10 February 2021 – The threat posed by ISIL has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and may rise further in the coming months, according to the 12th, and latest, report of the Secretary-General on the threat posed by ISIL (Da’esh) to international peace and security. The report (S/2021/98) warns that the longer-term fallout of the pandemic could benefit ISIL regional affiliates in conflict zones, while in non-conflict zones, inspired attacks may increase following a surge in online propaganda during the pandemic. The report was prepared by the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, in close collaboration with the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, and other United Nations entities.
The Secretary-General further highlights the protracted issue of ISIL fighters, including foreign terrorist fighters, and their family members in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, noting that the issue remains an urgent and strategic imperative for international peace and security.
In her briefing to the Security Council on the report, Assistant Secretary-General Michèle Coninsx, Executive Director of CTED, emphasized that “Member State measures to contain the spread of the virus – such as restrictions on movement and gatherings – continue to make it more difficult for terrorists to travel, gather, or access potential target sites outside conflict zones.”
ASG Coninsx also highlighted the untenable situation facing hundreds of thousands of individuals – most of whom are children and women – stranded in camps and prisons in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, which continues to be a major cause of concern for United Nations entities. “These individuals are struggling to meet their day-to-day basic needs because they lack access to food, medicine, hygiene and shelter. COVID-19 has further restricted their access to humanitarian assistance and led to suspension of protection and support services.”
Stressing the importance of multilateralism, international cooperation, and the promotion and protection of international human rights, Ms. Coninsx described how various United Nations entities, including CTED have supported Member States in their efforts to implement relevant Security Council resolutions on countering the terrorist threat. She also illustrated the United Nations’ ability to adapt to continuously changing circumstances to ensure business continuity, citing CTED’s recently implemented country hybrid-assessments and deep-dives.
Ms. Coninsx reiterated the need to ensure that the milestones achieved in international counter-terrorism must be guarded, concluding that “We must continue to encourage the identification of shared, global priorities based on universal values of justice, equality, and human dignity.”
The webcast of the proceedings is available here.