What's In Blue

Posted Mon 8 Feb 2016

Briefing by Political Affairs Head on UN Counter-Terrorism Efforts against ISIL

On Tuesday (9 February), the Security Council will be briefed by Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, on UN counter-terrorism efforts against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), followed by consultations. The briefing will be based on the Secretary-General’s first report on the threat posed by ISIL to international peace and security and the range of UN efforts in support of member states in countering the threat, requested by resolution 2253 of 17 December, which was released on 29 January 2016 (S/2016/92).

Traditionally, reports on ISIL or other Al-Qaida affiliates have been developed by the Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Dae’sh)/Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee. During the negotiations of resolution 2253, several Council members expressed their concern that with a new reporting requirement, the Secretary-General was essentially being asked to report on the same issues as the Monitoring Team. Other members thought it was important for the Secretary-General to report on a serious threat such as ISIL. In the end, a compromise was found by requesting that the report place more emphasis on strategic thinking and less on implementation measures. Updates on this strategic-level report are expected to be provided by the Secretary-General every four months, although it remains unclear how useful Council members will find this new reporting track on counter-terrorism.

The briefing will focus on the analysis of the threat and strategic-level recommendations. The report acknowledges that ISIL represents an unprecedented threat to international peace and security that is able to adapt quickly to the changing environment and to persuade or inspire like-minded terrorist groups around the world to facilitate and commit acts of terrorism. In particular, the report highlights the evolution of the threat in the last 18 months, including ISIL’s growing sphere of influence, the increasing complexity of recent attacks (in terms of planning, coordination and sophistication), and the steady stream of foreign terrorist fighters joining ISIL and its affiliates. Despite Council action targeting foreign terrorist fighters the report notes how figures have risen to an unprecedented level (around 30,000 originating from over 100 member states) as a result of the increasing number of ways potential recruits can access information on how to join ISIL, including through the internet. Equally, despite the Council’s renewed focus on the financing of ISIL, the report underlines ISIL’s rapid and effective mobilisation of financial resources in the service of recruitment and territorial expansion, characterising ISIL as “the world’s wealthiest terrorist organisation”.

Council members might want more information about the recommendations on strengthening the capacities of member states in order to ensure the implementation of legal obligations already imposed by the Council regarding issues such as the financing of terrorism, the travel and recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters and others. The report’s only recommendation addressed directly to the Council has to do with incorporating the protection of cultural heritage into UN humanitarian action; security strategies, including action to counter terrorism, and peacebuilding processes given ISIL’s continuing destruction and looting of cultural sites and artifacts. Council members might ask about further action that the Council could undertake to further diminish the capabilities of ISIL and other affiliated groups. Furthermore, Council members might inquire about the Secretary-General’s recommendation to enhance the UN response in addressing the links between terrorist groups and transnational organised crime, as well as whether the Council should play a more active role in this regard.

In addition, Council members might take this opportunity to inquire about the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism released on 24 December 2015 (A/70/674). They might decide to ask for clarification on the role of the Council in developing a global framework for preventing violent extremism, beyond ensuring the implementation of resolution 1624 that called upon member states to prohibit by law incitement to commit a terrorist act or acts. Some members may be interested in how to operationalise the Secretary-General’s recommendation to integrate preventing violent extremism into relevant activities of UN peace operations in accordance with their mandates.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails

Subscribe to receive SCR publications