New York

24 September 2014

Secretary-General's remarks to Security Council High-Level Summit on Foreign Terrorist Fighters

President Obama, thank you for your leadership in convening this Security Council Summit.   This is the second time that you have presided over this Council on a matter with grave implications for international peace and security.

The world is witnessing a dramatic evolution in the nature of the terrorist threat.

In the last year, terrorist attacks have killed, maimed and displaced many thousands of civilians – the vast majority of them Muslims from Afghanistan to Somalia to Nigeria… from Iraq to Libya to Mali.

These attacks have been carried out by violent extremists who thrive in conditions of insecurity and injustice, fragility and failed leadership.  

These groups ruthlessly hijack religion to control territory and vital economic resources.  They brutalize women and girls.  They target and slaughter minorities. 

They are the enemies of faith. 

As Muslim leaders around the world have said, groups like ISIL – or Da’ish -- have nothing to do with Islam, and they certainly do not represent a state. 

They should more fittingly be called the “Un-Islamic Non-State”. 

Yet these groups have become a magnet for foreign terrorist fighters who are easy prey to simplistic appeals and siren songs.

The UN’s Al Qaeda-Taliban Monitoring Team estimates that more than 13,000 foreign terrorist fighters from over 80 Member States have joined ISIL and the Al Nusra Front.

This growing phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters is a consequence -- not a cause -- of the conflict in Syria.
A long period of upheaval and, until recently, unresponsive leadership in Iraq – coupled with outrageous human rights abuses in Syria -- have created a hothouse of horrors. 

There can be no genuine protection of civilians if extremist groups are permitted to act with impunity and the Syrian government continues its assault on its own people.   

For more than a year, I have sounded the alarm about the vicious and unjustifiable actions of these groups and the danger they pose to Iraq, Syria, the wider region and international peace and security. 

We need a creative and comprehensive political strategy in Syria and beyond to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters.

Terrorists must be defeated -- but we must do so in a way that avoids the deliberate acts of provocation that they set for us -- victimization, further radicalization and more civilian deaths.

Eliminating terrorism requires international solidarity and a multifaceted approach – among the many tools we must use, we must also tackle the underlying conditions that provide violent extremist groups the opportunity to take root.

Immediate security issues must be addressed. 

Over the longer-term, the biggest threat to terrorists is not the power of missiles – it is the politics of inclusion. 

It’s peaceful societies and respect for human rights.  It’s education, jobs and real opportunity.   It’s leaders who listen to their people and uphold the rule of law.

Missiles may kill terrorists.  But good governance kills terrorism. 

Free and independent societies – free from suffering, oppression and occupation – this is what will kill terrorism.

I welcome the Council resolution just adopted and its call for strengthening implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. 

Through the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, we are stepping up efforts in support of Member States and regions seriously affected by terrorism.

Through the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre, we are working with Member States to enhance understanding of the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon and to develop and implement policies to combat their flow.

Through our collective efforts, we must ensure that all counterterrorism actions and policies are consistent with international human rights and humanitarian laws. 

As the custodian of the Charter of the United Nations, I want to emphasize that all measures must be fully in line with the goals and values and principles of the United Nations.

I once again welcome the new unity of purpose in the Council on this issue under the leadership of President Obama.

I hope that this spirit will carry over to other pressing issues, particularly finally bringing peace to the people of Syria. Thank you, Mr. President.