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Homeland Security

PRESS CONFERENCE ON UNITED NATIONS GLOBAL COUNTER-TERRORISM STRATEGY

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

5 December 2007

While the adoption last year of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy was a “very significant achievement”, Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, told reporters at a Headquarters press conference today that the strategy would rank as “historic” if implemented.

That was the verdict from the General Assembly’s informal midterm review of the strategy’s implementation, which Mr. Orr attended yesterday as Chair of the Secretary-General’s Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force. The meeting was organized into four clusters mirroring the four pillars of the Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

Accompanying Mr. Orr were Baki Ilkin, Permanent Representative of Turkey, and Elbio Rosselli, Permanent Representative of Uruguay, both Vice-Presidents of the Assembly’s sixty-second session, who chaired segments of yesterday’s meeting.

Framing the issue, Mr. Orr said the Task Force comprised 24 entities from the United Nations, but only a few were exclusively devoted to counter-terrorism. The group was an “unexpected but very successful example” of system-wide coherence where diverse bodies had come together under a common issue.

He explained that the Task Force was trying to develop a novel, long-term approach to very real issues, adding that it intended to follow through on a proposal to hold a meeting next year between Member States and victims, who often were disempowered, unable to tell their stories or take part in solving problems. It was also examining the questions of radicalization that led to terrorism, the “pipeline of resources and ideas” that helped to create terrorists, and integrating human rights with counter-terrorism concerns.

Finally, there would be a formal review of the strategy next September in the Assembly, when he would expect “a broad and deep range of actions” by the United Nations to implement that Strategy. The bulk of the action, however, must be taken by Governments around the world.

Reporting on the morning hearings, which covered measures to address conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, and tactics to prevent and combat terrorism, Mr. Ilkin said participants agreed that the Strategy’s success depended on concrete implementation and constant monitoring. All reiterated that the need for better dialogue, peaceful settlement of political conflicts, and promoting the rule of law, were among the elements needed to help eliminate conditions conducive to terrorism. The second part of the discussion focused on curbing financing for terrorism, sharing intelligence, fulfilling obligations to prosecute terrorists, and preventing the incitement of violence, among other things.

Turning to the afternoon’s hearings, Mr. Rosselli said the discussion was organized around two themes: measures to build State capacity, and measures to ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law. Dialogue focused on what States had implemented, were putting in place, or had in the pipeline to build capacity to prevent terrorist attacks. Delegations emphasized cooperation at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels, and demonstrated a strong commitment to enhancing coordination.

Mr. Rosselli went on to say developing countries had underscored that putting such policies in place required heavy investment in technology, personnel, and modern information-sharing techniques, underlining the crucial role of the Task Force in that regard. On respect for human rights and the rule of law, he stressed that protection applied to both victims and terrorists. States agreed there was no justification for torture under any counter-terrorism measures.

Responding to a question on the distinction between terrorism and radicalization, Mr. Orr said that while there was no international legal definition of a terrorist, there were 13 conventions and three protocols that explicitly defined terrorist acts. Thus, if one engaged in such acts, it could be said that the individual had crossed a line between radicalization and terrorism. Recruitment for terrorist activities was a trigger that pushed someone over that line. “You’ll never stop the flow of terrorist materiel”, he said, but deconstructing the chain of terrorist recruitment and training would yield success.

Taking a question on whether the term “Islamic terrorism” linked religion with terrorism, Mr. Ilkin said there were people who wished to exploit religion for terrorist purposes, but religion on its own had nothing at all to do with terrorism. It was important to destroy the perception that some religions were giving rise to terrorist acts. The Alliance of Civilizations initiative, sponsored by Spain and Turkey, aimed to foster such understanding.

Asked about the economic causes of terrorism and whether the issue of State-sponsored terrorism was being addressed, Mr. Rosselli said economic issues did breed terrorism. Poverty was being addressed by the United Nations, notably through the Millennium Development Goals, and the Counter-Terrorism Strategy was part of the Organization’s overall agenda. On State-sponsored terrorism, he said the international community had been advancing “in fits and starts”. Some States were reluctant to discuss State terrorism. There was wide political terrain for discussion, and the issue would be taken up, as it required attention.

Mr. Orr added that conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism included prolonged violent conflict, socio-economic marginalization, systematic political exclusion and systematic violation of human rights. A huge number of poor people, however, did not turn to terrorism, and it was important to understand why not. Among the 24 entities on the Task Force were the World Bank; International Monetary Fund (IMF); World Health Organization (WHO); United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which were devoted to addressing social and economic conditions.

As to when the Strategy would become a convention and whether States were waiting for a legal definition of terrorism, Mr. Orr said there were three tracks on countering terrorism: Security Council resolutions; the Counter-Terrorism Strategy; and ongoing talks for a comprehensive convention, which was 95 per cent negotiated. The last 5 per cent constituted “the toughest political issues in the house”, and included the definition of terrorism. While a definition was not around the corner, States were working hard to implement the agreed Strategy. He hoped that those parallel efforts could build a basis of cooperation among 192 Governments to hammer out the remaining details of a legal convention.

Asked about the mandate of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, and any overlap of work with the Task Force, Mr. Orr said the mandate had been extended for three months, and the new Executive Director had just been named. The Security Council wished to give him enough time to conduct the proper consultations before making any recommendations. The Directorate was an active member of the Task Force, and there was no overlap of work. Its responsibilities were laid out in resolution 1373 (2001). The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Martin Sheinin, also participated in the Task Force and had helped to sensitize other parts of the system about the imperative for human rights in counter-terrorism efforts.

He added that the discourse on counter-terrorism had shifted over the last year, and he was very encouraged by that, particularly in light of the consistent support received for the agenda.

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For information media • not an official record



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