"The UN has the potential to deliver truly impactful support to the regions and countries most vulnerable to the threat of terrorism"

Statement by Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant to the UN Security Council Open Debate on International Cooperation on Combating Terrorism and Violent Extremism

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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Madam President,

Thank you very much for convening and presiding over this important debate today, and so maintaining the momentum built up by Security Council Resolutions 2170 and 2178. I want to thank Ambassador Quinlan and Ambassador Murmokaitė for their briefings and I welcome the adoption of today’s strong Presidential Statement underlining once again this Council’s unity on combatting terrorism and violent extremism.

Madam President,

The international terrorist threat continues to evolve, posing an increasingly acute and widespread danger to Member States. We have witnessed the terrible suffering of those living in territory controlled by terrorist groups. We have been appalled by a calculated series of brutal murders of journalists and aid workers by ISIL and other Al-Qaida related groups. And we have learned of plots involving terrorists who have fought in Syria and Iraq to murder innocent people in their home countries. Some of these individuals have come from the United Kingdom – radicalised by the increasingly sophisticated use by ISIL of digital propaganda.

Now more than ever, the international community must improve its collective response - working together with the United Nations to combat an increasingly sophisticated and dangerous terrorist threat. There are three areas where additional effort is specifically needed.

First, to counter the extremism and extremist ideology that underpins terrorism. As the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in this Council yesterday, “little attention has been paid to the underlying struggle for minds”. My Prime Minister noted in his General Debate speech in September that we must take a long term approach and address the root cause of terrorist threats – in particular the poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism, which distorts the Islamic faith. In the case of ISIL, it is a terrorist group that seeks to misrepresent a religion with a warped extremist ideology. ISIL uses this political ideology to justify and fuel its terrorism, challenge and contradict UN values and undermine peace in the Middle East. We should all continue to denounce ISIL and other terrorist groups’ hijacking of religion for violent ends and work together to defeat the ideology of extremism.

Second, to disrupt the financing of terrorist groups. ISIL is sitting on extensive assets, yet it also relies heavily on the income it generates. UNSCR 2170 made clear that direct and indirect trade with ISIL, the ANF or other Al-Qaida groups constitutes financial support in breach of UN sanctions. The international community must work in concert, deepening cooperation, to disrupt this income – suppressing the market for their oil, tackling illicit trade in their commodities , breaking the vicious cycle of ransom payments that incentivise future kidnappings, and sanctioning those who trade with Al Qaida groups and raise funds for them. The United Kingdom therefore welcomes the Monitoring Team’s recent report and its recommendations for future action.

Finally, the international community must disrupt the unprecedented number of individuals travelling to conflict zones, such as Syria, to fight with terrorist groups. In the face of this threat, UNSCR 2178 is particularly important, as it obliges States to disrupt travel by Foreign Terrorist Fighters and to both prosecute and rehabilitate them on return. The United Kingdom, like Australia and many other countries, has taken legislative action domestically to implement these obligations.

Madam Chairman, I conclude by noting that the United Nations system continues to have a vital role to play in the face of these, and indeed all, terrorist threats. In particular the UN as a whole has a responsibility to defend and promote UN values in response to the extremist narratives promoted by terrorists.

For example there is a significant opportunity for the UN to up its game in terms of strategic communications on countering extremism. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights put it well yesterday when he said, “thought must … be undermined by thought” in order to “overturn ISIL’s ideology of violence and death”.

So this effort should build on existing resources and the excellent work already being done, including the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate’s analytical expertise and the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task-Force’s capacity-building expertise. But it must go wider, including relevant UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes and UN field missions, so that the combined United Nations response and messaging is both more coordinated and integrated.

With such an increasingly holistic and energised approach, the United Nations has the potential to deliver truly impactful support to the regions and countries most vulnerable to the threat of terrorism.

I thank you.

Published 19 November 2014