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Homeland Security

Secretary Clinton Remarks on the Global Counterterrorism Forum

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
As Prepared
New York, New York
September 22, 2011

Good morning. I am delighted to welcome all of you to New York for the launch of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. I am particularly pleased to be joined by Foreign Minister Davutoglu as co-chair. And I want to echo President Obama’s condolences for the lives lost in the recent explosion in Ankara. This new Forum would not exist today without Minister Davutoglu’s leadership and Turkey’s commitment to strengthen international cooperation against the threats we all face. So thank you, my friend.

I also want to recognize the Foreign Ministers of UAE and Egypt [High Highness Abdullah bin Zayed and Amr], and Lady Ashton for their contributions. Many other leaders have played a role in making this moment possible, including Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia, whose remark to me two years ago about the need for such an initiative planted a seed that has now grown to fruition. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was also an early and strong advocate. It is not possible to name everyone, but it I want to thank all of my colleagues from around the world who have made this Forum a priority.

We are all here because we recognize the threat that terrorism poses to people everywhere. And we know that meeting this global challenge demands a coordinated international response.

Ten years ago, citizens of some 90 nations were murdered when al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center, just blocks from where we sit now. Since then, many more have been killed all over the world by al Qaeda, its affiliates, and other terrorist groups like the PKK, Lashkar e Taiba [LOSH-KAR e TIE-baa.]], and the FARC, just to name a few. The film you just watched told the stories of some of the victims and survivors.

The recent attacks in Abuja added to the growing list of communities that have been attacked. From London to Lahore, Madrid to Mumbai, and Kabul to Kampala, innocent civilians have been targeted. No country can afford to sit on the sidelines in the face of this threat, and no country can afford to go it alone.

In recent years, together we have made real progress against violent extremism. But we can do even more. We can build an international counterterrorism network that is as nimble and adaptive as our adversaries… that can mobilize resources and expertise from around the globe… that can meet today’s challenges and prepare for tomorrow’s threats.

This begins with robust bilateral cooperation, and we should all be proud of the work we have done together in recent years to strengthen these partnerships. The effort continues with regional organizations, such as ASEAN, the African Union, the Organization of American States, and the OSCE, which help members build capacity and pool expertise.

At the global level, the United Nations and the international counterterrorism policy and legal framework it has developed, including the UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy, help reinforce these efforts.

To further strengthen the legal framework, I want to echo Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recent call for all states to work to finalize the Comprehensive Convention Against International Terrorism, which India introduced more than a decade ago

But as important as all these elements are, all of us have become convinced that a crucial piece of the puzzle is missing: a dedicated global venue to regularly convene key counterterrorism policy makers and practitioners from around the world – a place to identify essential priorities, devise solutions and chart a path to implementation.

This new Global Counterterrorism Forum will provide that venue. We will not always agree on every issue, but we do agree that there are urgent needs and challenges that aren’t being addressed and that each member gathered here today has unique expertise to contribute. We know that what works in Turkey or the United States may not work in Indonesia or Colombia. But we can learn a lot from one another. And our work here has the potential to have a double impact: improving the coordination of counterterrorism efforts across borders and between regions, and also helping countries address terrorist threats within their own borders.

And this is not a group whose impact will be limited just to its members. We will work to strengthen the capacity of other governments, multilateral bodies, and civil society groups all over the world, especially those most affected by terrorism.

To be effective, we need a clear and forward-looking agenda that galvanizes action around the core questions at the heart of our work together.

First, how do we work together to support frontline states and nations in transition develop justice systems that are rooted in the rule of law, respectful of universal human rights, and effective against violent extremism? Across the Middle East and North Africa and beyond, governments are turning their backs on repressive tactics. They are writing new counterterrorism legislation, reorganize their police, and reform their judiciaries. So this is a real opportunity to develop and share best practices and build on our shared values. And this Forum is well positioned to provide leadership in this area by mobilizing resources, technical assistance and political will.

Second, what are the best ways to work together to deepen our understanding of the process of radicalization and terrorist recruitment and undermine the appeal of extremism? Over the last ten years, we’ve learned a lot about how terrorist networks find their adherents and maintain support and protection in particular communities. But there’s much we still don’t know about how best to disrupt their efforts and deny them support in key areas. This Forum can serve as a clearing-house for research and analysis into these challenges, bring together experts to design effective strategies for countering violent extremism, and help ensure government officials and NGOs are trained to understand the phenomenon of radicalization and how to address it.

Third, how can we collaborate together to improve border security and other transnational weaknesses exploited by terrorist networks? This Forum can help us improve our coordination and build new working-level partnerships between our law enforcement, intelligence, customs, and judiciary officials who deal with these problems on the ground every day.

Finally -- and this may be the most important question -- we need to ask: How can we ensure that we are always thinking and acting strategically in all our counterterrorism efforts?

We have all made important investments over the past decade in intelligence gathering and military capabilities. Looking ahead, we must also devote ourselves to helping states develop more effective civilian institutions and counterterrorism partnerships. I gave a speech earlier this month here in New York describing a smart power approach to counterterrorism that uses all the tools in our arsenal, including the power of our values, and I believe this can be a model for our international cooperation as well.

And this Forum can help us get there, especially if we take these questions as the basis for a work plan together. Today is just the beginning. Whether this Forum lives up to its promise – and fulfills the goals we have set – depends on the willingness of all of us, the members, to step up and engage. We don’t need another debating society. We need a catalyst for action.

The United States intends to be a full and active partner, and we are eager to work together in that spirit. So I am pleased that we have a number of concrete proposals to discuss and firm commitments to welcome.

I look forward to a productive exchange of ideas and to laying the groundwork for more progress together.

Let me now turn to my co-chair, Foreign Minister Davutoglu.

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