Statement by Mark Sedwill, Permanent Secretary, Home Office, to the Security Council Briefing on Foreign Terrorist Fighters
Thank you Mr President, Excellencies
I thank you for convening this important debate today and I thank the Secretary-General, Committee Chairs and the Secretary-General of Interpol for their briefings.
As as a diplomat now running an Interior Ministry, I particularly welcome this initiative to use the convening power of the United Nations to address vital issues of domestic, as well as international, security.
In September’s Summit on Foreign Terrorist Fighters last year, my Prime Minister highlighted the mortal threat that we face from the rise of ISIL. They have killed hundreds of civilians, mostly Muslim, who have refused to take an oath of allegiance to their extremist worldview.
They have recruited people from across the world not only to become foreign terrorist fighters but to become citizens of their so-called caliphate. As we heard in Ambassador van Bohemen’s briefing, there are now 25,000 foreign fighters, from over half the members of the United Nations. And as many who have not travelled have also been radicalised and inspired to commit acts of terrorism within their own countries. This is a serious threat which affects us all.
As you reminded us in your national statement, Mr President, we must ensure that our response is collective, comprehensive and consistent, at home and abroad. In national security, there is no longer a distinction between the domestic and the international.
Secretary Johnson highlighted how together we should take concrete actions to deal with foreign terrorist fighters. The UK agrees. We are implementing Resolution 2178 and offer our experience to any partners who wish to benefit from it. Let me set some of that out.
We have strengthened border security. We prosecute individuals for recruiting, financing and travelling for terrorist related purposes. We can control and prevent travel by cancelling passports, revoking nationality, seizing travel documents at ports and operating a “no fly” scheme. Our National Border Targeting Centre uses Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Records (PNR). We hope that our European partners will follow suit and agree on the effective implementation of PNR within, as well as into, the European Union. We have linked to the Schengen Information System, to exchange data on foreign fighters. And we provide details on stolen and lost travel documents to Interpol, to aid partners around the world.
Furthermore, we aim not only to tackle the symptoms, but also the root causes of terrorism. So two million public servants in thousands of public authorities in the United Kingdom now have a legal duty to seek to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and extremism. And we will introduce further legislation later this year.
We all need to do more on this. We should inspire young people to make choices based on reality, not ISIL’s gangster fantasies. In today’s world, this reality has to extend into the virtual territory of the internet as well, as our Malaysian colleague set out in his remarks.
The internet and social media empower people throughout the world through new technology - breaking down barriers between people and peoples, empowering the individual citizen and strengthening the democratic process. Socially responsible companies should not wait for governments to regulate and re-regulate as new technologies develop. Just as we expect banks to ensure that their facilities are not used to for money laundering, internet companies must ensure that their services are not used by criminals and terrorists to exchange videos of children being abused, to launder money through virtual currencies, to buy or build weapons, to plan attacks or to radicalise the vulnerable.
In the UK our Counterterrorism Internet Referrals Unit works with these companies – many of them – to remove offensive or extremist material which breaches their terms and conditions, not just our criminal law. We welcome the new Europol Internet Referrals Unit, to be in place by July and we encourage other Member States to develop their own such capabilities.
As several colleagues have said, we must also counter the ISIL narrative - wherever it is - with courage, conviction and a renewed energy, promoting our core universal values, the UN’s values, to people from across the globe who abhor the terrorists’ barbarism towards Sunni and Shia Muslims, Yazidis, Christians, minority communities and women and girls of all faiths.
We must counter their false claims of success, of statehood, of moral supremacy, of religious authority, and reach those vulnerable to terrorist and extremist propaganda. We must give a voice to those best placed to expose their myths and to the victims whose pain reveals their real agenda. We must confront not just violent extremism but extremism of all kinds in which violence breeds.
The UK welcomes the role the United Nations has played in providing global analysis of this threat and of Member States’ responses and in coordinating those responses. We call on all Member States to implement Resolution 2178 and, as I’ve said, offer our experience to those who would find it useful. Like us, Member States must ensure that any measures taken to counter terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law.
The UK also supports the UN’s and especially the Secretary General’s efforts to achieve political settlements in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere. We urge the development community to redouble their efforts to tackle not just conflict itself, but the drivers of conflict from which terrorism, extremism, sectarianism, violence, crime and abuse spills out. We must re-energise and re-focus these efforts as we finalise the SDGs later this year.
In conclusion Mr President,
Let us remind ourselves of the overall picture. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, ISIL, Da’esh or whatever the next mutation turns out to be are not Islamic and they are not a state. They are a death cult devoted to mayhem and destruction. So from today’s session and the work that follows they must hear a united message from these united nations. We will not tolerate your intolerance. We will not compromise our values. We will contain you, challenge you, disrupt you. We will stand united and united we will defeat you.
Thank you, Mr President.