March 2019 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2019
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THEMATIC ISSUES

Counter-Terrorism

Expected Council Action

In March, the Council will hold an open debate on the financing of terrorism, during which a resolution may be adopted.

Background and Key Recent Developments

Resolution 1373 was adopted in 2001 in response to the 11 September terrorist attacks in the US. This was the first comprehensive resolution imposing obligations on all states to respond to the global threat of terrorism. It requires states to criminalise terrorist acts, penalise acts of support for or in preparation of terrorist offences, criminalise the financing of terrorism, freeze the funds of persons who commit or attempt to commit terrorist acts, and strengthens international cooperation in criminal matters related to terrorism. Resolution 1373 also established the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) to monitor its implementation.

Since 2001, the Council has adopted further resolutions relating to financing and assisting terrorist acts. In resolution 2178 of 24 September 2014, the Council decided that states must prevent and eliminate funding for the travel and activities of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs). Resolution 2396 of 21 December 2017 further elaborated on this with respect to FTFs returning to their home countries. Additionally, resolution 2347 of 24 March 2017 highlighted the links between the illicit trade in cultural property and the financing of terrorism.

Peru organised an Arria-formula meeting on “Enhancing synergies between the United Nations and regional and subregional organisations to address the nexus between terrorism and transnational organised crime” on 9 April 2018. On 8 May, the Council adopted a presidential statement calling on states to “prevent terrorists from benefiting from the financial proceeds of transnational organised crime” and recalling states’ “obligations to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorism for any purpose”.

While there has been success in limiting the funds available to groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida, these and other groups are finding new ways to finance their activities and bypass existing mechanisms.

Against this backdrop, on 25 and 26 April 2018, France hosted a conference in Paris on the financing of terrorism, titled “No Money for Terror”, with more than 70 countries and 15 international and regional organisations participating. The final statement of the conference expressed the commitment to implement existing Council resolutions effectively and enhance cooperation and coordination of technical and financial assistance for states lacking capacity in this field.

New forms of financing terrorist activities were also addressed, and these were front and centre in an Arria-formula meeting co-hosted by France, Indonesia and Peru, with the assistance of Australia and Tunisia, on “Preventing and Countering the Financing of Terrorism” on 31 January. The panellists were Tom Keatinge, the director of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI); Michèle Coninsx, Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED); Guillaume Michelin, Substitut du Procureur, Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris (via video teleconference); John Carlson of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international organisation that develops standards for suppressing the financing of terrorism and effectively implementing existing measures to combat terrorism (via video teleconference); and Jody Myers, vice president of global compliance risk assessment at Western Union.

The discussion revealed significant gaps in implementation of Council resolutions on the financing of terrorism by member states. The various ways in which terrorists fund their activities were also raised, including the abuse of legitimate businesses and not-for-profit organisations and the misappropriation of charitable funds, extortion of local populations, organised crime, and new forms of financial activity such as crowdfunding, mobile payment services and crypto-currency. The importance of engaging with the private sector was discussed, as was the need to develop and implement financial intelligence capabilities to trace money used for terrorism and also anticipate and prevent terrorist attacks.

On 11 February, Under-Secretary-General and head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism Vladimir Voronkov and Coninsx briefed the Council on the eighth report of the Secretary-General on the threat posed by ISIL. Regarding ISIL’s financial strength, Voronkov said the report “notes that despite some loss of revenue because of territorial setbacks, ISIL could sustain its operations through accessible reserves, in cash or investments in businesses, ranging between $50 million and $300 million.” Coninsx reviewed CTED’s findings on the increased use of mobile payment services by terrorist groups and concerns about the possible exploitation of blockchain technology and the misuse of crypto-currencies for malicious, criminal or terrorist purposes.

Key Issues and Options

Lack of implementation of existing resolutions, first and foremost resolution 1373, is an ongoing issue. The Council may urge states to meet their current counter-terrorism obligations, particularly criminalising terrorism acts and the funding of those acts, as well as bringing perpetrators and funders of terrorism to justice, while respecting international humanitarian law and human rights law.

The Council may also choose to address the new forms and methods of funding used by terrorist groups and clarify the application of resolution 1373 to these new technologies. In this regard, it may touch upon the need for greater interaction with private actors to be able to source and track funds to prevent terrorism while respecting privacy laws.

The lack of capacity of some states to implement Council resolutions effectively because of insufficient resources and technology has been a controversial issue in the past. An outcome may urge further resource- and technology-sharing between states, on top of information-sharing.

Council Dynamics

In general, counter-terrorism enjoys the support of all Council members; the importance of curbing the financing of terrorism, in particular, is a consensus issue. All agree on the importance of implementing obligations to supress the financing of terrorism, but during negotiations on previous related resolutions, some Council members emphasised lack of capacity and resources as a reason for implementation gaps. They wanted to secure an obligation from developed countries for assistance in developing technologies such as biometric data collection, necessary for full implementation. Other countries were only willing to go as far as calling on states to provide mutual assistance.

Divisions may also emerge if a proposed resolution seeks to expand existing obligations or include new obligations on member states. Some Council members may be inclined to focus on the implementation of existing Council resolutions. In addition, different views on the importance of human rights while countering terrorism may lead to disagreement on the correct balance between oversight over private actors, such as non-profit organisations, and protecting the rights of those actors.

UN Documents on Counter-Terrorism

Security Council Resolutions
21 December 2017S/RES/2396 This was a resolution addressing the threat of foreign terrorist fighters.
21 December 2017S/RES/2395 This resolution renewed the mandate of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) until 31 December 2021.
24 March 2017S/RES/2347 This was a resolution on protection of cultural heritage in armed conflicts.
24 September 2014S/RES/2178 This resolution expanded the counter-terrorism framework by imposing obligations on member states to respond to the threat of foreign terrorist fighters.
28 September 2001S/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.
Security Council Presidential Statements
8 May 2018S/PRST/2018/9 This was a presidential statement expressing concern about the close connection between international terrorism and transnational organised crime.
Secretary-General’s Reports
1 February 2019S/2019/103 This was the eighth report of the Secretary-General on the threat posed by ISIL (Da’esh) to international peace and security.
Security Council Meeting Records
11 February 2019S/PV.8460 This was a briefing on the eighth report of the Secretary-General on the threat posed by ISIL (Da’esh).