September 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 August 2015
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THEMATIC ISSUES

Counter-Terrorism

Expected Council Action

In September, the Council is expected to hold a ministerial-level open debate on the settlement of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and countering the terrorist threat in the region. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to brief the Council and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is likely to preside. A presidential statement is expected as an outcome.

Background

The debate is expected to focus on the genesis of the terrorist threat in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as how existing conflicts contribute to a narrative exploited by violent extremism.

The Council has often failed to analyse and then to tackle root causes of conflicts, mostly because of political sensitivities. In different contexts the Council has discussed structural issues conducive to the growth of the terrorist threat, such as the porous nature of some borders, socio-economic exclusion and the availability of weapons. These are often combined with narratives that tap into existing grievances, identify a common enemy and reinforce the definition of identities that promote violent extremism and are disseminated widely by social media. At a 14 September 2005 summit-level meeting, the Council adopted resolution 1624 which called upon member states to prohibit by law the incitement to commit a terrorist act. Since then, language on countering violent extremism has been included in several resolutions, among them resolution 2178, adopted on 24 September 2014 under Chapter VII, which encouraged member states “to engage relevant local communities and non-governmental actors in developing strategies to counter the violent extremist narrative that can incite terrorist acts [and] address the conditions conducive to the spread of violent extremism”. As a follow-up to a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism held at the White House in February, US President Barack Obama is expected to chair an event on this same topic in the margins of the UN General Assembly High-Level Segment.

On 19 December 2000, the Council adopted resolution 1333, which extended an assets freeze originally imposed on the Taliban to also target Usama bin Laden and individuals and entities associated with him, including those in Al-Qaida. For more than 15 years, efforts by the Council to disrupt the activities of individuals and entities affiliated with Al-Qaida by targeting their sources of revenue have been ongoing. The most recent of these initiatives was also led by Russia and resulted in the Council adopting resolution 2199 on 12 February. The resolution focused on how the illegal exporting of oil, traffic of cultural heritage, ransom payments and external donations increase the operational capacity of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and Al-Nusra Front. According to this resolution, member states are required to report to the 1267/1989 Committee within 30 days any interdiction in their territory of assets being smuggled from or to ISIS- or Al-Nusra-controlled territories that would result in violations of the already existing measures (asset freeze and arms embargo). Despite the focus of many member states on financial assets and financial institutions when discussing the implementation of the assets freeze, the Council’s definition of this obligation is much broader and includes freezing economic resources, including assets of every kind.

Noting with concern that ISIS and Al-Nusra are generating income from engaging directly or indirectly in the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items, resolution 2199 imposed a new legal obligation on member states to take appropriate steps to prevent the trade in Syrian cultural property and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific and religious importance illegally removed from Syria since 15 March 2011. The resolution also recalled the validity of a similar ban on antiquities illegally removed from Iraq since 6 August 1990.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is to assess the root causes and the regional dimension of terrorism in an effort to counter it more effectively.

Another relevant issue is to assess the implementation of obligations imposed by the Council on member states to curb the financing of different terrorist groups’ affiliates and to enhance the Council’s instruments to tackle the evolving nature of the terrorist threat.

Another key issue is to tackle violent extremism and radicalisation processes while maintaining full respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Options

The Council could adopt a presidential statement that:

  • reiterates the Council’s call on member states to provide alternative narratives to violent extremism;
  • urges regional and international actors in the Middle East and North Africa to refrain from fuelling conflicts in the region in order to advance their own interest;
  • calls on all member states to ensure overall implementation of the Council’s counter-terrorism framework, including the Al-Qaida sanctions regime, in order to address the evolving nature of the terrorist threat; and
  • calls on member states to be mindful of the humanitarian impact of such sanctions on the civilian population.
Council and Wider Dynamics

Even though counter-terrorism continues to be one of the issues generating unanimous support among Council members, the way in which the debate has been framed to focus on the root causes of the terrorist threat in the Middle East and North Africa might show clear divergences in how Council members assess the appearance of this phenomenon. Prior and current divisions among permanent members over Syria, Israel/Palestine, Libya or Yemen might feature in the debate. Furthermore, countering violent extremism and tackling radicalisation through the internet  and other electronic means have proven to be issues where there is a lack of a common vision regarding standards of respect for fundamental freedoms (such as freedom of speech and press) among Council members.

UN DOCUMENTS
Security Council Resolutions
17 June 2014 S/RES/2161 This resolution renewed the measures targeting Al-Qaida associated individuals and entities and extended the mandates of the Office of the Ombudsperson and the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team assisting the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee for 30 months.
28 September 2001 S/RES/1373 This resolution placed barriers on the movement, organisation and fund-raising activities of terrorist groups and imposed legislative, policy and reporting requirements on member states to assist the global struggle against terrorism. It also established a Counter-Terrorism Committee to monitor state compliance with these provisions.
Sanctions Committee Documents
16 June 2015 S/2015/441 This letter transmitted the 17th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee.
3 November 2014 S/2014/815 This was the report of the Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida sanctions regime on the sources of ISIS and Al-Nusrah Front’s recruitment, funding and arms.
OTHER RELEVANT DOCUMENTS

Financing of the terrorist organization Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Financial Action Task Force, February 2015.