Open Debate: Threats to International Peace and Security caused by Terrorist Acts.
April 14, 2016
On Thursday April 14, 2016, under the Chinese presidency, the Security Council held a ministerial-level open debate under the theme, "Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorist Acts,” with a special focus on the ways to disrupt financing of ISIL and other terrorist organizations and to prevent the use of communication technologies by terrorist organizations to incite, recruit for, fund and plan terrorist acts. As the UN Secretary-General has noted in his briefing, the international community must curtail the ability to abuse and misuse the Internet and social media to radicalize and recruit young people, by identifying global and regional solutions that involve governments, private enterprise, and civil society. In addition, Member States discussed measures taken to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, including through criminalisation and international cooperation on border control, intelligence sharing, and capacity-building. Even though a legal framework to criminalize foreign terrorist fighters seems to be a proactive step towards addressing the problem; however, some Member States, including India, voiced regret over the lack of transparency in the current United Nations sanctions regimes. This debate provided an opportunity for Member States to reflect on efforts developed to formulate concrete and effective counter-terrorism measures. The debate showcased the difference in approaches to address security challenges in today’s world. Some Member States insisted that terrorism could not be defeated militarily and could not be dealt with solely through the use of force or coercive measures; instead, its root causes must be addressed within an inclusive atmosphere. Emphasizing the importance of dialogue as the best long-term method for neutralizing the divisive forces of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, the representative of Sweden shared the popular opinion that inclusive societies are the strongest counter-narrative against polarization. However, underscoring the importance of strengthening the resilience of vulnerable groups and raising awareness locally and regionally, the representative of Belgium, among others, said the recent terrorist acts in his country had shown the need to continue to prioritize fighting terrorism through legal, judicial, police, military and intelligence channels.
The disruption of financing channels was highlighted not only as a vital and effective way to degrade and defeat ISIL and other terrorist organizations but also as an effective preventative measure by the majority of Member States. The need to limit terrorists’ access to oil, gas and cultural artifacts has been underscored by the Secretary-General. In this vein, stressing the importance of making the international financial system more secure, the representative of Senegal reminded the international community that any proposed steps to counter terrorism financing should not prejudice migrants and refugees. The fact that the Internet and social media have become frequently used platforms for terrorists to commit terrorist acts was within the attention of the Council. While ensuring freedom of expression, the representative of Thailand suggested the establishment of regulations for the Internet and electronic media to prevent abuses. The implementation of the Secretary-General’s plan of action to prevent violent extremism was featured prominently in the discussion. The rising level of violent extremism reflects greater complexity and sophistication. In compliance with the general idea of the Council, the representative of New Zealand underlined the need for national responses tailored to the circumstances of specific countries and communities. Similarly, the European Union called for the development of education, youth participation, interfaith and intercultural dialogue and employment possibilities. The role of women in this process was highlighted by some speakers. Despite the variety of topics addressed at the Debate, very few speakers address the need to strengthen the collaborative disarmament efforts. Voicing support for an inclusive United Nations counter-terrorism strategy, Venezuela suggested that the Council must adopt a resolution prohibiting the trafficking of small arms and light weapons. However, similar voices were definitely in the minority.
Out of nearly 64 statements delivered, only fifteen speakers (26%) used a specific gendered language. Underscoring the importance of prevention, 43% of speakers suggested that long-term counter-terrorism solutions should be based on an understanding of the forces that alienated individuals and young people in particular. Building upon this idea, 21% of speakers highlighted the need to strengthen the role of women in the implementation of counter-terrorism action plans. Italy, in this regard, called for a “whole-Government” and “whole-society” approach that engaged community leaders, women and youth associations, the private sector and the media together. While terrorists continued to target Syria, the representative of the country specifically highlighted the role of women in peace processes. Protection of local communities was seen as a primary responsibility of all Member States throughout the Debate. Traditionally, women have been seen as primary victims of terrorism (16%). The representative of Holy See expressed the concerns about the total disregard of human dignity demonstrated by terrorists and extremists as they kill and maim women, children, the elderly and the handicapped, and commit unspeakable crimes against women and girls. Frequently, Member States referred to issues related to the implementation of Security Council Resolutions and other counterterrorism frameworks (76%), human rights (64%), and the rule of law (59%). However, States generally refrained from using gender-specific language.