Foreign Secretary supports UN efforts against terrorism, condemns ransom payments to terrorists

Foreign Secretary William Hague gave a speech to the Security Council Briefing on Terrorism

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The Rt Hon William Hague

Mr President

I’m very grateful to you for organising this important debate today and to the Secretary General for being here with us.

Terrorism remains one of the greatest challenges to international peace, stability and democracy - and therefore also to the development and prosperity of nations. The threat posed by international terrorism is evolving and becoming more diffuse, and our response to it as an international community must therefore evolve. We must stand together building on the successful cooperation of the past to protect our own citizens and assist those of other regions where terrorism has found a foothold.

While the UN’s efforts have been improving and should be commended, there is still in our view scope for better coordination along the various UN counter terrorism bodies - and between the other parts of the UN system and UN Member States, to help governments develop and implement their own counter terrorism strategies.

The UN’s programme to build the counter terrorism capacity of member states should complement efforts between member states. The UN has a role to play in filling gaps which could otherwise be exploited by terrorists, their financiers and supporters. The fiscal constraints common to most countries in the wake of the financial crisis make it all the more important that we focus resources on assistance to the most vulnerable countries.

Mr President,

In that regard, the threat emanating from the Afghan - Pakistan border remains our greatest long term concern. The current situation could be exacerbated by the consequences of the devastating recent floods. We must therefore reinforce international support to the Government of Pakistan, so that that the instability and human misery of today do not become the recruiting sergeants of tomorrow.

Terrorists will try to exploit disasters, instability, alienation and conflict wherever they can - seeking to harness poverty or political grievances to violent ends, trying to justify the unjustifiable with specious social, economic and political arguments.

So our efforts to alleviate suffering, reduce poverty, prevent conflict, keep and build peace, which are essential in and of themselves, also help to undermine the ideology of violent extremism and deplete the ranks of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

The UN’s Global Counter Terrorism Strategy, unanimously reaffirmed by the General Assembly earlier this month, recognises the importance of addressing “conditions conducive” to terrorism. And to that end, UN agencies such as UNDP and UNESCO must play full and active roles as members of the UN’s Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force.

Mr President,

We have seen growth in the capability and ambition of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al Qaeda aligned extremists operating in East Africa. We must work with governments and a range of partners in those regions to disrupt, contain and reduce the threat.

Terrorists are adapting, and becoming more opportunistic. The growing trend in kidnapping for ransom is one example of this. The United Kingdom Government believes that we must act to prevent kidnap ransoms becoming a significant source of terrorist finance. From our own experience of hostage situations, we understand how difficult kidnap cases are. But it is dangerous to regard ransom as a ‘necessary evil’ or as a legitimate tool for resolving kidnaps. They encourage more kidnaps and fund murder. Major attacks can be mounted for only tens of thousands of dollars, so million dollar ransoms can mean dozens of attacks.

Security Council resolution 1904, adopted last December, explicitly confirmed that it is illegal to pay ransoms to those whom this Council has sanctioned because of their connection to Al Qaeda or the Taliban, and we look to all countries to respect this resolution.

Mr President,

We are here in part because of the terrible atrocities committed not far from this building just over nine years ago. Hardly any country in the world has been untouched by terrorism.

The most lasting and devastating impact of terrorism is on, of course, their victims, their families and communities. I am reminded of this each day: outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London stands a memorial to the 202 victims of the Bali bombing, including 28 British people who died that day.

The UN can provide a platform for victims of terrorism from all over the world, to give them a voice and help others derive strength and inspiration from their courage. Their stories remind us that terrorism is an assault on all humanity. They are the most effective antidotes to the peddlers of violent ideology and a spur to governments around the world to make common cause against terrorism in all its forms. The United Kingdom will continue to stand absolutely firm in this endeavour.

Thank you, Mr President.

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Published 27 September 2010