Security Council

19 November 2014

Remarks to Security Council's open debate on International Cooperation in Combating Terrorism and Violent Extremism

Ban Ki-moon

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses Security Council debate on international cooperation in combating terrorism and violent extremism. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

The threat of foreign terrorist fighters and the scourge of violent extremism are not just security challenges, they are also political and development challenges affecting stability and the social fabric of communities, countries and regions.

Thank you for convening this timely high-level debate.

Let me begin by recognizing the global leadership of Australia – which this month successfully chaired the G-20 Summit in Brisbane, where I had the honour of participating, and is also presiding over the Security Council this month. You are presiding over leading Peace and Security, Economic Development and Human Rights issues this month.

I welcome the Council’s increased attention to the growing threat to international peace and security posed by terrorism and violent extremism.

Less than two months ago, this body adopted Resolution 2178 calling for stronger international efforts to address the challenge of foreign terrorist fighters.

This followed closely on the heels of Resolution 2170 adopted in August under the Presidency of the United Kingdom.

I commend the Council for its unity of purpose.

Despite strengthened efforts to combat the threat, the number of foreign terrorist fighters in the Syria and Iraq conflicts has grown to over 15,000 from more than 80 countries.

In addition, terrorist groups spurred by violent extremist ideologies -- such as Da’esh, the Al-Nusra Front, Boko Haram and Al-Shabab – continue to carry out brutal acts and cause profound suffering. Millions live under the control of such groups.

Technology and globalization have made it easier for them to cause disproportionate harm, exploit narratives and profit from illicit financing. Da’esh, for example, has been illegally trading in oil.

We are increasingly seeing terrorism, drug trafficking and transnational crime grow in intensity and feed off each other.

The international community and the UN must ensure the full implementation of our many tools for action -- including Security Council resolutions and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

Since the adoption of Resolution 2178 less than two months ago, we have taken a number of specific steps.

First, the Al-Qaeda Monitoring Team provided an oral briefing to the Council’s relevant committee on the foreign terrorist fighters threat. This will be followed by a report in March 2015.

Second, the Counter-Terrorism Committee’s Executive Directorate – CTED -- has prepared a preliminary analysis of the principal capacity gaps in Member State implementation of Resolution 2178.

Third, in order to address these gaps, the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force – CTITF -- has established a UN coordination mechanism to mobilize action to support the needs of Member States.

Fourth, the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre has initiated a UN system-wide programme on foreign terrorist fighters to develop inter-agency projects to assist Member States.

Two major projects have been launched. The Centre is helping Member States analyze the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon and develop policy responses. I encourage all Member States to participate in this project, particularly those most severely affected.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime is also working to strengthen the legal and criminal justice capacity of Middle East and North African countries to address the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters.

Resolution 2178 also recognizes that violent extremism poses a broader threat to international peace and security – affecting political stability, national cohesion and the very foundations of some Member States.

The Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force is stepping up efforts to assist Member States address the multi-dimensional challenges of extremist ideologies and violent extremism.

This includes a concrete follow-up programme to an international conference convened in Geneva last year by the CTITF Office to encourage States to implement practical measures to counter violent extremism, as prescribed in Pillar I of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

I know that CTED, a member of the CTITF, is also looking at this challenge on behalf of the Council.

Ultimately, violent extremism is a multi-dimensional challenge that needs to be effectively addressed at the grassroots level. We are therefore examining how best to strengthen the counter-terrorism capabilities of UN Special Political Missions, Peacekeeping Operations and UN Country Teams. This will be among the areas for review under the new High Level Panel on Peace Operations.

Madame President,

The threat of foreign terrorist fighters and the scourge of violent extremism are not just security challenges, they are also political and development challenges affecting stability and the social fabric of communities, countries and regions.
We must continue to think more deeply into the fundamental conditions that allow extremism to thrive. Looking at these challenges solely through a military lens has shown its limits.

People need equality and opportunity in their lives. They need to feel inclusion by their governments and trust from their leaders.

As we work together to address the challenge, we must also strive to avoid responses to terrorism that are carried out in a way that exacerbates the problem, such as when efforts are not sufficiently targeted and entire communities feel victimised by human rights abuses committed in the name of counter-terrorism.

Such abuses are not only immoral; they are counterproductive. Through our collective efforts, we must ensure that all counterterrorism actions and policies are consistent with international human rights and humanitarian laws.

This rights-centred approach to counter-terrorism must be upfront in our planning, not merely an afterthought. I cannot stress this strongly enough.

I remain fully committed to working with you to ensure that we effectively respond to this challenge in a comprehensive manner.

Thank you.