Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the official launch of the United Nations Countering Terrorist Travel Programme, in New York today:
I established the Office of Counter-Terrorism in 2017 for several fundamental reasons: to help strengthen international counter-terrorism cooperation; to expand multilateral networks for sharing information to detect, identify, disrupt and prosecute terrorists; and to ensure that Member States most affected by terrorism have the capacity to tackle this evolving threat.
The recent despicable attacks in Kenya, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, among others, are tragic reminders of the global reach of the scourge of terrorism. These attacks underscore the need to work closely with partners across the United Nations system and beyond.
The United Nations Countering Terrorist Travel Programme we launch today is about helping to meet all these objectives. I would like to thank the Netherlands Government for its generous contribution to this effort. I also appreciate the continued support of the Governments of India, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to the counter-terrorism work of the United Nations.
Over the last seven years, there has been a dramatic movement of terrorists to and from conflict zones around the world. Just two years ago, we estimated that over 40,000 foreign terrorist fighters from more than 110 countries may have travelled to join terrorist groups in the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq.
Following the territorial defeat of ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Da’esh], many terrorists are trying to return home or relocate to safe havens or other troubled parts of the world. Many are well trained and could carry out future terrorist attacks. Others hope to radicalize and recruit new followers to their cause.
They, as well as those they inspire, represent a major transnational threat. Detecting and disrupting these terrorists and other high-risk criminals prior to them carrying out an attack is a high priority for the international community.
The General Assembly and Security Council resolution 2396 (2017) have reaffirmed the need to strengthen our international cooperation and information sharing to improve national detection capacities and prevent the travel of terrorists.
The programme will help Member States collect, process and share travel data with other competent national and international authorities, with full respect for privacy and other fundamental freedoms.
We know that policies that fully respect human rights are essential in tackling violent extremism.
This information‑sharing will enhance the abilities of Member States to effectively detect, prevent, investigate and prosecute terrorist offences, including their related travel. Importantly, this will also enable the detection and disruption of human trafficking and other forms of serious organized crime and to faster identify their victims.
The United Nations family is ready to assist in protecting and ensuring the rights of all victims whose interests are served by this project.
It represents the kind of cooperative, intergovernmental and institutional approach that I aimed for when I established the Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact last year to enhance counter-terrorism coordination and coherence across the system. In that context, the United Nations Counter‑Terrorism Centre has also stepped up its efforts to meet the growing expectations and demands from countries most affected by terrorism.
I am grateful to Ambassador Abdallah Y. al-Mouallimi of Saudi Arabia for his able chairmanship of the Centre’s Advisory Board.
Let us all pledge to continue to work together in pragmatic and innovative ways to address serious threats to international peace and security.