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Counter-Terrorism

Expected Council Action

In August, Under-Secretary-General Vladimir Voronkov, the head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (OCT), and Michèle Coninsx, the Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), will brief the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s strategic-level report on the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or Da’esh), followed by consultations.

Background

Under the terms of resolution 2368, which was adopted on 20 July 2017, the Secretary-General submits a strategic-level report on ISIL to the Council biannually. In his January report, he highlighted how ISIL continues to pose a significant threat around the world, despite its strategic setbacks in such theatres as Iraq, Syria and the southern Philippines. The group has lost its focus on conquering and holding territory and instead has given prominence to external attacks. The report underlined the willingness of some members of the ISIL and Al-Qaida networks to support each other and characterised the potential convergence of the two networks, at least in some areas, as an emerging threat. Briefing the Council on 8 February, Voronkov explained how ISIL has been able to adapt its organisation and become a global network with a flat hierarchy and less operational control over its affiliates, which are constituted of smaller groups of motivated individuals. This is possible in part because of the role of the Internet and social media platforms in inspiring, mobilising and directing supporters to carry out terrorist attacks.

In a 20 April report on the activities of the UN system in implementing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, the Secretary-General encouraged member states to forge new international counter-terrorism partnerships. He stressed that preventing conflict and fostering sustainable development are essential to efforts to counter terrorism and vice versa and that ensuring accountability for those found guilty of committing terrorist acts is a key element of deterrence.

In May and June, Finland and Jordan facilitated negotiations of the review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The review, which takes place every two years in the General Assembly, updated several aspects of the strategy. Although compromises were reached and the review was adopted unanimously, divisions among member states persist. Among the issues that continue to polarise member states are the concept of prevention of violent extremism, the identification of conditions conducive to radicalisation, the role of civil society in countering terrorism, and how to address the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes.

Key Issues and Options

A key issue for the Council and its subsidiary organs is to muster the necessary flexibility and adaptability to address the evolving threat posed by ISIL. Preventing politicisation of counter-terrorism-related discussions could also contribute to progress on this front. The recent trend to hold joint meetings of related subsidiary organs—the 1267/1989/2253 Al-Qaida/ISIL Sanctions Committee, the Counter-Terrorism Committee and the 1988 Afghanistan and 1970 Libya Sanctions Committees—could be continued and expanded to all committees dealing with situations in which the terrorist threat exists.

A particular issue for the Council and its subsidiary organs is member states’ compliance with its resolutions, including resolutions 1373, which criminalised terrorism; 1624, which aimed at preventing acts of incitement to commit terrorism; and those regarding the 1267/1989/2253 Al-Qaida/ISIL sanctions regime.

Resolution 2395 underscored the importance of strong coordination and cooperation between the recently-created OCT and CTED. The two bodies produced a joint report on 8 May setting out practical steps to be taken towards incorporating the Directorate’s recommendations and analysis into the work of OCT. In addition to discussions in the General Assembly and at Committee level, Council members could assess whether Council-mandated structures should be adapted to limit duplication of efforts and maximise impact and resources. At press time, Council members were negotiating a draft presidential statement circulated by Kazakhstan regarding the coordination and cooperation among different UN entities working on counter-terrorism.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Overall, all Council members view counter-terrorism efforts as important, notwithstanding divergences over the politicisation of the issue in the Middle East. However, divisions remain over some issues, including the scope of the “prevention of violent extremism” agenda and the role of civil society in countering terrorism, as shown during the recent review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The US decided to downgrade its level of participation at a 28-29 June UN high-level conference of heads of counter-terrorism agencies of member states in response to OCT’s decision to exclude civil society from some of its meetings. The US argued that OCT had caved in to political pressure from countries like Russia. Russia challenged the appropriateness of the participation of civil society in a closed-door segment which included discussion of cooperation between intelligence services, among other issues.

Council members are in general agreement about the importance of receiving strategic analysis about ISIL (Da’esh), which can then feed into their counter-terrorism efforts. Several Council members felt that receiving a strategic-level report every four months was excessive, however, and thus the report has been submitted biannually since the adoption of resolution 2368 in July 2017.

Following nine months of divergences among permanent members of the Council over whom the Secretary-General should appoint as the new Ombudsperson to the 1267/1989/2253 Al-Qaida/ISIL Sanctions Committee, the appointment of Daniel Kipfer Fasciati (Switzerland) was announced on 24 May.

UN DOCUMENTS ON COUNTER-TERRORISM

Security Council Resolutions
21 December 2017 S/RES/2396 This was a resolution addressing the threat of foreign terrorist fighters.
21 December 2017 S/RES/2395 This resolution renewed the mandate of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) until 31 December 2021.
20 July 2017 S/RES/2368 This was a resolution renewing and updating the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions regime. Through an annex to the resolution, eight individuals or organisations were added to the sanctions list.
Secretary-General's Reports
31 January 2018 S/2018/80 This was the Secretary-General’s sixth strategic-level report on the threat posed by ISIL (Da’esh) to international peace and security.
20 April 2018 A/72/840 This was the Secretary-General’s report on the activities of the UN system in implementing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
Security Council Letters
24 May 2018 S/2018/514 This was a letter concerning the appointment of Daniel Kipfer Fasciati as Ombudsperson of the 1267/1989/2253 Al-Qaida/ISIL Sanctions Committee.
8 May 2018 S/2018/435 This was a letter transmitting a joint report by CTED and the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism setting out practical steps to ensure the incorporation of the Directorate’s recommendations and analysis into the work of the Office.
Security Council Meeting Record
8 February 2018 S/PV.8178 This was a briefing by Under-Secretary-General and head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism Vladimir Voronkov on the Secretary-General’s strategic-level report on the threat posed by ISIL (Da’esh).
General Assembly Document
26 June 2018 A/RES/72/284 This was a resolution on the review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

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