What's In Blue

Posted Mon 11 Jan 2021

Virtual Open Debate on International Cooperation in Combating Terrorism 20 Years After the Adoption of Resolution 1373

Tomorrow morning (12 January) at 8:30 am, the Security Council is holding a ministerial-level open videoconference (VTC) debate on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts, focusing on international cooperation in combating terrorism 20 years after the adoption of resolution 1373. Othman Jerandi, the Minister of Foreign of Affairs of Tunisia, will chair the meeting. The anticipated briefers are: Under-Secretary-General of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism Vladimir Voronkov; Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) Michèle Coninsx; and Fatima Akilu, the Executive Director of the Neem Foundation. A presidential statement that passed silence today is an expected outcome of the meeting.


On 28 September 2001, following the terrorist attacks that took place in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania on 11 September 2001, the Council adopted resolution 1373, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The resolution set out various measures to be implemented by member states to address the threat of terrorism in a global, coordinated and comprehensive manner. These included:

  • criminalising the financing of terrorism;
  • freezing without delay any funds related to persons involved in acts of terrorism;
  • denying all forms of financial support for terrorist groups;
  • suppressing the provision of safe haven, sustenance or support for terrorists;
  • sharing information with other governments on any groups practising or planning terrorist acts;
  • cooperating with other governments in the investigation, detection, arrest, extradition and prosecution of those involved in such acts;
  • criminalising active and passive assistance for terrorism in domestic law and bringing violators to justice; and
  • implementing effective border control measures.

The resolution also established the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), a subsidiary body composed of all 15 Council members. In March 2004, the Council adopted resolution 1535, which established CTED as a special political mission to assist the CTC in its work. Ambassador Tarek Ladeb (Tunisia) currently chairs the CTC until the end of this year.

While progress has been made in the last two decades, terrorism continues to pose a threat to international peace and security, requiring collective action on national, regional and international levels.

The Open Debate

The open debate is a signature event of Tunisia’s January Council presidency. According to the concept note (S/2020/1315) prepared for the meeting, the open debate will provide “an opportunity to assess the progress made in creating the necessary legal and institutional frameworks related to the prevention and countering of terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism”. It will also allow participants to highlight possible gaps and challenges in relation to international cooperation on the issue, as well as join in identifying emerging trends and common priorities that can contribute to future multilateral action in this regard.

Some key issues that may be addressed at the open debate by briefers and member states include: the level of compliance by member states with the relevant resolutions, including resolution 1373; how the Council can support the work of the CTC; and how to further facilitate cooperation among the CTC and CTED, other subsidiary bodies of the Council and relevant specialised bodies and institutions.

A further issue, also identified in the concept note, that may be discussed at the meeting is the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on efforts to combat terrorism. In June 2020 CTED published a paper titled “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on terrorism, countering terrorism and countering violent extremism”. The paper noted that terrorist groups are exploiting the pandemic to further their propaganda and narratives. At a VTC briefing on 23 November, Ladeb stated that “the pandemic’s socioeconomic, political, health and humanitarian impacts may exacerbate conditions conducive to terrorism and increase global terrorist threats, not only in areas where non-state armed groups and terrorist groups are particularly active but also outside conflict zones” (S/2020/1143).

The concept note outlines several questions that participants may consider in preparing their statements:

  • What are the challenges facing member states in complying with the obligations contained in resolution 1373 and relevant subsequent resolutions?
  • How efficient are international cooperation and technical assistance tools in helping member states combat terrorism and violent extremism? What are the best practices that have been developed? How can they be better disseminated?
  • How can the Council, through the CTC, enhance and adapt its response to volatile and changing terrorist threats? What are the main challenges and which areas should be prioritised?
  • How can the current UN counter-terrorism architecture provide a further unified and integrated response to existing gaps and needs, including through coordination between relevant subsidiary bodies as well as through the interaction between the CTC, CTED and other relevant UN entities?

Presidential Statement

The draft presidential statement is intended to mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of resolution 1373. It seems that the negotiations were relatively straightforward as the draft largely draws on previously agreed language, including from presidential statements 2010/19, 2014/23, 2018/9 and 2020/5 and resolutions 1373, 2178, 2395, 2396 and 2462. It incorporates the following elements:

  • expresses condolences to the families of victims of terrorism, expresses solidarity with countries that have suffered terrorist attacks and its support for the survivors and victims of violence committed by terrorist groups, including sexual and gender-based violence;
  • reaffirms that terrorism in all forms and manifestations continues to constitute one of the most serious threats to international peace and security;
  • reaffirms that member states must ensure that any measures taken to counter terrorism must comply with all their obligations under international law;
  • reiterates the obligations of member states relevant to prevention and suppression of the financing of terrorism, as contained in the relevant Council resolutions;
  • refers to the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes and stresses the need to prevent terrorists from exploiting technology (as contained in resolution 2396);
  • refers to the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters (as contained in resolution 2178);
  • reiterates the need to enhance cooperation among the various relevant committees of the Council; and
  • highlights the need to develop effective partnerships between the UN, regional and subregional organisations in countering terrorism.

It appears the draft includes one paragraph containing new language, namely that the Council will continue to engage in preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism and to further strengthen the unified and coordinated international response in this regard.