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GA/L/3633
5 October 2021
Seventy-sixth Session, 1st Meeting (AM)

Speakers Call Updated Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy ‘a Living Document’ in Fight Against International Threat, as Sixth Committee Begins Session

As the Sixth Committee (Legal) met to approve its work programme for the seventy-sixth session and begin its consideration of the Secretary-General report on measures to eliminate international terrorism, delegates welcomed the Organization’s coordinating role in the fight against the global threat and praised its updated counter-terrorism strategy.

The Secretary-General’s report “Measures to eliminate international terrorism” (document A/76/201) contains information on measures taken both on national and international levels, based on the submissions from Government and international organizations.

Ghana’s delegate, speaking for the African Group, welcomed the establishment of a United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism programme office in Rabat, which will serve as a training hub to build counter-terrorism capacity, particularly in West Africa and the Sahel.  Noting that ransom payments are a primary source of terror financing and that refugee status is being abused by facilitators of terrorist acts, he highlighted the need to “end the vacuum that is often misused by terrorist organizations.”

The representative of Iran, speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, condemned the misrepresentation of religions by terrorist groups to justify terrorism.  However, terrorism should not be equated with the legitimate struggle of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation, she stressed, reaffirming the importance of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the crucial role of the Office of Counter-Terrorism.

The representative of Saudi Arabia, who spoke for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), joined many speakers in acknowledging the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  Calling it a living document, he said that it should be re-examined regularly and implemented in a balanced manner.  In that regard, he stressed the importance of building the capacity of Member States to do so

Egypt participated actively in the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, that country’s delegate told the Committee.  Welcoming its consensus adoption, he singled out for praise the Strategy’s recognition of the threat posed by right-wing groups espousing extremist ideologies.

The representative of Israel, also welcoming the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, noted its condemnation of the use of human shields by terrorist organizations, as well as the condemnation of terrorist attacks targeting religious and ethnic communities, including, explicit language condemning the upswing in acts motivated by antisemitism.

The representative of the Philippines, also commenting on the seventh review declared: “The community of nations once again reaffirmed the four pillars of this living document.”  The hard-won consensus gives the international community measured optimism on the prospects for a comprehensive convention on international terrorism, he said, also reporting that Marawi City in southern Philippines, which was recently under a terrorist siege, is recovering at a steady pace.

The representative of Bangladesh, while welcoming the new recommendations in the Strategy, highlighted the disproportionate impact of terrorism on women.  Underscoring the need for gender equality in public and private lives, she pointed out that women are often forced to act as recruiters and subjected to sexual violence in captivity by terrorist groups.

New Zealand’s representative, also speaking for Australia and Canada, echoed that point and stressed the need to integrate the women, peace and security agenda into the terrorism response.  Noting that gender is exploited by terrorist organizations to recruit and maintain members, he said that women are at the forefront of efforts to protect their families and communities and can be buffers to violent extremism and terrorism.

Prior to the debate, the Sixth Committee approved the organization of its work for the current session.  Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al-Thani (Qatar) Chair for the seventy-sixth session, reaffirmed the unique role of the Sixth Committee and the significance of international law.  She noted that this year, the Committee has been allotted 33 meeting slots while continuing with working arrangements established in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  She also introduced the members of the new Bureau:  Vice-Chair Ahmed  Abdelaziz (Egypt); Justina Krutulyté (Lithuania); and Ricardo García López (Spain) and Rapporteur Ana L. Villalobos (Costa Rica).

In addition, the Committee also established a working group for “Measures to eliminate international terrorism” and elected its chairperson.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Cambodia (speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Norway (also speaking for Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden), Singapore, Honduras, Jordan, Sierra Leone, Iran (national capacity), Cuba, Qatar, Belarus, South Africa and Mongolia.  A representative of the European Union in its capacity as observer also spoke.

The Sixth Committee will meet next at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 6 October, to continue its consideration on measures to combat international terrorism.

Statements

ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, voiced her firm rejection of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including those in which States are directly or indirectly involved.  Terrorist acts endanger the territorial integrity and stability of States as well as national, regional and international security, she said, highlighting its adverse consequences on the economic and social development as well as the physical and economic infrastructure of States.  However, she stressed, terrorism should not be equated with the legitimate struggle of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation.  The brutalization of peoples remaining under foreign occupation should continue to be denounced as the gravest form of terrorism.  As well, the use of State power for violence against peoples struggling against foreign occupation must be condemned, she underscored.

Calling on all States to combat terrorism, including by prosecuting or extraditing the perpetrators of terrorist acts, she emphasized the need to refrain from allowing the use of territories as sanctuaries and safe havens, as well as the importance of refraining from supplying arms or other weapons that could be used for terrorist acts in other States.  Further, she expressed her rejection of the use or threat of use of force, imposed by any State against any Non-Aligned Movement Member country under the pretext of combating terrorism.  In addition, she voiced concern over the acute and growing threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters.  Calling on States to address this, she also condemned the misrepresentation of religions by terrorist groups to justify terrorism.  Reaffirming the importance of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, she highlighted the crucial role of the Office of Counter-Terrorism in bringing more coherence and effectiveness to the Organization’s counter-terrorism activities.

HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), speaking for the African Group and associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern over increased incidences of kidnappings and hostage-takings, as ransoms payments to terrorist groups constitute a primary source of terror financing.  He called on Member States to cooperate in addressing this issue; to prevent refugee status from being abused by perpetrators, organizers or facilitators of terrorist acts; and to collaborate in the pursuit of developing and implementing effective counter-narrative strategies.  Inter-State cooperation in the fight against terrorism must be strengthened and States should expand the range of available assistance in the apprehension of terrorists and in the investigation and prevention of terrorist acts.

Highlighting the need to enhance Member State capacity to counter terrorism and “end the vacuum that is often misused by terrorist organizations”, he welcomed the establishment of a United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism program office in Rabat.  This office will serve as a training hub to build counter-terrorism capacity and cooperation in Africa, particularly in West Africa and the Sahel.  He also welcomed the establishment of a regional program office in Nairobi to counter violent extremism conducive to terrorism in East Africa.  Emphasizing that the devastating socio-economic impacts and economic downturn resulting from the COVID‑19 pandemic will no doubt exacerbate the conditions known to breed terrorism, he underscored the urgency of these assistance and capacity-building efforts.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia), speaking for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), called terrorism a flagrant violation of international law and human rights, particularly the right to life.   Underscoring that terrorist acts endanger the territorial integrity and stability of States as well as international security, he reaffirmed that the threat should not be associated with any religion, race, faith, culture, ethnicity or society.  Condemning any politicized attempt to link Islam with terrorism, he cautioned that such attempts serve the aspirations of terrorists and promote hostility against Muslims and Muslim communities worldwide.  Calling for dialogue and cooperation among religions and cultures, he pointed to the importance of addressing the root causes of terrorism, such as the lack of sustained economic growth and foreign occupation.

The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is a living document, he said, adding that it should be re-examined regularly and implemented in a balanced manner.  Stressing the importance of capacity-building of Member States, he stressed the need to take appropriate measures against the rise in terrorist attacks on the basis of xenophobia and racism.  He also affirmed OIC’s commitment to reaching a consensus agreement on the draft convention on terrorism by resolving outstanding issues.  Those include the legal definition of terrorism, particularly on the distinction between terrorism and the struggle for self-determination by people under foreign occupation.  In that regard, a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations could enable the finalization of these issues, he noted.

NATALIE TOLSTOI, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, pointed out that COVID-19 has magnified several emerging challenges at a time when many Member States have had to shift resources and attention away from counter-terrorism efforts to address pandemic-related needs.  As a result, international cooperation to counter terrorism is more important than ever.  In this regard, consensus possesses special value.  Emphasizing that recent events in Afghanistan demonstrate the urgent need for further cooperation and coordination, she urged Member States to act collectively within the United Nations to ensure that Afghanistan does not serve as a base for the hosting, financing or exporting of terrorism to other States.

She also underscored the need to protect humanitarian space, noting that ample evidence exists of the unintended negative impact of counter-terrorism measures on humanitarian actors.  Turning to online platforms, she said that the European Union has adopted a regulation that requires, among other measures, terrorist content to be removed – or access to it disabled – within one hour after a removal order has been issued by a competent authority, regardless of the size of the hosting-service provider.  The European Union is also working to cut sources of terrorist funding.  To this end, it has built one of the most robust anti-money-laundering and counter-terrorist financing frameworks in the world.

SOMALY CHEA (Cambodia), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that terrorism contributes to a climate of fear and anxiety among the general population, disrupting everyday social fabric.  The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed several global fragilities and exacerbated conditions conducive to terrorism.  Vital victim services have been interrupted while Governments focus resources on fighting the pandemic.  She also underscored the importance of enhanced policy coordination and sharing of information, particularly with travel monitoring and border control enhancements.  “The interconnectedness of digital social networks necessitates greater coordination,” she said, pointing to how easily misinformation can spread over the Internet, affording terrorists simple means to target and radicalize susceptible individuals online.

Spotlighting the ASEAN Plan of Action to Prevent and Counter the Rise of Radicalisation and Violent Extremism 2018-2025, she welcomed the references to new challenges in the updated United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  “Terrorism cannot and must not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group,” she said, emphasizing her region’s continued commitment in addressing the complex challenges posed by terrorism, violent extremism and transnational crime against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Stressing the need for cross-sectoral and cross-pillar cooperation in tackling illegal weapons smuggling, trafficking in persons and illicit drugs, she also drew attention to the importance of engagement with local communities, empowerment of youth and women and the adoption of tailored approaches to promote social inclusion among the people.

ODD INGE KVALHEIM (Norway), also speaking for Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has, in some countries, fueled mistrust of Governments due to imposed restrictions, economic hardship, social isolation and limited access to education ‑ factors that may lead to increasing violent extremism and terrorism.  Further, social tensions have been exacerbated, minority groups have been the targets of conspiracy theories and violent right-wing extremists continue to perform attacks and recruit new followers.  Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Qaida spread in Africa and the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan may be used to bolster recruitment and inspire further terrorist attacks across the world.

Stressing the importance of preventing terrorism and violent extremism, he urged the international community to take a whole-of-society and gender-sensitive approach, where women, youth and local communities play an important role.  Women play different roles in the phenomenon of terrorism: on one hand, they can play an instrumental role as campaigners, recruiters, financers and perpetrators of terrorist acts; on the other, they can be vital in countering violent extremism.  He called for the strengthening of women’s political and economic rights, as empowered women help create peaceful and stable communities.  The international community must also listen to young voices, as they play a key role in preventing radicalization.

LUKE ROUGHTON (New Zealand), also speaking for Australia and Canada, pointed out that each of their countries has been impacted directly by terrorism within their own borders.  Highlighting the importance of international coalitions to address the transnational nature of this tragic phenomenon, he said the strongest weapon against terrorism is a resilient, diverse and inclusive society, where all can thrive and where violent extremist ideologies of any kind cannot flourish. Reaffirming support for the comprehensive approach of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, he expressed support for the Group of Friends of Victims of Terrorism, which promotes a comprehensive approach towards the promotion and protection of victims’ rights and needs.  “Victims must be at the heart of the planning and decision-making process,” he emphasized.

Turning to the importance of integrating the women, peace and security agenda into the terrorism response, he said it is especially important, given the ways in which gender is exploited by violent extremist and terrorist organizations to recruit and maintain members.  Women also have a significant role as buffers to violent extremism and terrorism, he said, noting that they are at the forefront of efforts to protect their families and communities.  Further, a collaborative approach between Governments, online service providers, civil society and non-governmental organizations is crucial to address terrorist and violent extremist use of the Internet, he said, noting the significant progress made on the commitments of the Christchurch Call to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

JO-PHIE TANG (Singapore), highlighting her country’s counter-terrorism efforts, described a “whole of Government” effort to maintain close coordination among its agencies to identify the key risks posed by international terrorism.  One outcome of this inter-agency effort was the publication of the Terrorism Financing National Risk Assessment in December 2020 which showed that Singapore continues to be vulnerable to terrorism financing threats posed by terrorist groups, both regionally and internationally.  Singapore’s legal framework enables law enforcement authorities to take swift and effective action against terrorists while efforts to leverage public-private partnerships enhance operational efficiency and an understanding of the risk landscape.  In addition, Singapore actively engages in counter-terrorism cooperation and efforts at the regional and international levels.  For instance, the Singapore Ministry of Defence established a multilateral Counter-Terrorism Information Facility this year, bringing together like-minded countries to share intelligence and provide early warning, monitoring and analysis capabilities in a centralized and coordinated manner.

YOLANNIE CERRATO (Honduras) said that the phenomenon of terrorism poses a grave threat to democratic values, and constitutes “human cruelty that no political, religious or ideological cause can justify”.  Honduras, for its part, has passed domestic laws designed to eradicate terrorism and is also a party to various international counter-terrorism conventions.  Underscoring that measures to counter terrorism must comport with international law, she called for a conference to be held in order to conclude a draft convention on countering international terrorism.  She also welcomed the June adoption of the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, while stressing the need to holistically analyze the links between terrorism and transnational organized crime as part of that Strategy.

ALAA NAYEF ZAID AL-EDWAN (Jordan), stressing the importance of criminalizing all acts of terrorism, in line with international law, outlined the various measures undertaken by his country to prevent this phenomenon.  Jordan has adopted a strategy to ensure that official institutions work to ensure the enlightenment of the values of Islam and international harmony, he said, adding that the Government is working to enable the spread of moderate ideologies.  Highlighting the country’s strategy for the rehabilitation of foreign-returned terrorist fighters, he said that it is also working to ensure economic prosperity, limit unemployment and promote the values of justice and equality.  Other measures include the monitoring of terrorist financing and the enactment of an amendment to the penal code, imposing strong sanctions on any terrorist acts.

MS. GOBEH-KAMARA (Sierra Leone), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Group and the OIC, welcomed the adoption of the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which addresses important issues relating to violent extremism, hate speech, the misuse of technology for terrorist purposes and upholding human rights in the fight against terrorism.  She called for full implementation of the Strategy, urging the United Nations and donor countries to provide necessary assistance and capacity-building to allow Member States to fulfill their obligations.  She also called for the international community to support her country as it works to implement software to counter terrorist movement.  Urging the conclusion of the draft comprehensive convention, she expressed regret over the spate of terrorism in the West African sub-region. In this regard, she called for support for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and a more robust mandate for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

RABAB FATIMA (Bangladesh), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and OIC, said that the drivers of terrorism have grown manifold due to growing inequality, poverty, “infodemics” and increased exposure to the menaces of the virtual world.  Noting how the pandemic has severely disrupted national and global efforts to prevent and counter terrorism, she said that in many countries, resources allocated for this purpose had to be diverted to pandemic mitigation measures.  Noting the successful conclusion of the seventh review of the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy, she welcomed the new recommendations in all four pillars.  Highlighting the disproportionate impact of terrorism on women, she noted that women are often forced to act as recruiters and subjected to sexual violence in captivity by terrorist groups.  Stressing the importance of gender equality in all aspects of public and private lives, she called for implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.

MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran), speaking in his national capacity and associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the OIC, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to combating terrorism ‑ including State terrorism ‑ with special regard for economic and medical terrorism pursued through the imposition of unilateral coercive measures.  Iran has been targeted by State terrorism, including assassinations of Government officials and nuclear scientists along with attacks against a peaceful nuclear facility in the city of Natanz.  While welcoming the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, he emphasized that countries that have been most affected by terrorism should be accorded a more prominent role in norm-setting and leadership within the United Nations system.  Noting that absence of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism has led to the unilateral listing of certain Member States as terrorist entities, he expressed support for the finalization of such a convention that contains a universally agreed-upon definition of the threat.

ARIEL RODELAS PENARANDA (Philippines), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and ASEAN, highlighted his country’s Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which penalizes foreign terrorists who travel to a State other than their State of residence or nationality.  It also penalizes those who facilitate travel for terrorism purposes and mandates the automatic adoption and designation of terrorists included in the Security Council sanctions lists.  Recalling that Marawi City in southern Philippines was recently under siege by terrorists, he reported that the city is recovering at a steady pace.  Welcoming the consensus adoption of the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, he said:  “The community of nations once again reaffirmed the four pillars of this living document.”  The hard-won consensus gives the international community measured optimism on the prospects for a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba) voiced his rejection of the use of terrorism as a political instrument against any country and condemned the harmful practice of certain States funding or promoting subversive regime-change actions or hateful information campaigns.  Such campaigns against Cuba by the United States violate the Charter of the United Nations and international law.  The international community cannot accept that ‑ under the banner of purportedly fighting terrorism ‑ certain States carry out direct or indirect attacks against certain peoples.  Reaffirming the value of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, he expressed support for efforts to consolidate the General Assembly’s central role in implementing the same.  He also expressed support for drafting a convention on countering terrorism to fill gaps in the existing legal framework.

ALI AHMAD M.A. ALMANSOURI (Qatar), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, called for increased coordination and cooperation in combating the evolving threat of terrorism.  Noting how the pandemic has been exploited by terrorist groups, he also drew attention to new shapes of terrorism, such as cyberattacks against critical infrastructure and bioterrorism.  Welcoming the results of the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, he condemned terrorism in all its forms, no matter the justification.  A comprehensive convention on international terrorism should include a precise definition of terrorism that avoids linking it with any religion or culture.  That instrument must also distinguish terrorism from legitimate struggles for self-determination, he stressed, noting that his country is a leading partner in the Organization’s counterterrorism efforts.

PAVEL EVSEENKO (Belarus), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, detailed his country’s efforts to fulfill its international obligations to counter terrorism, including its work to implement the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy; its adoption of legal, institutional and operational measures to counter terrorism; and its status as party to 13 international agreements on this issue.  Recalling a high-level conference held in Minsk in September 2019 on innovative approaches to countering terrorism, he highlighted the importance of cooperation in cyberspace to combat terrorist use of the online sphere to fund, recruit or carry out attacks on critical infrastructure.  It is regrettable, he added, that certain States use counter-terrorism instruments to achieve political goals.

XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that terrorism is a threat not only to international peace but also human rights.  Reaffirming support for the Organization’s multilateral efforts to counter this complex threat, he said that terrorism cannot be defeated by military means.  Calling for the implementation of the four pillars of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in a balanced manner, he said the international community must also ensure the timely and full realization of the development goals as well as the strengthening of international rule of law.  Stressing that the protection of human rights will reinforce counterterrorism efforts, he called on Member States to work towards the adoption of a comprehensive convention that would address gaps in the current international counter-terrorism architecture.

SARAH WEISS MA’UDI (Israel) said COVID-19 did not stop the pandemic of global terrorism, but rather left fertile ground for terrorists to increase their activities.  For its part, Israel adopted a comprehensive anti-terrorism law in 2016 that offers a holistic approach to fighting terrorism within the law.  She encouraged countries that have not done so already to follow those models.  Welcoming the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, she noted that one of its key provisions is the condemnation by all Member States of the use of human shields by terrorist organizations.  She also welcomed its condemnation of terrorist attacks targeting religious and ethnic communities, including explicit language condemning the upswing in acts of terror motivated by antisemitism.  Another troublesome trend is the growing abuse of information and communications technologies by terrorists to spread their ideologies, incite violence and recruit members, she said, adding that the phenomenon has been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Group and the OIC, said his country is working to strengthen domestic measures to counter terrorism in accordance with the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and relevant Security Council resolutions.  Cairo also works to counter hate speech, bolster development and fight poverty in order to prevent indoctrination among young people.  He welcomed the adoption by consensus of the seventh review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy ‑ in which his country actively participated ‑ and supported the Strategy’s recognition of, inter alia, the threat posed by right-wing groups espousing extremist ideologies.

ENKHBOLD VORSHILOV (Mongolia), spotlighted all the measures his country has been taking to implement the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, international conventions and treaties against terrorism.  Mongolia has officially requested to participate in the Cybersecurity and New Technology Programme, initiated by the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office, he noted, adding that the first capacity-building workshop will be held this month.  The Memorandum of Understanding on implementing the Countering Terrorist Travel Programme between the Government and the Office will be officially signed this month as well.  Acknowledging the benefits of digital and transformative technologies, he warned against the risk of these technologies falling into the hands of terrorists and transnational criminal organizations.  Further, he called on the international community to share knowledge, exchange information, deliver capacity-building assistance and strengthen cooperation to address these threats effectively.

For information media. Not an official record.