What's In Blue

Posted Thu 30 Dec 2021

Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED): Vote on Draft Mandate Renewal Resolution*

This afternoon (30 December), the Security Council president (Niger) is expected to announce the results of the written voting procedure on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) for another four years, until 31 December 2025.

CTED is a UN Secretariat body that assists the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC). It was established through resolution 1535 of 26 March 2004 to support the CTC’s work. The directorate has also been involved in assessing the implementation of resolution 1373 of 28 September 2001— which established the CTC and decided that all states shall prevent and criminalise the financing of terrorist acts—and resolution 1624 of 14 September 2005, which called on member states to criminalise the incitement to commit terrorist acts.

The US, the penholder on CTED, convened a first read-through of the text on 14 December virtually. Two rounds of virtual negotiations were then held on 17 December and 20 December. Following input from Council members, the US put a draft of the text in blue on 21 December and scheduled the vote for the following day (22 December). However, given considerable concerns expressed by some members, the vote was delayed and the penholder convened additional negotiations on Monday (27 December). A revised text was placed under silence on Tuesday (28 December) until yesterday (29 December), but China broke silence, with support from Russia. The penholder subsequently amended the text and placed it in blue yesterday afternoon. The 24-hour written voting procedure started yesterday and the results will be announced today at 5pm (30 December).

It seems that while there were no major divisions during the negotiations regarding CTED’s core mandated tasks, several disagreements arose over new language proposed this year by the US and others on issues relating to human rights and CTED’s engagement with civil society, among other matters. While several members supported the new proposed elements, others expressed concern regarding several suggestions. To achieve compromise, such disputed references have been streamlined or softened, and in rare instances, taken out altogether. However, much of the substance of the original draft is maintained in the final draft text in blue.

Draft Resolution

The draft resolution in blue renews CTED’s mandate for a period of four years, without making changes to its core mandate, as outlined in resolution 2395 of 21 December 2017. The draft text in blue contains several new elements, such as provisions outlining ways to enhance the effectiveness and transparency of CTED’s work—including by making its schedule for country visits available beforehand—and increase its engagement with civil society. It includes new references on terrorists’ use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and their illicit trade of cultural property. Additional new text encourages CTED, as appropriate, to consider the capacity gaps and needs of member states in effectively using “information and materials collected or received by the military” (also referred to as “battlefield evidence”) and helping them to develop and implement strategies for using such evidence.

A number of reporting requirements are outlined in the final draft resolution. It requests CTED, within six months, to review and make recommendations to the CTC on the implementation of its mandate. The draft text in blue directs the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) and CTED to submit a joint report to the CTC and the General Assembly by 30 March 2022 on the steps they are taking to incorporate CTED’s recommendations and analysis into UNOCT’s work. In addition, it requests CTED to report to the CTC by 30 March 2023 on ways to continue strengthening its assessment process, including by considering follow-up and targeted visits to member states.


One contentious area of discussion during the negotiations centred on proposed language relating to human rights. It seems that some members felt that there was too much focus on the issue. Although several references to human rights were retained in the final draft, this led the penholder to streamline some of these references. For example, the draft resolution in blue does not include language—which was contained in a previous iteration of the text—referencing the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism as “counterterrorism-relevant” entities that should be given access to CTED’s country assessments, recommendations, surveys and analytical products.

Proposed language on engagement with civil society was also a divisive issue. It seems that China and Russia were not supportive of language retained in the final draft encouraging member states to engage with civil society organisations in the development of rehabilitation and reintegration strategies for foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs). India, which is expected to chair the CTC in 2022, expressed support for CTED’s engagement with civil society, while emphasising that such engagement should be equitable and inclusive. India apparently wished to underscore the importance of interacting with local civil society organisations in any given country or region where CTED is carrying out its work. In this regard, a reference to “grassroots organisations” was added to the text as one of the civil society actors which increases awareness of the threat of terrorism and helps tackle it.

Language on engagement with civil society was streamlined in the final text in blue. For example, while a previous iteration of the text apparently called on CTED to engage with a “broad range of civil society experts”, the draft resolution in blue only calls on CTED to engage with “experts in civil society” during and after visits to and assessments of member states. In addition, this is to be done “at the behest of member states”, a condition which was incorporated in the final text, but not in earlier versions.

The draft resolution in blue also includes new language calling on CTED to raise awareness of the need for cooperation to combat the illicit excavation or trade in cultural property. It further emphasises that “looting and smuggling of cultural property by terrorist groups… can fuel and exacerbate conflict and hamper post-conflict national reconciliation”. Earlier iterations of the text apparently alluded to the looting and smuggling of cultural property “notably by terrorist groups”. However, due to the objection of one Council member, the final version omits “notably by” before “terrorist groups”. This appears to place the focus even more squarely on terrorist groups for committing these crimes, thus eliminating any potential consideration of other actors, such as states, in connection with such acts.

It seems that another divisive issue during the negotiations centred on references to UAS. The draft in blue encourages CTED to raise awareness about the threat posed by terrorists’ use of UAS to launch attacks or traffic in drugs and arms. It seems that two Council members raised objections, maintaining that more time was needed to appropriately negotiate the inclusion of such language. Ultimately, the US only made small modifications to the text on UAS; in this regard, a reference to terrorists “weaponis[ing]” this technology, which appeared in earlier drafts, was omitted from the final version in blue.

One of the more difficult discussions during the negotiations was on whether to maintain proposed text condemning terrorist acts motivated by xenophobia, racism and other forms of intolerance. This language was drawn from a General Assembly resolution (A/RES/75/291) adopted in June, which approved the seventh review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. At least two members would have preferred a more general condemnation of terrorism and apparently felt that there was no need to specify motivations for such acts. An earlier version of the draft had called on CTED to assess and share observations on member states’ efforts to tackle terrorism and violent extremism, including those based on xenophobia, racism and other forms of intolerance. As a concession, the penholder revised the text so that the final version merely “encourages CTED to assess, as appropriate” the efforts of member states in this regard.

A late amendment included in the draft is a paragraph recognising that a comprehensive approach to tackling terrorism requires national, regional, subregional and multilateral action. This paragraph also reaffirms the importance of addressing underlying conditions conducive to terrorism’s spread. It appears that this was added as a concession to China.

It seems that Ireland proposed calling on CTED to report to the CTC on practical steps it has taken to integrate gender and human rights into its work. However, this provision was apparently opposed by some members and was not included in the final draft text in blue.

*Post-script: On 30 December, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2617, renewing the mandate of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) for another four years, until 31 December 2025.