I am pleased to be joined by my friend and colleague, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, as co-chair. We know very well that Turkey’s commitment to strengthening international cooperation against the threats we all face is a very important contribution, so I thank you, Ahmet, for being here for this kickoff.
I also want at the outset to recognize the foreign minister of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Abdallah bin Zayid, and also the foreign minister of Egypt, Minister Amr, and Lady Ashton for their contributions to this forum. Many others have played an important role, including Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia, who two years ago started a conversation with me about the need for such an initiative, and that idea has grown to fruition. I also wish to acknowledge and thank King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was also an early and strong advocate for these efforts. It’s not possible at this time to name everyone, but we will be hearing from our colleagues around the table.
All of us are here because we recognize the threat that terrorism poses to people everywhere. We understand terrorism is not a new phenomenon, but, unfortunately, given advances in technology and communication and travel and so many other of the ways we live together today, terrorism has become truly global and, unfortunately, an ongoing threat to us all.
Ten years ago, I was a senator from New York, and so I have a very personal and longstanding, searing set of memories from what happened just a few blocks from here in New York with the attacks on the World Trade Center. But since that time, terrorists have claimed so many other victims, as we saw in this movie. And they were victims of al-Qaida and its affiliates, of other terrorist groups like the PKK, Lashkar e-Tayyiba, the FARC, just to name a few. And the stories we saw today of victims and survivors reminds us that no one is immune. All of us, unfortunately, are at risk – those of us who live in societies, in countries, in nation-states, who go about our business every single day.
From London to Lahore, from Madrid to Mumbai, from Kabul to Kampala, it’s innocent civilians who have been targeted. And no country can afford to sit on the sidelines and no country can afford to go it alone.
Now, in recent years, together we have made real progress against violent extremism. But I think we all recognize we can do more, which is why we are here. We can build an international counterterrorism network that is as nimble and adaptive as our adversaries, that can mobilize resources and expertise from across the globe, and that can not only meet today’s challenges but prepare for tomorrow’s.
This begins, of course, with robust bilateral cooperation, and I want to thank the many nations around this table with whom the United States has a very strong bilateral partnership against terrorism. We are proud of all the work that we have done over the years to strengthen these partnerships. Our efforts continue with regional organizations, such as ASEAN, the African Union, the Organization of American States, the OSCE, all of which are helping members build capacity and pool expertise.
At the global level, the United Nations and the international counterterrorism policy and legal framework that it has developed, including the UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy, help to reinforce our efforts.
I want to echo Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recent call for all states, every state, to work to finalize the Comprehensive Convention Against International Terrorism, which India introduced more than a decade ago.
But as important as all of these elements are, all of us have been convinced that a crucial piece of the puzzle against terrorism is missing. We need a dedicated global venue to regularly convene key counterterrorism policy makers and practitioners from around the world. We need a place where we can identify essential priorities, devise solutions, and chart a path to implementation of best practices.
It is our hope that this new Global Counterterrorism Forum will provide that venue. Now at the outset, let me say we will not always agree on every issue, but we do agree that there are urgent needs and challenges that are not being addressed and that each member gathered here today has unique expertise to contribute. We know that what works in Turkey or the United States may not work in Indonesia or Colombia, but let us pledge to learn as much as we can from one another. And our work here has the potential to have a double impact: improving the coordination of counterterrorism efforts across borders and between regions, and then helping countries better address terrorist threats within borders.
And this is not a group whose impact will be limited just to its members. We intend to strengthen the capacity of other governments, multilateral bodies, and civil society groups all over the world. To be effective, we need a clear and forward-looking agenda that galvanizes solutions around the core questions at the heart of our work.
First, how do we work together to support frontline states and nations in transition develop justice systems that are rooted in the rule of law, respectful of universal human rights, but very effective against violent extremism? Across the Middle East and North Africa and beyond, governments are turning their backs on repressive tactics. They are writing new counterterrorism legislation, reorganizing their police, and reforming their judiciaries. So this is an opportunity to develop and share best practices and to mobilize resources, technical assistance, and political will.
Second, what are the best ways to work together to deepen our understanding of the process of radicalization and terrorist recruitment and undermine the appeal of extremism? Over the last ten years, we’ve learned a lot about how terrorist networks find their followers and maintain support and protection in particular communities. But there’s much we still don’t know about how best to disrupt their efforts and deny them support. This forum can serve as a clearinghouse for research and analysis into these challenges, bringing together experts to design effective strategies for countering violent extremism, and helping ensure that both governments and NGOs are trained to understand the phenomenon of radicalization and how to address it.
Third, how can we collaborate together to improve border security and other transnational weaknesses that are exploited by terrorist networks? This forum can help us improve coordination and build working-level partnerships between law enforcement, intelligence, customs, and judiciary officials, who deal with these problems on the ground every day.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly, how can we ensure that we are always thinking and acting strategically in our counterterrorism efforts? Now, we’ve made important investments over the past decade in intelligence gathering and military capabilities. Looking ahead, I think we now need to focus on helping states develop more effective civilian institutions and counterterrorism partnerships. I think we need to use all the tools in our arsenal, including the power of our own values, and to make it unacceptable, socially exclusionary, for those to support and advocate, give aid and comfort to family members, friends, and kin and larger networks who are attracted or involved in groups that do not renounce violent extremism.
This forum can help us, if we take seriously the need to develop a work plan together. Today is just the beginning. We don’t want another debating society. We want to catalyze ourselves to action. I can pledge the United States will be an active partner, and I’m pleased that, even starting today, we have a number of concrete proposals to discuss.
So let me now turn to my co-chair, Foreign Minister Davutoglu.