What's In Blue

Posted Wed 31 Aug 2022

Arria-formula Meeting: “Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Transnational Activities of Terrorist Groups”

This afternoon (31 August) at 3 pm EST in the ECOSOC Chamber, Kenya and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will convene an Arria-formula meeting titled “Threats to International Peace and Security caused by Transnational Activities of Terrorist Groups”. The expected briefers are: Christian Emmanuel Mouaya Pouyi, Acting Head of the Training and Equipment Unit at the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism; James Rogers, Associate Professor in War Studies at the Danish Institute for Advanced Study; and Rose Gichure, a survivor of an Al-Shabaab terrorist attack.

Kenya and the UAE have prepared a concept note ahead of the meeting, which says that its aim is to evaluate the effectiveness of the Security Council’s response to the transnational threat posed by terrorist groups. Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group with links to Al-Qaeda that is sanctioned under the 751 Somalia sanctions regime, will serve as an example to help frame the discussion. The activities of other groups will also be discussed, as will the recruitment efforts of transnational terrorist groups, cross-border attacks, and the use of new and emerging technologies by terrorists, including unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

The concept note argues that the Council’s approach to combatting transnational terrorism is driven by a “two-track approach” that equates fighting terrorism with countering the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Al-Qaeda, and their affiliates, “to the exclusion of other groups”. It further contends that other groups pose some of the most serious threats globally, citing Al-Shabaab’s activities in Somalia and the region, including its attacks on Somali troops and AU missions and cross-border attacks in Kenya and other neighbouring countries, as evidence to support this claim.

Referring to “the growing use of drones”, including by Al-Shabaab, Da’esh, and the Houthi group in Yemen, the concept note also claims that the use of new and emerging technologies, such as UAS, renders the transnational threat posed by terrorist groups “more pressing than ever”.

Several objectives for the meeting are outlined in the concept note, including:

  • Starting a conversation between member states about the transnational threat posed by terrorist groups.
  • Evaluating how the Council can effectively deploy its available tools to address this threat.
  • Proposing recommendations on how the Council and regional and international organisations can further address transnational activities by terrorist groups.
  • Raising awareness about the risks associated with the abuse of new and emerging technologies, such as UAS, by terrorist groups.

The concept note also proposes a series of guiding questions for the discussion, such as:

  • What tools does the Council have at its disposal to address transnational threats posed by terrorist groups?
  • How can the Council address concerns by affected countries regarding conflicting treatment of terrorist groups?
  • How can the concerns of humanitarian partners be properly addressed?

Since joining the Council, Kenya has sought to draw attention to the activities of Al-Shabaab and the dangers posed by the group. During the 9 August Council briefing on the Secretary-General’s 15th biannual strategic-level report on the threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh, for example, Kenya said that Al-Shabaab “remains dominant in its transnational activities”, adding that “several countries, including [Kenya], have suffered the senseless atrocities of that terrorist group”. Kenya referred to Al-Shabaab’s attack in late July in south-east Ethiopia and argued that it shows the group’s determination to “continue spreading its dangerous ideology across borders”.

At the 9 February Council meeting on ISIL, Kenya announced that it will again formally request that Al-Shabaab be listed under the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL and Al-Qaida 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-Qaida 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 under the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL and Al-Qaida sanctions regime.

While on the Council, the UAE has referred to the risk of terrorists using new technologies and sought to label the Houthis, an entity that is party to the ongoing conflict in Yemen, as a terrorist group. In its statement at the 9 August briefing on ISIL, the UAE said: “it is imperative that the international community take serious steps to address the acquisition of drones and their components by terrorist groups, including Da’esh, Al-Shabaab, and the Houthis”. While negotiating resolution 2624 of 28 February, which renewed the 2140 Yemen sanctions regime, the UAE pushed for the inclusion of language describing the Houthis as a terrorist group. Despite opposition from Russia and concerns expressed by other Council members, this language was ultimately included in resolution 2624, which “strongly condemns the cross-border attacks by the Houthi terrorist group, including attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE striking civilians and civilian infrastructure”. Resolution 2624 designated the Houthis as an entity subject to the targeted arms embargo and marked the first time that the Houthis have been labelled as a terrorist group in a Council product.

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