments remain serious issues, whereas the creation of quality jobs will present a major challenge for almost all economies for years to come.
SDG 10 aims to reduce inequality within and among countries. The international community has made significant strides towards lifting people out of poverty. Inequality still persists, however, with large disparities remaining in terms of access to health and education services, among others.
Finally, SDG 16 is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels. Targets for this goal include the promotion of the rule of law at the national and international level, and the assurance of equal access to justice for all. This goal also aims to significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets, and combat all forms of organized crime; to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory, and representative decision-making at all levels; to guarantee public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms; and to strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime.
The SDGs, or the 2030 Agenda, as this plan of action is referred to, constitute an opportunity to bring countries and citizens of the world together to embark on a new path to improve the lives of people everywhere. As such, it is both broad and ambitious. At the same time, it presents a unique chance for Member States and the United Nations to seriously address conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. Together, through persistent action and by delivering on our commitments, we can effectively achieve a secure, prosperous and sustainable world. In my capacity as Chair of the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee, established by resolution 1373 after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 against the United States, I urge all parties to seize this opportunity.