Share Expertise, Resources to Prevent New Technologies from Becoming Lethal Weapons, Secretary-General Stresses as Counter-Terrorism Conference Ends

L/3284
29 June 2018
High-level Conference on Counter-Terrorism, AM & PM Meetings

Share Expertise, Resources to Prevent New Technologies from Becoming Lethal Weapons, Secretary-General Stresses as Counter-Terrorism Conference Ends

Calling on the international community, the private sector and academia to share knowledge, expertise and resources to “prevent new technologies from becoming lethal terrorist weapons”, Secretary‑General António Guterres urged Member States to work in tandem to tackle ever‑evolving terrorist threats and uproot its main drivers, as the United Nations first‑ever High‑level Conference on Counter‑Terrorism concluded today.

“We know they are researching cyberattacks and the use of drones for chemical, biological or radiological attacks,” he said, adding that to “stay ahead of the terrorists”, coordinated cross‑sector partners must take swift action.  More must also be done to address the conditions fostering terrorism and violent extremism, including the lack of opportunity, exclusion, inequality, discrimination and serious human rights violations.  Related collective efforts must aim at anticipating and preventing the terrorist threats of tomorrow.

“We must fight terrorism together, with methods that do not compromise the rule of law and human rights, and we must mainstream our counter‑terrorism efforts into our broader work to prevent conflicts, build durable peace and promote sustainable economic development,” he said, announcing his consideration of establishing a global network of counter‑terrorism coordinators aimed at creating focal points in countries and a mechanism for sharing best practices as well as a new unit in the United Nations Office of Counter‑Terrorism to ensure the valuable views of civil society organizations were reflected in policies and programmes.

Indeed, the Conference had reinforced the need for the kind of multilateral collaboration called for in the Security Council’s resolution 2396 (2017), whereby States must notify other countries of the travel, arrival, deportation or detention of individuals they believed to be terrorists, he said.  Building and strengthening partnerships among all parts of society was needed, he said, highlighting that good coordination between partners should include engaging young people and women, and emphasizing that Member States must learn from the civil society organizations participating in the Conference.

Raising concerns about several evolving threats, Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), who chaired an intergovernmental thematic session on “Strengthening global action to prevent violent extremism, including by engaging youth and preventing misuse of new technologies and the Internet by terrorists”, cited a recent report that had put a price tag on prevention, from $5 billion to $70 billion annually.  Efforts must be made to use new technologies, which had an enormous potential to help to address the root causes and drivers of violent extremism by enhancing the transparency of public institutions, broadening meaningful inclusion and participation in public decision‑making and enhancing understanding of public issues through greater access to public information.

However, new technologies were also being used as tools to do harm and tech‑based solutions were needed to combat those tech tactics, he went on to say.  A rights‑based approach was required, as were regulatory frameworks that tackled impunity online and offline.  “We are dealing with issues and tools that transcend boundaries,” he said.  “No single Government or organization can push back the threat on its own.”

Working together was a theme heard often throughout the two‑day Conference.  Highlighting progress and sharing related concerns were the Co‑Chairs of a session on “Strengthening the role and capacity of the United Nations to support Member States to implement the United Nations Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy”.

Phumzile Mlambo‑Ngcuka, Under‑Secretary‑General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women), described some of the 27 projects worldwide on preventing terrorism and violent extremism, ranging from data collection on the root causes to capacity‑building efforts targeting men, boys, women and girls.  Raising several concerns, she said gender stereotypes contributed to choices terrorists made, including forced marriages of abducted women and girls and violent recruitment methods targeting men and boys.  The United Nations system and Member States should be able to work together, recognizing the role women and girls could play in prevention and response.

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said the Conference had come at a crucial time when significant results had been achieved in the fight against terrorism, including the military setback of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Iraq and Syria.  But evolving threats demanded a rigorous assessment and a renewed strategic vision of how to best work together to address shared challenges.

Vladimir Voronkov, Under‑Secretary‑General of the United Nations Office of Counter‑Terrorism, said that since the Secretary‑General had established the new Office, the United Nations Counter‑Terrorism Centre was leading more than 35 capacity‑building projects to assist affected States in areas from border security to preventing prison recruitment.

Session III

The Conference held an intergovernmental thematic session on “Strengthening global action to prevent violent extremism, including by engaging youth and preventing misuse of new technologies and the Internet by terrorists”, chaired by Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Mr. STEINER said violent extremism was costing billions and affecting millions of lives.  Underlining the primacy of prevention, he said a United Nations‑World Bank report had put a price tag on prevention, from $5 billion to $70 billion annually.  Efforts must be made to address the marginalization of groups.  Socioeconomic factors were among the root causes.  Security responses alone could not tackle the challenges, and initiatives must target gender equality and other development objectives.  Cooperation between State and non‑State actors was essential in driving forward strategies to meet the challenges.  Civil society actors had unique skills in their communities.  Partnerships with them must be built in a constructive way, including engaging with youth, a group that had been targeted for radicalization.  At the same time, young people were at the front line of combating violent extremism, acting as positive agents of change.

Turning to other areas of concern, he said efforts must be made to use new technologies, which had an enormous potential to help to address the root causes and drivers of violent extremism.  They could enhance the transparency of public institutions, broaden meaningful inclusion and participation in public decision‑making and enhance understanding of public issues through greater access to public information.  However, new technologies were also being used as tools to do harm and tech‑based solutions were needed to combat those tech tactics.  A rights‑based approach was required as were regulatory frameworks that tackled impunity online and offline.  “We are dealing with issues and tools that transcend boundaries,” he said.  “No single Government or organization can push back the threat on its own.”

Session IV

In the afternoon, the Conference held an intergovernmental thematic session on “Strengthening the role and capacity of the United Nations to support Member States to implement the United Nations Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy”, chaired by Vladimir Voronkov, Under‑Secretary‑General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism; Phumzile Mlambo‑Ngcuka, Under‑Secretary‑General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women); and Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Mr. VORONKOV, highlighting that the new Counter‑Terrorism Office had been among the Secretary‑General’s first reforms, outlined recent progress.  Activities included strengthening partnerships with civil society organizations and with regional organizations such as the African Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).  Through the United Nations Counter‑Terrorism Centre, more than 35 capacity‑building projects were assisting affected States in areas from border security to preventing prison recruitment.  Thanking States for providing generous funding, he welcomed the United Nations role and asked the participants to share their perspectives in subsequent discussion.

Ms. MLAMBO-NGCUKA said that since the adoption of Security Council resolution 2242 (2015), a gender perspective had been included in related strategies.  For its part, UN‑Women was supporting 27 projects worldwide on preventing terrorism and violent extremism, ranging from data collection on the root causes to capacity‑building efforts targeting men, boys, women and girls.  Raising several concerns, she said gender stereotypes contributed to choices terrorists made, including forced marriages of abducted women and girls and violent recruitment methods targeting men and boys.  The United Nations system and Member States should be able to work together recognizing the role women and girls could play in prevention and response, with all interventions respecting human rights in order to avoid any unintended consequences.  Another concern was the use of female suicide bombers, as terrorists were targeting women and girls and perpetuating gender norms.  Children born of rape also represented a challenge for women, as was the case with women abducted by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).  In tackling those and other concerns, she said women’s participation was key to finding solutions.  Going forward, data that had been generated in various projects could be used to inform policymakers, and civil society’s participation should be supported as it was already proving to be valuable.

Mr. FEDOTOV said the Conference came at a crucial time when significant results had been achieved in the fight against terrorism, including the military setback of ISIL in Iraq and Syria.  But evolving threats demanded a rigorous assessment and a renewed strategic vision of how to best work together to address shared challenges.  Voicing strong support for the Global Counter‑Terrorism Coordination Compact, he said UNODC played a leading role in the United Nations system in providing technical assistance to reinforce the universal legal framework against terrorism.  A major challenge remained a lack of criminal justice capacity in several countries and regions.  Outdated counter‑terrorism legislation, policies, frameworks and cooperation agreements limited Member States’ ability to respond effectively, while a growing number of cross-border investigations presented further challenges requiring swifter cooperation.  States needed more assistance in that regard and, more broadly, more research and analysis to identify trends were also sorely needed.  Meanwhile, UNODC stood ready to contribute its experience and expertise.

Closing Remarks

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, said the Conference had reinforced the need for multilateral collaboration, including expanding networks to share information to detect, identify, disrupt and prosecute terrorists.  While delegates had cited many cases of information‑sharing, more must be done while also recognizing the need to protect sensitive sources, prevent the erosion of civil liberties and ensure the presumption of innocence.  Better sharing of information on the identities of returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters was essential.

Noting the Security Council’s adoption of resolution 2396 (2017), which called on States to notify other countries of the travel, arrival, deportation or detention of individuals they believed to be terrorists, he emphasized the need to implement it, adding that he was considering establishing a global network of counter‑terrorism coordinators aimed at creating focal points in countries and a mechanism for sharing best practices.  “We must learn from each other about what works and what does not,” he continued.

Building and strengthening partnerships among all parts of society was also needed, he said, highlighting that good coordination between partners should include engaging young people and women.  Member States must learn from the civil society organizations participating in the Conference, he continued, noting the consideration of establishing a new unit in the Office of Counter‑Terrorism to ensure their views were reflected in policies and programmes.

Welcoming the creation of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism and other such partnerships, he said more must be done to identify and remove terrorist content online.  In addition, more must be done to address the conditions fostering terrorism and violent extremism, including the lack of opportunity, exclusion, inequality, discrimination and serious human rights violations.  Collective efforts must also aim at anticipating and preventing the terrorist threats of tomorrow.  “We know they are researching cyberattacks and the use of drones for chemical, biological or radiological attacks,” he said.  “To stay ahead of the terrorists, I call on the international community, the private sector and academia to share knowledge, expertise and resources to prevent new technologies from becoming lethal terrorist weapons.”

The United Nations needed to do more to support efforts, he said, underlining that Member States had the primary responsibility for countering terrorism.  The Organization had a key role to play to support the implementation of Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.  “As a former Prime Minister, I understand the challenges of keeping your citizens safe,” he said, pledging his commitment to help.

“We must fight terrorism together, with methods that do not compromise the rule of law and human rights, and we must mainstream our counter‑terrorism efforts into our broader work to prevent conflicts, build durable peace and promote sustainable economic development,” he said.  The Conference had concluded with practical discussions of key challenges, he continued, pointing at new proposals and partnerships that had emerged and expressing his commitment to seek advice from Mr. Voronkov and Member States on the best way to keep the momentum going and support collective efforts.

For information media. Not an official record.