December 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 26 November 2014
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Countering Terrorism and Transnational Organised Crime

Expected Council Action

In December, the Council is expected to hold a high-level open debate on counter-terrorism and terrorism’s linkages with transnational organised crime. The Foreign Minister of Chad, Moussa Faki Mahamat, is expected to preside. A resolution is the anticipated outcome.


It seems that Chad wants to focus the meeting on the connection between terrorism and transnational organised crime. In its review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, the General Assembly adopted on 13 June a resolution expressing its deep concern “about the connections, in some cases, between some forms of transnational organised crime and terrorism, and emphasizing the need to enhance cooperation at the national, subregional, regional and international levels”.

A presidential statement adopted on 21 February 2012 under the presidency of Togo on the impact of the transnational organised crime in West Africa and the Sahel identified transnational organised crime as a serious threat to international peace and stability “including illicit weapons and drug trafficking, piracy and armed robbery at sea, as well as terrorism”.

In North Africa and the Sahel-Sahara region, the persistence of structural factors—such as the porous nature of the borders, the availability of weapons, the profitability of kidnapping for ransom, synergies with transnational organised crime and the exploitation of political grievances—make terrorist groups an ongoing threat to stability in the region. Al Shabaab, which continues to pose an asymmetrical threat in Somalia despite the progress made by the joint military offensive carried out by the Somali National Army and the AU Mission in Somalia, has made of the illicit export of charcoal a key funding stream.

However, the discussion is not expected to focus particularly on Africa, but on the connections between transnational organised crime and terrorist groups more broadly. A 3 November report (S/2014/815) of the Al-Qaida Analytical Support and Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989 Sanctions Committee identifies three areas where additional enhanced sanctions could curb Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and Al Nusra Front revenue generation that are related to transnational organised crime and which include the seizure of oil tanker-trucks coming from or trying to enter into ISIS or Al Nusra-controlled territory; imposing a world-wide moratorium on antiquities trading from Syria and Iraq; and not allowing aircraft to land in or take off from their territories if that aircraft had taken off from or is destined to land in ISIS or Al Nusra-controlled territory.

Afghanistan is another situation where the linkages between transnational organised crime and terrorism are clear. A 9 June report of the Monitoring Team on the Taliban highlights how “the past year has been a bumper year for Taliban revenues, boosted by booming narcotics income, revenue from corruption and extortion, and increasingly drawing on revenue from the illegal exploitation of natural resources”. The report argues that the economic interest of the Taliban, with clear incentives to preserve this income, implies less potential incentives to negotiate with the government.

Against this background, the Counter-Terrorism Committee and its Executive Directorate, along with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, have carried out some activities regarding the linkages between terrorism and transnational organised crime. These include the holding of regional workshops and the establishment of counter-terrorism and transnational crime units in some countries in the Sahel.

Key Issues

An immediate issue is the difficulty in sharing intelligence and confidential information among member states. A related issue is the porous nature of many borders and the very profitable synergies between terrorism and transnational organised crime.

An important issue is to combine any military response to terrorism with countering violent extremism through engagement with communities and civil society organisations to address legitimate political and social grievances that can be exploited by terrorist narratives.


In the adoption of a resolution, options for the Council include:

  • stressing the urgent need for effective information-sharing in order to effectively counter terrorism and transnational organised crime;
  • encourage the Secretary-General to incorporate new strategies to address terrorism and transnational organised crime by peace operations in the review currently under way;
  • calling upon member states to develop national and multilateral strategies to counter extremism and in particular violent extremism that can be conducive to terrorism; and
  • establishing an expert group to identify those involved in transnational organised crime in the Sahel, with the possibility of imposing targeted sanctions, as recommended in the Secretary-General’s report (S/2013/189).
Council Dynamics

Although terrorism is a matter of grave concern for all Council members, a broad debate on the linkages with transnational organised crime will likely reveal differences in Council members’ understanding of both the phenomena, its causes and the most appropriate ways to address them, including issues related to due process and the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms. As some terrorist groups claim political objectives and some political movements have violent outlets, Council members may become divided over categorising and defining which groups are considered terrorists. Also, some Council members might argue that transnational organised crime is not always linked to terrorism fearing that situations that are not currently on the Council’s agenda might be discussed.

In the past, Council members have also been divided regarding references to paying ransoms to terrorist groups for the release of hostages.

UN Documents

Security Council Presidential Statements
13 May 2013 S/PRST/2013/5 This presidential statement highlighted terrorism’s connection with transnational organised crime in Africa.
21 February 2012 S/PRST/2012/2 Was on the impact of transnational organized crime on peace, security and stability in West Africa and the Sahel Region, including piracy.
Secretary-General’s Reports
9 January 2014 S/2014/9 This was on the UN’s support for states and regional entities in Africa in fighting terrorism.
18 June 2013 S/2013/359 This Secretary-General’s report was on transnational organised crime and illicit drug trafficking in West Africa and the Sahel.
Sanctions Committee Documents
3 November 2014 S/2014/815 This was the report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the Al-Qaida 1267/1989 sanctions regime.
9 June 2014 S/2014/402 This was the fourth report of the Monitoring Team of the 1988 Taliban Sanctions Committee.
General Assembly Document
13 June 2014 A/RES/68/276 This was a resolution reviewing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.