4 September 2008


4 September 2008
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York




Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to themeeting of the General Assembly on the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in New York, today, 4 September:

Terrorism is heinous and insidious.  It seeks to break spirits, to tear apart communities, to suffocate hope.

Terrorism is deeply personal.  It kills our sons, daughters and mothers, our fathers, sisters and brothers.  But we cannot let it destroy our families, including our United Nations family -- staff members who are targeted as they feed the poor, protect the weak and empower the downtrodden.

On 18 December in Algiers, I saw with my own eyes the devastation left by the attack on our offices.  I saw the horror in the eyes of survivors and the families of those killed.  And I witnessed the bravery of those who went to the site immediately after the bo


mbing and dug in the rubble with their bare hands, hoping to save their colleagues and friends.

I was overwhelmed and overcome by emotion.  I will never forget the tears I shed with everyone that day.  I brought back with me many searing impressions and memories.  The flag that had flown outside our Algiers offices, now tattered and torn from the blast, is on display at our Geneva headquarters.  And of course, the flag from the Canal Hotel in Baghdad hangs in the Visitors’ Lobby here in New York.  Both serve as emblems of our determination to reinvigorate our efforts to counter the scourge of terrorism.

Two years ago, the General Assembly of the United Nations took a courageous step and boldly, with unanimous voice, said “no more”.  One hundred and ninety-two Member States said we can, we must and we will do more to protect our citizens, and do it together.  Transcending geographic, political, cultural and religious divides, Member States drafted and adopted the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  It is this historic document whose implementation we review today.

Since the Strategy’s adoption, the commitment of the Member States has not wavered.  Instead, it has strengthened and deepened.  We have made much progress.

Two years ago, the effort to improve United Nations system coordination and coherence on counter-terrorism was still new.  Today, United Nations entities are working together on a regular basis.  Moreover, United Nations actors beyond those with explicit counter-terrorism-related mandates have become acutely conscious of the contributions that their efforts can and must bring to the fight.

We have come a long way, but we cannot stop now.  We must intensify our efforts to implement the Strategy across the board.  This is not a choice; it is a fundamental duty.

We must be strategic, proactive and realistic.  We must be guided by, and comply with, our obligations under international law, in particular human rights law, refugee law and international humanitarian law.  By including these imperatives in the Strategy, you have created a comprehensive and forward-looking document.

As you know, the Strategy embodies a broad call to action.  International, national, regional, subregional and civil society actors all have roles to play.  But Member States must be the key drivers.  National-level action is critical.  States have proven extremely effective at marshalling the expertise and efforts needed to prevent and respond to terrorism.  At the same time, national efforts alone are not sufficient.  Not all States have the same capacities.  And of course, terrorism is a global, cross-border challenge.  Multilateral cooperation is vital.  This is precisely why the United Nations, and more specifically the General Assembly, our universal body, is so deeply involved.

Today, I urge you to take multilateral counter-terrorism cooperation even further.  Our action should be guided by three main principles.

First, we must be innovative in developing our tools.  We must not shy away from non-traditional approaches to promoting security.  Recent research has found that military force is rarely responsible for bringing an end to terrorist groups.  In the majority of cases, other factors, such as police work or the adoption of non-violent political means, have proved more effective.  Thus, as you have already noted in your draft resolution, multilateral counter-terrorism cooperation should be undertaken in an integrated manner, across the four pillars of the Strategy and across the necessary range of actors.  We are developing this capacity within the United Nations system through the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force.  Our aim is to offer to interested Member States the full range of United Nations support in a user-friendly manner.  This is the next big step in the United Nations system’s efforts on behalf of the Strategy.

Second, multilateral counter-terrorism efforts must be done in partnership with regional and subregional organizations and with civil society.  Both the United Nations system and Member States can do better in this regard by sharing information about the Strategy at all levels.  When we meet in the future to review implementation of the Strategy, United Nations field staff and national officials from all relevant ministries should join our discussion and share their experiences with us.

Third, counter-terrorism efforts at the international level should leverage our comparative strengths.  Much of the capacity and resources for counter-terrorism are found at the bilateral level.  But bilateral actions may be insufficient to face the immensity of the needs and circumstances.  The collective approach of the United Nations and the legitimacy of the Strategy give multilateral efforts a great advantage that we should maximize.

As we review our progress in the implementation of the Strategy, let us not forget that we are looking back in order to move forward.  Where there have been gains, let us build on them.  If there are frustrations, let us do more than vent.  Let us not only review, but also recommit ourselves to implementation.

And let me be clear:  when I say “let us”, I do not exclude myself.  Counter-terrorism has been among my top priorities as Secretary-General.  Just as you gather here today to renew your commitment to the Strategy, so do I.  Towards that end, I have been striving to institutionalize the Counter-Terrorism Task Force within the Secretariat.  I will also convene, next week, here in New York, a symposium on supporting victims of terrorism.  I invite you all to participate and contribute.

It is precisely the victims of terrorism who remind us why we must further develop multilateral counter-terrorism cooperation and capacity.  When we see pictures of steel contorted by a terrorist bomb, or worse, the mangled body of a child, it should remind us why political, religious and cultural differences must never drive a wedge between our shared commitment to end terrorism in all its forms, everywhere.  As we are constantly and tragically reminded, the urgent need for which the Strategy was created has not faded.  The Strategy was crafted, not as an end in itself, but as a tool with which to fight an all-too-present plague.  Let us together make its implementation an effort that outlasts our days at the United Nations.

In this spirit, I wish you a most productive meeting.

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