15 November 2007

Address to the International Conference on Terrorism: Dimensions, Threats and Counter-Measures

Ban Ki-moon

Let me thank the President, Government and people of the Republic of Tunisia for graciously hosting this conference. Equally, I thank the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC], whose Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [ISESCO] has been our steadfast partner in organizing it.

By collaborating in this way, we give life to the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2006. The Strategy calls on us to make full use of the role which regional and other organizations can play in the global endeavour to counter terrorism. By cooperating here, we honour that call.

Beyond this hall, we are partners every day in the struggle against terrorism, and in the work to implement the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Organizations such as the OIC and ISESCO have indispensable expertise in the cultural and other contextual dimensions of that mission.

The adoption of the Strategy was a milestone. It was the first time that all 192 UN Member States came together to formulate a comprehensive, collective, and intergovernmentally approved plan to counter terrorism. It was the first time they agreed that conditions exist that can be conducive to the spread of terrorism, and that, to gain ground, they must address these conditions. It was the first time they agreed that all Governments and organizations must convey the same critical message: terrorism is never justifiable, whether on political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other grounds.

This conference is an important opportunity to consolidate that achievement. It provides a venue for representatives from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, North America, and elsewhere to engage with one another, and with the international community as a whole, on ways to advance the implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

Conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism exist on many fronts. They include:

-- prolonged unresolved conflicts;

-- dehumanization of victims;

-- lack of rule of law and violations of human rights;

-- ethnic, national and religious discrimination;

-- political exclusion;

-- social and economic marginalization; and

-- lack of good governance.

Such conditions may be local in origin, but they have consequences for all States. Terrorists may exploit vulnerabilities and grievances to breed extremism at the local level, but they can quickly connect with others at the international level. Similarly, the struggle against terrorism requires us to share experiences and best practices at the global level. And by jointly addressing conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, we can complement international cooperation on security and law enforcement.

Let me be clear: when we stand up for human rights, combat poverty and marginalization, when we seek to resolve conflicts, support good governance and the rule of law, we do so because these activities have intrinsic value and should be pursued in their own right. But as we do, we also work to counter terrorism, by addressing the very conditions that can be conducive to it.

The United Nations stands ready to assist on many fronts, including setting standards and sharing lessons learnt among all nations. Member States now have a more coherent, more directed, and more user-friendly partner in the United Nations system.

The United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force illustrates how the United Nations family can work as one. We are working with Member States in mapping and analysing national and international initiatives for addressing radicalization and recruitment; in advancing the protection of human rights; in helping to protect vulnerable targets; and in addressing the needs of victims of terrorism.

The United Nations is also working with Member States to build an Alliance of Civilizations, an initiative in which many of you here have been so constructively engaged. This is a crucial component in addressing the religious, cultural and social issues often exploited by extremists -- a particular focus of this conference.

The UN’s 192 Member States made history just over one year ago when they adopted the Strategy as a visionary yet practical guide for international activities to counter terrorism. Yet our work together is just beginning. Now we must implement the Strategy in all its dimensions. By next September, when the General Assembly meets to review implementation of the strategy, we must all have concrete progress to show -- Member States, the United Nations system, and our key partners in regional and other organizations.

The more we bring leaders together in an ongoing exchange -- to share best practices, to thrash out differences, to raise awareness -- the better we can build understanding, respect and dialogue among societies, cultures, religions and nations. And the more effectively and comprehensively we can work to implement our Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

I look to this Conference to set us decisively on that path.