Open Debate and Presidential Statement on Counter-Terrorism
This morning (19 November), the Security Council is scheduled to hold a high-level open debate focused on international cooperation in combating terrorism, including addressing the interrelated threats posed by foreign terrorist fighters, violent extremism, Al-Qaida, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop will preside. The briefers will be Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaité (Lithuania), the chair of the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC); and Ambassador Gary Quinlan (Australia), the chair of the Al-Qaida 1267/1989 Sanctions Committee. A presidential statement is expected to be adopted as an outcome of the debate.
The draft presidential statement reiterates the Council’s grave concern about ISIS, Al-Nusra Front and other Al-Qaida affiliates, and the negative impact of their presence, violent extremist ideology, and actions on the stability of Iraq, Syria and the region. The draft also recognises that terrorism will not be defeated by military force, law enforcement measures, and intelligence operations alone, and underlines the need to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and for a comprehensive approach to defeat terrorism. In this sense, it builds on resolution 2178, which incorporated several provisions encouraging member states to engage relevant local communities and non-governmental actors in developing strategies to counter violent extremism.
Negotiations over the draft presidential statement revealed several different approaches among Council members. It seems some members wanted to stress the need to counter violent extremism only when it is conducive to terrorism. Some members, more supportive of a prevention angle, tried to incorporate references to extremism without it necessarily being violent yet, and the compromise language, which echoed resolution 2178, was in the end a reference to violent extremist ideologies “that can be conducive to terrorism”. At least one Council member felt that the reference to “violent extremist ideologies” was too general and had the potential to be misused if decontextualised but the reference was eventually kept in the final draft.
Regarding the implementation of the legal obligation on member states to prevent travel of individuals on the Al-Qaida sanctions list from or through their territories, the draft reiterates the Council’s call on member states to make use of the Interpol databases and to require that airlines under their jurisdiction provide advance passenger information (including the Passenger Name Records) to national authorities. (Resolution 2178 also established the legal obligation on member states to prevent entry into or transit through their territories of foreign terrorist fighters when there is credible information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that they have the purpose of participating in terrorist acts, regardless of whether they are listed or not.) The draft also requests the Counter- Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate to report within 180 days to the CTC on gaps in how advance passenger information is being used and to provide recommendations on expanding the use of such information.
It seems that during negotiations there were also some differences over how to reflect concerns regarding some of the potential sources of funding to ISIS and Al-Nusra Front in the draft. A 3 November report (S/2014/815) of the Monitoring Team identifies three areas where additional enhanced sanctions could curb ISIS and Al-Nusra Front revenue generation. These include the seizure of oil tanker-trucks coming from or trying to enter into ISIS or Al-Nusra Front-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 Front-controlled territory. Some permanent members challenged the inclusion of language expressing concern about these issues and asked for more time to discuss – both at capital and Committee level -these recommendations as their implementation would require a Council resolution under Chapter VII,
In the end, language was added regarding the Council’s concerns over the use of aircraft to transfer gold or other valuable items and economic resources for sale on international markets, or to transfer arms and materiel for use by ISIS and Al-Nusra Front. The draft also expressed concern regarding reports that items of archaeological, historical, cultural, and religious importance are being illegally removed from territories controlled by ISIS and Al-Nusra Front, which may be generating income for those groups. The draft also stresses that donations from individuals and entities have played a role in developing and sustaining ISIS and Al-Nusra Front and urges member states to address this directly through enhanced vigilance of the international financial system.
It seems the US and China furthermore disagreed over how to refer to the role of the internet in recruiting foreign terrorist fighters. In the end, agreed language from previous resolutions was used.
During the debate, the initial findings of the reports requested by resolutions 2170 and 2178 (on ISIS and Al-Nusra Front, and foreign terrorist fighters, respectively) as well as the practical experience of member states in the implementation of these resolutions will likely help to identify concrete follow up actions for member states, the Security Council and the UN. The Secretary-General is expected to brief on the impact of transnational terrorist networks in conflict as well as the UN response to this threat. Quinlan is expected to brief the Council on a report by the Monitoring Team on the sources of ISIS and Al-Nusra Front’s recruits, funds and arms. He is also expected to brief on a preliminary analysis of the threat of foreign terrorist fighters as discussed in an 11 November Committee meeting, as well as other actions undertaken by the Committee aimed to disrupt ISIS, Al-Nusra Front and other listed entities. Murmokaité, is expected to provide a preliminary assessment, as requested in resolution 2178, of existing gaps in member states’ capacities to implement resolutions 1373 (2001) and 1624 (2005) on countering terrorism and identify good practices in the implementation of these resolutions to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters.