Deputy Secretary-General, at High-level Briefing, Stresses Attention to ‘Weak Spots’ in Protecting Security of Traveller Documents against Terrorism

25 April 2014

Deputy Secretary-General, at High-level Briefing, Stresses Attention to ‘Weak Spots’ in Protecting Security of Traveller Documents against Terrorism

25 April 2014
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General, at High-level Briefing, Stresses Attention to ‘Weak Spots’

In Protecting Security of Traveller Documents against Terrorism

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks to the high-level open briefing of the Counter-Terrorism Committee on “Security of Traveller Identification and Traveller Documents in Preventing Terrorism”, in New York today:

On behalf of the Secretary-General, I wish to begin by thanking Ambassador [Raimonda] Murmokaitė and the Counter-Terrorism Committee for organizing this important open briefing, namely on two of the most serious challenges we face today, terrorism and organized crime.

I would also like to extend a warm welcome to United Nations Headquarters, and to New York, to the Secretaries-General of INTERPOL [International Criminal Police Organization] and ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization], the Executive Director of UNODC [United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime] and the Head of CTED [Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate].  I think this gathering of good forces from all directions is what we need to do in United Nations work.  The vertical, the silo method does not work any more.  We need to think more horizontally, and this panel reflects that.

The United Nations condemns terrorism in the strongest terms, in all its abhorrent forms and all its abhorrent manifestations.  Your presence here today demonstrates the importance which the United Nations places on jointly — and I underline jointly — tackling the threat of terrorism.  This we can do not least by addressing the topics of today’s discussions, so well presented by the Chair: misuse of travel documents, traveller identification and travel document security.

Let me make first some more general remarks.  Despite efforts on both the national and international levels, terrorist activity continues unabated and indiscriminately in many parts of the world.  It is being fuelled by extremist narratives and extremist ideologies.  It often takes root in societies plagued by conflict, by socioeconomic marginalization, by political exclusion and grave violations of human rights.  Extremist ideas continue to attract vulnerable people, not least young people, to terrorist groups and franchises — from the Sahel to the Arabian peninsula and beyond.  Such ideas also continue to drive individuals to commit horrifyingly violent acts, as we see daily these days.  This brutalization risks turning into threats to international peace and security.  I think this relation to the Security Council is a sign of this.  It undermines the rule of law, threatening human rights and jeopardizing the social and economic development of Member States.

But let us be absolutely clear.  Poverty, discrimination and exclusion can never, never justify violent acts.   But I would claim effective deterrence must be coupled with development programmes, as well as with promotion of tolerance and inclusion.  In confronting the scourge of terrorism, we must be resolute and unified.  We must also ensure that our responses comply with our normative frameworks, including human rights, refugee law and international humanitarian law.  We must develop comprehensive strategies and clear operational measures, combating both the symptoms and the causes of terrorism.  States must work together and share good practices in their own enlightened self-interest.  This, as you well know, is the approach called for by the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by Member States in September 2006, and if I may add on a personal note, in a decision which I had the honour to gavel as then President of the General Assembly on that day in September 2006.

One of the key areas requiring this concerted, international approach I tried to sketch now is the misuse of travel documents.  And in this room I need not go into detail.  But let us recognize that terrorist groups and other international criminal organizations are exploiting weaknesses in the security of travel documents in numerous ways.  They do so by using stolen or lost travel documents, by altering legitimate travel documents, by counterfeiting or fraudulently acquiring such documents.  This helps them cross international borders to carry out acts of terrorism, engage in human trafficking, smuggle arms and drugs, or commit other crimes, often without being detected or apprehended.

To prevent the violence, instability and loss of life stemming from the cross-border movement of terrorists, it is critical that we address these weak spots and vulnerabilities in our societies.  This is also required by the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and also by relevant Security Council resolutions.  Member States have become increasingly aware of the need to use the very good tools developed by INTERPOL and by ICAO.  Together we must do much more to keep pace with the determined criminal organizations and individuals we are facing in today’s world.

Terrorists are certainly not lacking resources — I would say that is an understatement — and are certainly constantly on the move.  We must be constantly vigilant, determined and innovative in our responses.  We must intensify our efforts to close the gaps and loopholes exploited by terrorists.  We need to foster multilateral cooperation and trust.  The United Nations stands ready to provide technical assistance to States with capacity constraints and needs.

These are daunting and extremely serious challenges.  But let me in closing say that they are not insurmountable if we act with the necessary resolve and sense of political urgency.  Let us go to work jointly and effectively with courage — we need a lot of courage — and vigorous determination.

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