Expected Council Action
In December, India is organising a high-level briefing on “Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts: global approach to counter-terrorism—challenges and way forward”. The briefing is one of the signature events of India’s presidency. Under-Secretary-General and head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) Vladimir Voronkov and Acting Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) Weixiong Chen are expected to brief. It appears that India may pursue a presidential statement in connection with the meeting.
Background and Recent Developments
India has prepared a concept note ahead of the meeting, which says that the threat of terrorism is grave and universal and that terrorism in one part of the world seriously impacts peace and security in other parts of the globe. The concept note argues that the threat of terrorism is transnational, as terrorist actors collaborate while remaining in different jurisdictions to organise attacks anywhere in the world and, as such, it can only be defeated through collective efforts by all UN member states. It also contends that terrorism in all its forms must be condemned and that there can be no justification for such acts, regardless of their motivation, location, timing and by whom they were committed.
Prior to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, the Council rarely issued products on terrorism. Since then, however, the Council has adopted more than 40 resolutions on counter-terrorism. Several of these resolutions are listed in the concept note, including:
- resolution 2178 of 24 September 2014, which addressed the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters;
- resolution 2462 of 28 March 2019 on countering the financing of terrorism; and
- resolution 2482 of 19 July 2019 regarding the linkages between terrorism and organised crime.
The nature of the terrorist threat has changed considerably since the Council began adopting counter-terrorism resolutions regularly. The 28th report of the 1267/1989/2253 Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Qaeda Monitoring Team, which was published on 21 July 2021, noted that “the most striking development of the period under review was the emergence of Africa as the region most affected by terrorism”.
This trend has continued since the Monitoring Team’s 28th report was published. The Secretary-General’s 15th biannual strategic-level report on the threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh, which was issued on 26 July, says that the situation on the continent has deteriorated further and that two of the three “most dynamic” ISIL networks are based in Africa. The report also says that member states remain “acutely concerned” about the rising incidence of terrorist violence in Africa and describes several examples of violence perpetrated by African organisations with links to ISIL. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), for example, the Allied Democratic Forces, a group that has pledged allegiance to ISIL, killed more than 383 civilians between December 2021 and February. According to the 2022 Global Terrorism Index (GTI), a report prepared by the think tank Institute of Economics and Peace, close to half of the terrorist-related deaths recorded in 2021 occurred in Africa.
The Monitoring Team’s latest report—its 30th, published on 15 July–notes that the “threat from ISIL and Al-Qaeda remains relatively low in non-conflict zones, but is much higher in areas directly affected by conflict or neighbouring it”. In the Monitoring Team’s view, “one or more” of these conflicts, if not resolved, “will incubate an external operational capability for ISIL, Al-Qaeda, or a related terrorist group”, and the areas of most concern in this regard are “Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Levant”. The Monitoring Team also argues that foreign terrorist fighters are a “major potential threat multiplier”, and urges the international community to do more to address the issue.
The impact of the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan is another area of concern for the Monitoring Team. Its latest report says that Al-Qaeda “enjoys greater freedom in Afghanistan” under Taliban rule and notes that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan (ISIL-K) has increased its presence in northern and eastern Afghanistan. ISIL-K has carried out several attacks in Afghanistan this year, including a number that have targeted the Hazara community.
Terrorist groups’ use of new and emerging technologies, including the internet and weaponry, has continued to evolve. According to the Monitoring Team’s latest report, several member states have highlighted the use of social media and other online technologies in efforts to finance terrorism and disseminate terrorist propaganda. The report also notes that terrorist groups are increasingly using the dark web to acquire new technologies. On 29 October, the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) adopted the “Delhi declaration on countering the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes” during its special meeting in India. Among other matters, the declaration expressed concern about terrorists’ use of information and communications technologies as well as unmanned aerial systems, and conveyed an intention to develop a “set of non-binding guiding principles … with a view to assisting member states to counter the threat posed by the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes”.
In light of the changing nature of the terrorist threat, December’s briefing will provide an opportunity for Council members to “build on the recent deliberations of the meeting of the CTC” in India and “further share their views on the current state of affairs”, according to the concept note. It also says that the meeting hopes to allow the Council to “arrive at key principles of the global community’s collective fight against terrorism going forward”.
The concept note proposes several guiding questions, including:
- What are the tendencies that the global collective needs to be wary of in the fight against terrorism?
- Has the lack of a common international legal framework weakened our fight against terrorism?
- How do we safeguard the sanctity of the sanctions regime against terrorists and terror entities and make them effective in combatting terrorism?
- What should be the key principle of a global counter-terrorism architecture that serves the interests of all member states?
The briefing will be the third signature event on counter-terrorism-related issues in the last three months. In October, Gabon hosted a high-level debate on “financing of armed groups and terrorists through illicit trafficking of natural resources” under the agenda item “Peace and security in Africa”. In November, Ghana convened a high-level debate on “Counter-terrorism in Africa—an imperative for peace, security, and development”.
Key Issues and Options
Managing the evolving nature of the terrorist threat is a key issue for the Council. Given that the threat has changed markedly since the Council began actively addressing terrorism in 2001, the Council could consider asking the Secretary-General to undertake a review of the UN’s counter-terrorism architecture. Such a review could consider whether the current framework is fit for purpose and well-suited to addressing the current threat, as well as the impact of the Council’s counter-terrorism measures on the ground.
Council members are generally supportive of efforts to combat terrorism. Some differences exist, however, regarding how to manage the response to the terrorist threat. Some Council members favour an approach that is founded on human rights, addressing the root causes of terrorism, and the involvement of civil society, while other members focus more closely on security and law enforcement.
Some members have criticised the UN’s response to terrorism for focusing too narrowly on some groups. During the August briefing on the threat posed by ISIL, for example, India said: “it is puzzling to us that the Secretary-General’s report chose not to take note of the several proscribed groups in [South Asia], especially those that have repeatedly been targeting India”.
During its time on the Council, Kenya has repeatedly referred to the activities of Al-Shabaab and the dangers posed by the group. At the February briefing on the threat posed by ISIL, Kenya announced that it will again formally request that Al-Shabaab be listed under the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL and Al-Qaeda sanctions regime, a proposal that it first raised in 2019 prior to its current tenure on the Council. Kenya’s 2019 proposal was rejected by six Council members, who argued that listing Al-Shabaab under the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL and Al-Qaeda sanctions regime could nullify the humanitarian exception in the 751 Somalia sanctions regime. At the time of writing, Kenya has not yet re-tabled its proposal for listing Al-Shabaab. In its explanation of vote on resolution 2662 of 17 November, which renewed the 751 Somalia sanctions regime, Russia expressed concern over the “ambivalent approach to Al-Shabaab” and questioned why the group is being kept at a distance from the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL/Da’esh Sanctions Committee, “despite its uncontested affiliations with those groups”.
The US is the penholder on counter-terrorism. Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj (India) chairs the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC). Ambassador Trine Heimerback (Norway) chairs the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL/Da’esh and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee. The 1540 Non-Proliferation Committee is chaired by Ambassador Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez (Mexico).
UN DOCUMENTS ON COUNTER-TERRORISM
|26 July 2022S/2022/576||This was the Secretary-General’s 15th report on the threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh to international peace and security.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|11 July 2022S/2022/547||This is the 30th report of the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.|