Expected Council Action
In November, the Council expects to hold an open debate on global efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism and on the implementation of resolutions 2170 and 2178 on the growing threat of foreign terrorist fighters. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is expected to preside. Expected to brief on UN counter-terrorism efforts are the Secretary-General and the chairs of the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Gary Quinlan (Australia) and the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaitė (Lithuania). The adoption of a presidential statement is the likely outcome.
According to the Analytical Support and Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, there are around 15,000 foreign terrorist fighters from more than 80 countries who have fought with listed Al-Qaida-associated groups in Syria and Iraq.
On 15 August, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2170, which specifically condemned the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and Al Nusrah Front (ANF) for the recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters whose presence is exacerbating conflict and contributing to violent radicalisation. It added six individuals associated with ISIS and ANF to the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida sanctions list and expressed the Council’s readiness to consider further designations of individuals involved in financing or facilitating the travel of foreign terrorist fighters. In addition, the resolution called upon member states to suppress this flow, bring foreign terrorist fighters to justice and engage with those at risk of being recruited to discourage travel to Iraq and Syria.
On 24 September, the Council held a summit meeting chaired by US President Barack Obama on the issue of foreign terrorist fighters. The concept note circulated ahead of the meeting underlined how foreign terrorist fighters “not only exacerbate existing conflicts but also often return home possessing new skills and connections, increasing the threat of home-grown terrorist attacks” (S/2014/648).
Resolution 2178, which was adopted unanimously at the beginning of the meeting, built on the current counter-terrorism framework established by the Council but also included several innovations. The main one is the obligation that member states shall prevent the entry into or transit through their territories of any individual about whom that state has credible information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that he or she is travelling for the purpose of participating in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts.
It also calls for state cooperation in preventing individuals from travelling to join terrorist groups and those assisting them, by sharing information, assistance with criminal investigations, and evidence-gathering, as well as financing and capacity-building assistance. The resolution places an emphasis on the importance of countering violent extremism in order to prevent terrorism and encourages engagement with relevant local communities and non-governmental actors in developing strategies to address the conditions conducive to the spread of violent extremism.
Ahead of the meeting, the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee on 23 September approved the addition of 14 individuals and two entities to its list of individuals and entities subject to targeted financial sanctions, travel ban and arms embargo. Most of them were specifically listed after member states provided evidence that they were involved in financing or facilitating the travel of foreign terrorist fighters for ISIS and ANF.
The sixteenth report of the Monitoring Team, which was discussed by the Committee on 8 October, identified short- and long-term challenges related to this issue. Short-term challenges include the current killings, attacks and abuses being carried out in the field and long-term challenges involve concerns regarding the significant increase in fighters who are returning to their home countries and their potential impact on domestic terrorism.
The Council is expecting a briefing by the chairs of the relevant committees about their respective efforts to implement resolutions 2170 and 2178.
These include a report by the Monitoring and Analytical Support Team to the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee on the threat, including to the region, posed by ISIS and ANF, their sources of arms and funding, recruitment, demographics as well as recommendations for additional action to address the threat.
The CTC, with the support of its Executive Directorate, is expected to identify principal gaps in member states’ capacities to implement resolutions 1373 and 1624 that may hinder states’ abilities to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. Resolution 1373 of 28 September 2001 mandates states to criminalise the financing of terrorism and recruitment for terrorist groups, and resolution 1624 of 14 September 2005 calls upon member states to prohibit by law the incitement to commit terrorist acts. The CTC is also mandated to identify good practices to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and to facilitate technical assistance, specifically by promoting engagement between providers of capacity-building assistance and recipients.
A key issue for the Council is devising an effective global framework to address the growing challenges related to foreign terrorist fighters. Making sure that counter-terrorism activities worldwide are undertaken with due respect for international human rights norms is an ongoing related issue.
Another key issue is to identify and sanction those sponsoring terrorism by facilitating and financing the recruitment of foreign fighters.
A further related issue is how to combine a coercive approach against terrorism with measures aimed at promoting non-violent expression of political claims and reducing sympathy and support for violent extremism.
The Council could adopt a presidential statement:
- emphasising the need for states to have the tools and mobilise the resources to prevent their citizens from becoming foreign terrorist fighters;
- underscoring the critical need to counter violent extremism through both engagement with civil society and building resilience among communities most at risk of recruitment and radicalisation;
- asking the Secretary-General to appoint a special representative against violent extremism; and
- threatening all state and non-state actors that are providing funding, weapons or other kinds of support to terrorist groups—including through the payment of ransoms—with the imposition of sanctions and threatening those state and non-state actors that do not respect their legal obligations with the imposition of secondary sanctions.
Council and Wider Dynamics
At a time when Council dynamics have rendered the Council unable to overcome divisions on a number of pressing situations (e.g. Israel/Palestine, Syria and Ukraine), counter-terrorism appears to be one of the issues generating unanimous support among Council members. Although resolution 2178 incorporated the importance of countering violent extremism to fight against terrorism, much of the Council’s work so far has focused on the imposition of sanctions. In the negotiation of recent resolutions, some Council members have advocated the inclusion of references to compliance with domestic law and international law, including human rights law, when countering terrorism.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|24 September 2014 S/RES/2178||This resolution expanded the counter-terrorism framework by imposing obligations on member states to respond to the threat of foreign terrorist fighters.|
|15 August 2014 S/RES/2170||This resolution condemned the recruitment by ISIS and al-Nusra of foreign fighters and listed six individuals affiliated with those groups under the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida sanctions regime.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|24 September 2014 S/PV.7272||This was a summit-level debate chaired by US President Barack Obama on counter-terrorism.|