Speakers Reject Terrorism Link with Any Specific Religion, Culture, Nationality
Speakers in the Security Council this morning called for a stronger strategic partnership between the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on peace and security, particularly in relation to countering extremist ideology.
The relationship between the two organizations was invaluable, given the magnitude and complexity of global challenges, Miroslav Jenca, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said during a meeting that also heard from OIC Assistant Secretary General Hameed Opeleyeru and Columbia University professor Souleymane Bachir Diagne.
Mr. Opeloyeru described OIC and United Nations objectives as broadly similar, both organizations being devoted to the cause of international peace, security and development. The OIC was a natural partner of the United Nations in countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism. Having adopted the Convention on Combating International Terrorism in 1999, the OIC had been among the first to formulate a clear and principled position against terrorism, he pointed out.
Among many such initiatives, he continued, the OIC was developing narratives to counter extremist ideologies by elevating credible and authentic religious voices supporting tolerance and non-violence. It had established the Centre for Dialogue, Peace and Understanding for that purpose and to expose the reality of terrorist groups claiming to belong to the Islamic faith. The OIC looked forward to further engagement with the United Nations in addressing the immediate and future challenges facing the Muslim world, he added.
Mr. Diagne cautioned that, in the sound and fury of the violence unleashed in the name of religion, one might lose sight of the fact that it had its roots in the promotion of human values. He said the promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue must focus on the universal values that made human coexistence possible, including respect for universal human rights. Describing pluralism as a cornerstone in the promotion of peaceful coexistence, he said it was the authentic response to extreme violence. The OIC and the United Nations had a shared belief in advocating the unity of the human community and full respect for pluralism, he said, pointing out that Islamic texts also evoked pluralism. A core principle of Islam was that humankind was the lieutenant of God on earth and should therefore ensure the continual renewal of Creation, he emphasized.
Following those briefings, Council members affirmed the importance of enhancing United Nations-OIC cooperation in conflict prevention and counter-extremism, as well as the need for a comprehensive global counter-terrorism strategy supported by all regional partners. In that regard, most speakers stressed the importance of fighting terrorism, not only through security efforts, but also through development initiatives, conflict-resolution measures and the dissemination of voices challenging extremist ideology, including prominent religious voices.
Speakers including the representatives of Angola, Uruguay and Malaysia encouraged the OIC to enhance efforts to promote tolerance within its various member States and around the world. In that regard, France’s representative highlighted the importance of all fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression. Many speakers underlined the importance of ensuring that terrorism was not associated with any one religion.
Underlining that there could be no differentiating between “good” and “bad” terrorists, the Russian Federation’s representative said it was important to prevent terrorism by eliminating radicalism. Anti-terrorism efforts must be built upon the solid foundation of international law, he said, adding that attention must be paid not only to the military threat, but also to underlying causes, including conflict.
The representative of the United States suggested the appointment of a dedicated counter-terrorism coordinator to liaise with the OIC and other partners, in order to enhance cooperation in that field between the OIC and the United Nations.
Also speaking were representatives of Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom, China, Venezuela, Egypt, Uruguay, Japan, Malaysia, France, New Zealand and Senegal.
According to a concept note prepared by the Senegalese presidency (document S/2016/965), the OIC is mindful that fighting terrorism requires a comprehensive and inclusive approach that takes realities on the ground into account. The United Nations and the OIC have worked closely to restore peace and security in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Darfur/the Sudan, Libya, Mali, Somalia and Yemen. They have also worked together on reconstruction and development in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sierra Leone and Somalia, the note states.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:33 p.m.
HAMEED OPELOYERU, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that body’s goals and objectives and those of the United Nations were broadly similar because both organizations were devoted to the cause of international peace, security and development. The OIC and the United Nations had engaged in successful bilateral coordination and exchanges, and based on its firm belief in the critical role played by international organizations, it had also built close cooperative relations with other regional and subregional organizations. The OIC was a natural partner of the United Nations in countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism, and had continually been at the forefront in that fight. Having adopted the Convention on Combating International Terrorism in 1999, the OIC had been among the first to formulate a clear and principled position against terrorism, he said.
The OIC viewed the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy as a viable guideline for Member States in countering terrorism, he said, noting that it had organized, jointly with the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED), a workshop in 2013, and was now organizing a second one. In addition, discussions were under way with the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) on how to promote implementation of the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. One of the projects under consideration was a high-level event on the prevention of youth radicalization in the Middle East, he said. The first step in countering radicalization was to deprive terrorist groups of legitimacy in the eyes of the people they exploited by repudiating the very arguments they used to justify their criminal acts. The OIC was developing counter-narratives by elevating credible and authentic religious voices supporting tolerance and non-violence.
He went on to state that, among other efforts, the OIC had established a Centre for Dialogue, Peace and Understanding which aimed to debunk extremist narratives through counter-messaging over social media outlets and the production of videos and animations exposing the reality about terrorist groups claiming to be Islamic. The OIC, as one of the leading inter-governmental organizations in the area of South-South cooperation, had developed strong partnerships with United Nations entities engaged in promoting peacebuilding and conflict prevention in its 57 member States. In a rapidly changing world, strengthening cooperation between the OIC and the United Nations would both promote multilateralism and boost international collective security mechanisms, he emphasized. The OIC had played an important role in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts, in promoting post-conflict reconstruction and in defusing humanitarian crises in its member States, and had also been active in combating violent extremism and terrorism. It looked forward to further engagement with the United Nations in addressing immediate and future challenges facing the Muslim world, he said.
MIROSLAV JENCA, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said the magnitude and complexity of current challenges were too great for any one organization alone, adding that the Secretary-General welcomed the OIC’s valuable support in a wide range of United Nations initiatives, particularly in the areas of conflict prevention and implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The United Nations had been working with the OIC for many years and the Department of Political Affairs had recently stepped up efforts to enhance that relationship. To be sure, there were challenges in the relationship, he said, emphasizing that the best way to harmonize goals and practices was to maintain direct contact between the leaders of the two organizations.
He went on to note that the respective Secretaries-General of the two organizations had met during General Assembly sessions and on many other occasions. They held general cooperation meetings every two years, and the last one had taken place in May 2016. He described the cooperation between the two entities in the areas of mediation and election assistance, peace and security, economic cooperation and humanitarian issues; OIC activities in favour of a two-State solution to the question of Palestine; as well as conflict settlement and humanitarian assistance in Yemen, Afghanistan, Sudan, Mali and others. He called for further enhancement of the relationship between the United Nations and the OIC with the aim of fostering peace, respect for human rights and better opportunities for people in all regions of the world.
SOULEYMANE BACHIR DIAGNE, Professor and Chair, Department of French and Romance Philology and of Philosophy, Columbia University, cautioned that, in the sound and fury of the violence unleashed in the name or religion, one might lose sight of the fact that religions had old roots in the promotion of human values. The promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue must focus on the universal values that made human coexistence possible, including respect for universal human rights, he emphasized. Describing pluralism as one value that served as a cornerstone in the promotion of peaceful coexistence, he said it was the authentic response to extreme violence. The OIC and the United Nations had a shared belief in advocating the unity of the human community and full respect for pluralism, he said, pointing out that the Islamic texts also evoked pluralism.
Pluralism and difference were natural, created by God and thus right and proper, he said, adding that there was also urgent need to promote ecological awareness because climate change had become clear in all the world’s regions. Emphasizing that religion had a natural role to play in promoting that awareness, he said a core principle of Islam was that humankind was the lieutenant of God on earth and should therefore ensure the continual renewal of Creation. For humankind to achieve full awareness of its identity was to have a full understanding of its responsibility to protect the environment, he stressed. Underlining the importance of education in helping to implement the philosophies of pluralism and ecological awareness, he said it was vital to build cooperation between the OIC and the United Nations on that cornerstone.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said the OIC was a key actor in the maintenance of international peace and security, and a vital partner of the Council. Its role was born of the fact that Muslim-majority societies were paying a high price in terms of terrorism, which had no root in religion. Preventive action was an area in which the OIC could play a vital role, he said, noting that it could contribute to broader dissemination of the spirit of the Plan of Action to Counter Violent Extremism. Spain proposed the creation of a task force that would be deployed in cases of inter-religious crisis or violent extremism, he said, emphasizing that more space must be accorded to victims of terrorism, who could be key allies in the anti-terror struggle. There was also need for a counter-narrative, he stressed, adding that Spain proposed to create an international private-public committee to debunk extremist messages. Intercultural and interreligious experts could also be deployed in peacekeeping operations, he said, calling also for a long-term focus on youth, and on taking every possible step to ensure that young people were properly educated.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said the international community required a comprehensive approach in addressing the root causes of terrorism based on the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. Cooperation between the United Nations and the OIC would be most effective if there was sufficient political will to reveal the drivers of violent extremism, including corrupt institutions, poor governance and gross human rights violations. Counter-extremism efforts should be combined with preventive measures to address governance deficits and promote social development, he said, adding that civil society actors should play a more active role, particularly representatives of local communities and religious leaders who could help to reverse the spread of violent extremist ideology.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said his delegation looked forward to continuing its work with the OIC on a range of current challenges, among them countering violent extremism, which had done great harm in the Muslim world. The United Kingdom was helping to disseminate Muslim voices to expose the false messages of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and other groups, he said, adding that it was also working with many Muslim countries on holding terrorist leaders accountable for their crimes. It was now especially important to mobilize the expertise to put into action strategies developed to counter extremist ideologies. In the realization that inclusive development was another antidote to terrorist ideology, the United Kingdom was working with the Islamic Development Bank on many projects aimed at helping people escape marginalizing poverty, he said, adding that he looked forward to further enhancement of his country’s work with the OIC in many areas.
JULIO HELDER MOURA LUCAS (Angola) said it was clear that the goals of the United Nations and the OIC were very similar and that there were many areas in which their cooperation could be enhanced. On extremism, he said it was vital, first and foremost, to end ongoing conflicts that fed radicalism. Also, political processes must be based on inclusivity because disenfranchisement created space for extremism. Angola welcomed OIC initiatives to elevate genuine religious voices to counter extremist narratives. Emphasizing that terrorism was not associated with any religion, he called upon the OIC to play a more decisive role in mediating the relationship between religion and politics in order to prevent marginalization and promote interfaith dialogue. He also encouraged the OIC to continue to work with the United Nations in addressing the causes of extremism in the Muslim world and beyond.
LIU JIEYI (China) affirmed the OIC’s positive role in many areas of cooperation with the United Nations, and expressed support for strengthening and consolidating the security mechanisms of regional organizations. Expressing support for cooperation on counter-terrorism, he called for a more comprehensive strategy, led by the United Nations and supported by regional organization, that would block the flow of funding and other resources to terrorists as well as their use of the Internet. Dialogue among civilizations should promote world harmony and mutual respect, he emphasized. China supported OIC activities in preventing conflict and promoting intercultural dialogue, and looked forward to further joint efforts to create a better future for humankind.
HENRY ALFREDO SUÁREZ MORENO (Venezuela), emphasizing the important role played by regional and subregional organizations in settling conflicts, noted that the United Nations and the OIC had been cooperating closely in the areas of peace and security, humanitarian assistance and the promotion of dialogue among civilizations. Emphasizing that the OIC was a strategic ally of the United Nations in the fight against terrorism and the spread of violent extremism, he said the fight against terrorism should be undertaken through full and non-selective implementation of the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. Such an effort must also focus on prevention, he said, stressing that the promotion of religious and cultural tolerance should include efforts to effectively counter terrorist narratives that used religion to justify violence.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), urging a comprehensive, coordinated approach in confronting the ideology of terrorism, said it should rely on partnership between States and regional as well as subregional organizations within a legal framework. Noting that confronting extremist ideologies was a long-term endeavour, he said the OIC’s Centre for Dialogue, Peace and Understanding used the Internet and social media to confront messages leading to violent extremism. Cooperation and coordination between the United Nations and OIC, particularly with such entities as the CTED and the CTITF, must be more effective in order to set out priorities, identify challenges and find the best means by which to confront extreme messages while respecting freedom of speech, he emphasized. Cooperation and coordination between the two organizations must also be promoted in confronting all types of extremism leading to terrorism and to Islamophobia.
ELBIO ROSELLI (Uruguay), emphasizing the importance of pluralism, said that extremist ideologies could only be combatted through freedom and tolerance, with education the cornerstone of the struggle. Education was vital to fostering tolerance and pluralism. Stressing the importance of cooperation with the OIC, he noted its support for the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, and said that its member States had maintained a united front in addressing the root causes of violent ideologies.
MICHELE J. SISON (United States), welcoming the growing recognition of the need for international cooperation in countering violent extremism, suggested, in order to strengthen that partnership, the appointment of a counter-terrorism coordinator to liaise with the OIC and other partners. A coordinated strategy must also prioritize human rights, in practice as well as policy, she emphasized. Furthermore, it was vital to communicate with young people, to fight intolerance and to ensure that terrorism was not associated with any one religion. The momentum built in all those areas must be maintained, she stressed.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said that, in countering terrorism, it was critical to forge a broad, global coalition that would counter any support for terrorist activity, without differentiating between such groups or allowing exceptions. Emphasizing that there were no good terrorists or bad terrorists, he said it was important to prevent terrorism by eliminating radicalism. Citing a draft resolution submitted by his delegation on counteracting extremism, including through the Internet, he expressed hope that the Islamic world shared the Russian view of such initiatives, and the need to fight terrorism by building on the solid foundation of international law. Attention must be paid not only to the military threat, but to underlying causes, including conflicts, he stressed. In that regard, the Russian Federation called for a comprehensive review of the situation in the entire Middle East, he said, underlining that no conflict in the region could be resolved by force. There was need for a holistic strategy that would include a two-State solution to the Palestinian question, he said, pledging that Russian Federation would continue to work with Muslim countries and the OIC to foster peace and security throughout the world.
RAMLAN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) emphasized the importance of dissociating terrorism from religion in enhancing the strategic partnership between the United Nations and the OIC so as to curb extremist ideology. The advent of Islamophobia had created a convenient “false truth” in substantiating the agenda of terrorists, allowing a misleading psyche to prevail through the association of terrorism with religion, he noted. The international community must address the rise of Islamophobia, which had led to the marginalization and alienation of Muslims as well as to discrimination against them. International efforts to counter extremist ideology should focus on instilling a culture of peace, tolerance and understanding in those vulnerable to and targeted by terrorist groups, especially young people, he stressed. Noting that extremist ideology could have roots in the prolonged illegal occupation of Palestine, non-inclusive governance, dysfunctional institutions and gross violations of human rights, he said those factors had in turn bred anger, frustration and despair – powerful tools for recruiting foreign terrorist fighters. Cooperation between the United Nations and the OIC on a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy should consider policies based on dialogue, socioeconomic inclusion and non-discrimination in support of minority groups, he said.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said cooperation between the OIC and the United Nations was important on all fronts of the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. Despite significant success in the fight against ISIL/Da’esh and its diminishing online propaganda, the group still exercised a significant pull over young people, she noted. The propaganda of terrorist groups played on feelings of injustice and marginalization and on financial need, luring young people into a theatre of barbarism and death, she said, adding that it was most effective on the Internet. Enhanced cooperation with the OIC could lead to better understanding, and effective debunking, of terrorist ideology, she said, pointing out that Muslims were the main victims of terrorism. The OIC Programme of Action for 2020-2025, the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism were excellent platforms for cooperation between the two organizations, she said, adding that cooperation with the private sector and civil society was also important in countering terrorist propaganda.
GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) said there had never been greater need for a strong partnership between the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Describing the OIC as a natural partner in terms of conflict prevention, he said many of its member States had made tremendous contributions in managing unprecedented global refugee flows. The OIC’s greatest potential, however, was in preventing and combating violent extremism, he said, commending its long-standing commitment to promote interfaith understanding and its rejection of all forms of intolerance. He encouraged the OIC to deepen its cooperation with the United Nations in fighting violent extremism, and welcomed the Programme of Action aimed at strengthening its role in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict peacebuilding.
TAKESHI AKAHORI (Japan) said conflict and violent extremism were rooted in weak governance and a lack of inclusiveness, adding that it was encouraging that the OIC shared that view and was undertaking an inclusive and comprehensive approach. The OIC could play a more prominent humanitarian role and in the area of the return and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons. Commending its contributions in Yemen, he said the OIC could do more to improve the situation in Syria, help the Israel-Palestine peace process and improve relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal), Council President for November, spoke in his national capacity, noting that the OIC and the United Nations shared the same views when combating violent ideologies. There was a dynamic framework of cooperation between the two organizations, as seen in their more than 25 years of bilateral biennial meetings, he said, adding that their close relationship was also illustrated by the OIC’s cooperation with the CTED. Noting that terrorism harmed Muslims and unjustly led to fear of Islam, he rejected any attempt to make terrorism representative of any religion, culture or nationality, emphasizing that Senegal also renounced Islamophobia. Pointing out that both organizations had made intercultural dialogue an essential element of their cooperation, he called for greater involvement of young people and women in designing anti-terrorism strategies. There was also a need to address poverty and unemployment and to enhance pluralism and environmental awareness through education.
Mr. OPELOYERU, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, expressed sincere appreciation and gratitude on behalf of the OIC Secretary-General for the Council’s profound contribution in seeking ways and means to enhance cooperation between the OIC and the United Nations in combating terrorism and violent extremism. The OIC remained committed to consolidating and expanding relations with the United Nations in the interest of a peaceful world community and hoped that sessions like the one held today could take place biennially.