Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for the opportunity to brief the Security Council on the fourth “Report of the Secretary-General on the threat posed by ISIL (Da’esh) to international peace and security and the range of United Nations efforts in support of Member States in countering the threat.”
This report was prepared with the input of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, and in close collaboration with the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT), and other relevant United Nations actors and international organizations.
The report stresses that ISIL is on the defensive militarily in several regions. But although its income and the territory under its control are shrinking, ISIL still appears to have sufficient funds to continue fighting. The group relies mainly on income from extortion and hydrocarbon exploitation, , even though resources from the latter are on the decline. Member States are concerned that ISIL will try to expand other sources of income, such as kidnapping for ransom, and increase its reliance on donations.
ISIL is adapting in several ways to military pressure – resorting to increasingly covert communication and recruitment methods, including by using the ‘dark web’, encryption and messengers. Moreover, it has expanded its area of attacks to countries neighbouring Iraq and Syria, while continuing to encourage followers farther afield to perpetrate attacks. Meanwhile, foreign terrorist fighters leaving Iraq and Syria augment the threat of terrorism in their countries of origin.
The previous reports to the Security Council on ISIL’s global threat, have focused on South East Asia, Yemen and East Africa, Libya and Afghanistan. This, fourth, report focuses on Europe, North Africa and West Africa:
- Since declaring in 2014 its intent to attack Europe, ISIL has conducted a range of attacks in that region. Some of these attacks were directed and facilitated by ISIL personnel, while others were enabled by ISIL providing guidance or assistance or were inspired through its propaganda.
- While the military offensive in Libya has dislodged ISIL from its stronghold Sirte, the group’s threat to Libya and neighbouring countries persists. Its fighters – estimated to range from several hundred to 3,000 – have moved to other parts of the country.
- ISIL has increased its presence in West Africa and the Maghreb, though the group does not control significant amounts of territory in the region. The reported loyalty pledge to ISIL by a splinter faction of Al-Mourabitoun led by Lehbib Ould Ali may elevate the level of the threat.
- ISIL-affiliate Boko Haram is attempting to spread its influence and commit terrorist acts beyond Nigeria, and remains a serious threat, with several thousand fighters at its disposal. It is, however, plagued by financial difficulties and an internal power struggle, and has split in two factions.
The fourth report also notes some of the measures taken by Member States through the Security Council and the General Assembly since the last report.
On international cooperation and information sharing, the report highlights Security Council resolution 2322 (2016), which calls upon Member States to consider establishing laws and mechanisms to allow for the broadest possible international cooperation in the judicial and law enforcement spheres. The report also notes the General Assembly consensus resolution of 21 November aimed at further enhancing and strengthening collaboration between the INTERPOL and the UN. INTERPOL reports that information sharing between Member States has since increased.
The report also mentions Security Council resolution 2331 (2016), which recognizes the connection between human trafficking, sexual violence and terrorism and other transnational organized criminal activities, calling upon Member States to prosecute and penalize perpetrators. Some States, with help from UNODC, have instituted special procedures to screen for trafficking victims among refugees and asylum seekers.
The report highlights some of the actions Member States have taken in Europe, the Mahgreb and West Africa to counter ISIL Regarding Europe, for example, it stresses the improvements in States’ information sharing and cooperation on addressing terrorist attacks and on curtailing the travel and transit of foreign terrorist fighters. Although more work needs to be done, including on the use of Advance Passenger Information systems, the report notes that substantial progress has been made to counter the financing of terrorism despite continuing challenges.
The report also notes efforts by the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to prevent and counter violent extremism, including projects to bring together information on radicalization and intervention and raise awareness about the phenomenon.
Regarding the Maghreb and West Africa, the report notes that States are pooling resources regionally to combat terrorism, while improving the sharing of information on FTFs. It also highlights that some States – with UN support – are developing and implementing counter-terrorism and prevention of violent extremism strategies. Some West African States are taking action on countering the financing of terrorism, including through legislation, though the report notes that few terrorist financing cases have been prosecuted.
During the reporting period, a number of United Nations entities have taken further steps to support the efforts of Member States to counter the threat of ISIL. For instance:
- The CTITF Office and CTED are currently reviewing the Security Council mandated “All-of-UN” Capacity Building Implementation Plan to Stem the Flow of Foreign Terrorist Fighters in order to adjust it to the changing phenomenon. The 37 project proposals address the entire life-cycle of the FTF phenomenon, including radicalization, travel, financing, return, and rehabilitation and reintegration should they return. The Plan is currently 23 per cent funded.
- UNCCT provides capacity-building assistance to Member States through a number of projects at the global, regional and national level. At the global level progress was made on the Border Security Initiative, the development of the Border Security and Management programme, and the Advance Passenger Information (API) project, while at the regional level UNCCT continued to provide assistance on the development of strategies to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism. The centre also continued its efforts to improve the capacity of Member States in East and West Africa to address kidnapping for ransom, which is a potential source of funds for ISIL affiliated groups. At the regional and national levels, the Integrated Assistance for Counter Terrorism (I-ACT) initiative aims to develop a coherent and coordinated capacity building programme to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism. During the reporting period, much progress was made in the implementation of the I-ACT, both in Mali, with the support of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, and regionally, in the preparation of an I-ACT for the G5 Sahel, as mandated by Security Council Presidential Statement 2015/24 on Peace and Security in Africa. The UNCCT has also continued its preparation for a project to enhance aviation security in Nigeria.
- The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published a Handbook on the Management of Violent Extremist Prisoners and the Prevention of Radicalization to Violence in Prisons. UNODC also continued to provide assistance to Member States in the MENA region aiming to strengthen law-enforcement capacity at international airports, as part of its Airport Communication Project (AIRCOP).
- UNODC and CTED collaborated to provide technical assistance to Member States on strengthening judicial cooperation on foreign terrorist fighters and have held technical consultations with Nigeria on the prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of persons associated with terrorist organizations.
- The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) implemented projects in the Maghreb on preventing and managing violent extremism, including in prison settings.
The need to develop sustained, coordinated responses to the grave threat posed by ISIL and associated groups and entities is beyond question. There are 19 universal counter-terrorism conventions and protocols, as well as related regional instruments on international terrorism, and relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. But we need to do more, as Member States continue to face significant challenges to ensure effective international cooperation.
Improving our response is critical to address the growth of transnational terrorism as ISIL expands its area of attacks and foreign terrorist fighters leave Syria and Iraq. Even though many foreign terrorist fighters stay behind in the conflict zone, those returning or leaving the conflict could pose a grave risk to the country of origin or to the countries they are travelling to or transiting through, such as Iraq and Syria’s neighbours as well as countries in the Maghreb.
The Secretary-General has warned that terrorism exacerbates conflicts, and that it takes little to trigger a crisis that can engulf a country, or a region, with global consequences. He has urged Member States to step up efforts to resolve conflicts, including those that are responsible for the dramatic increase in global terrorism.
As we consider what more we can do to check and roll back ISIL, we must also step up efforts to prevent and resolve the violent conflicts that both drive and are made worse by terrorism. These are mutually reinforcing pursuits. Ultimately, it is the spread and consolidation of peace, security, development and human rights that will most effectively deprive terrorism of the oxygen it needs to survive.
Thank you, Mr. President.