Thank you, Chairman.
Your excellencies, distinguished representatives, ladies, and gentlemen: This afternoon, we are meeting in the General Assembly to answer a very important question: What is the role of the United Nations in countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism? Before I conduct a brief stocktaking, let me first express my condolences for the victims of the terrorist attack earlier today on the headquarters of the G5 Sahel Joint Force.
Let me begin with the key role of the Security Council in maintaining and restoring international peace and security, including by setting norms, standards, and requirements that help Member States counter terrorism and violent extremism. Council members have unanimously adopted landmark resolutions such as 2396, 2309, 2253, 2199, 2178, 1373, and 1267, in some cases with more than 100 co-sponsors.
We established a Counter-terrorism Committee, an Executive Directorate to assess and advise on Member State progress, and a Monitoring Team to advise on efforts related to Al-Qaida, and ISIS/Da’esh.
These actions produce results: working together and in our own countries, we have managed to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to conflict zones. And we are taking steps to protect ourselves from FTF efforts to relocate and attack elsewhere or to inspire homegrown associates to act on their behalf. The universal use of Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record systems, combined with watchlisting and the use of biometrics will help countries identify and intercept terrorists before they act.
Then there is the role of the General Assembly, which in 2006 adopted by consensus the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (GCTS). Its four pillars—including on addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and upholding human rights and the rule of law—remain as valid and relevant today as when it was adopted 12 years ago.
The GCTS, and the General Assembly’s biennial review resolutions, have given the Secretariat the guidance it needs to help Member States implement the Strategy. This includes preventing violent extremism and the Secretary-Genera’s High Level Action Group to mainstream PVE across the UN system.
In 2011, the United States and Turkey, together with the other permanent members of the Security Council, joined 22 other states and the EU to form the Global Counterterrorism Forum to support of implementation of the Strategy by developing non-binding good practices and mobilizing capacity building for states seeking help countering terrorism and violent extremism.
The Forum—led today by Morocco and the Netherlands—was created for the benefit of, and includes the UN in, its activities. Forum members established three institutions—the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, the Hedayah Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism, and the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund—to serve as capacity-building platforms for the Forum’s good practices and recommendations. Related efforts, such as the Strong Cities Network, emerged to address other terror-affected constituencies.
Last year, the General Assembly decided to bring greater coherence to the UN’s role in countering terrorism and violent extremism by approving the creation of the UN Office of Counterterrorism.
The United States was among the strongest advocates for this overdue reform, and we welcomed the Secretary-General’s appointment of an experienced and respected diplomat to be its first leader. The signing of a compact intended to improve coordination among INTERPOL, W.C.O., and the 38 UN entities involved in countering terrorism and violent extremism is another welcome move.
Which takes us back to this question, what should the UN’s counterterrorism role be? Over the past few days, we have heard two different answers to that question. The first is the UN plays an important, inclusive, and convening role, involving a wide range of actors from governments, think tanks, academia, NGOs, the private sector, and grassroots organizations, the entire range of what we call civil society.
We have seen the energy and new ideas that this UN convening role can generate outside these halls this week. Dozens of innovative side events put on by Member States, in cooperation with civil society and UN entities, have left us with new ideas to work through and plans to consider.
From responding to returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters, countering terrorist financing, and power of art and culture in the prevention of violent extremism, these side events represent the UN at its best, encouraging and advancing our efforts.
We are also pleased that many of our non-governmental partners have been invited to join this conference as full participants on this second day. Their presence is important, because we know the best ideas don’t always come from ministries in capitals or from officials in UN offices on the east side of Manhattan.
But we have also heard a second, more worrying suggestion this week to the question of what is the role of the United Nations in countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism.
The exclusion of civil society from key parts of this conference is the latest in a disturbing trend of attacks on civil society around the world.
The UN’s own Global Counterterrorism Strategy, which we reaffirmed three days ago, stresses the importance of UN engagement with civil society in countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism.
In the Secretary-General’s groundbreaking speech last year in London on countering terrorism while upholding human rights, he applauded the “civil society organizations that take on these issues [and] are keeping us all safer.”
Indeed, at last night’s reception, both the Secretary-General and the Under-Secretary-General for Counterterrorism spoke of the importance and value of civil society in addressing the global scourge of terrorism.
The lesson from the useful side events this week is that for the best ideas on counterterrorism, the UN should be looking not just inward, but outward. The UN should be where the world meets to develop and advance the best ideas on countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism.
For that to become a reality, the UN must strengthen its outreach to think tanks and grass roots organizations, the private sector and academia, and to the women and youth whose voices policy makers too often ignore.
In closing, the United States urges the Secretary-General, the UN Office of Counterterrorism, and all UN entities involved in countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism to recognize that the UN is not a space for closed meetings of security officials. Other fora exist for those purposes.
We believe that the role of the UN is to be a space to share and advance the best ideas, whether they come from government or non-government actors. To pursue that goal, we look forward to a concrete plan from the UN Office of Counterterrorism for how it plans to engage meaningfully and systematically with civil society in all of its efforts.
Mr. Chairman, as Nations united against terrorism, we have made tremendous progress in establishing the norms, guidelines, and strategies needed to counter modern terrorism and violent extremism while remaining true to this organization’s charter and values. As terrorists seek to adjust to our methods, we must continue to work together to make sure civilization prevails.