Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to reiterate, on behalf of the Secretary-General, my solidarity with the people and Governments of Iraq, Afghanistan, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Egypt and Iran following the recent terrorist attacks on their cities. I call on all Member States to redouble their efforts to strengthen international cooperation to address terrorism and violent extremism, and bring those responsible for these despicable attacks to justice.
Thank you for this opportunity to brief the Security Council on the fifth “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 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, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre, and other relevant entities.
Since January 2016, the four previous reports to the Security Council on ISIL’s threat focused on the global landscape; South East Asia; Yemen and East Africa; Libya and Afghanistan; and Europe, North Africa and West Africa. This fifth report has taken a global approach with a focus on the financing of terrorism.
This fifth report stresses that ISIL, despite continuous military pressure, continues to resist, particularly in Mosul and Raqqah. At the same time, ISIL has reorganized its military structure, giving more power to local commanders, and is more focused than ever before on enabling and inspiring attacks outside of conflict zones.
The threat from ISIL has been intensified by its use of the Internet and social media to disseminate propaganda online to a wide international audience. Although the volume of such messages has declined in the past 16 months, the threat persists as supporters outside Syria and Iraq collect and re-distribute this propaganda.
In Europe, ISIL has used its online presence to encourage supporters to mount attacks in their countries of residence. This has led to multiple attacks, including in Belgium, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Some attacks were carried out by foreign terrorist fighter returnees, while others were conducted by individuals who had not travelled to conflict zones. Despite being sometimes labelled as “lone actors”, investigations demonstrate that the perpetrators often received support or resources from facilitators and, in a number of cases, were in direct contact with ISIL enablers.
The report notes a decrease in the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and in the overall number of ISIL fighters during the last 16 months. However, returnees and the relocation of fighters from the conflict zones to other regions now present a considerable threat to international security.
Although ISIL’s financial situation has steadily declined over the past 16 months, it continues to rely chiefly on the same two revenue streams- sales of hydrocarbons and extortion/taxation, which may amount to tens of millions of dollars per month. ISIL has also drawn income from antiquities smuggling, agricultural products, sale of electricity, exploitation of mineral resources such as phosphates and sulfuric acid, external donations, kidnapping for ransom, and human trafficking. As ISIL loses its control on population centers and its forces continue to dwindle, it will also have substantially lower costs. Despite growing liquidity shortages, ISIL may be able to stretch further its existing resources.
ISIL continues to fund affiliates, while urging them to become more self-sufficient and proactive in developing internal revenue streams. Money services, including exchange houses and money couriers, continue to be a preferred method for ISIL and its supporters to move funds across borders.
As Member States consider efforts to counter the ISIL financing, a key concern is how to allow reconstruction and stabilization funds to flow into liberated areas, including by reconnecting international financial structures, without also enabling ISIL remnants to abuse these structures and exploit this new liquidity.
In regard to ISIL’s evolving threat outside of Syria and Iraq, ISIL-affiliated groups in North Africa have shown considerable resilience and pose a serious danger. For example, while ISIL in Libya has been weakened after losing a significant portion of the territory it controlled, its threat persists in Libya and in neighbouring countries. In West Africa, ISIL is challenging established Al-Qaida affiliates. In East Africa emerging ISIL affiliates operating in Puntland and parts of Southern Somalia compound the threat posed by Al-Qaida’s affiliate, Al-Shabaab. ISIL in Somalia and ISIL in Yemen represent an increasing menace. ISIL in Afghanistan is shifting its focus to the north of the country. The threat level has intensified in South-East Asia, with ISIL directing more of its attention, including its propaganda, at the region.
I welcome the efforts of this Council over the past months to adopt resolutions on countering terrorist narratives; protecting critical infrastructure from terrorist attacks; stemming the destruction, looting and smuggling of cultural heritage sites and artefacts, as well as their illicit trade and trafficking carried out by terrorist groups or in a context of armed conflict; and addressing the terrorist threat in the Lake Chad Basin region.
Member States, the UN and international, regional and subregional organizations continue to strengthen existing tools while also developing new ones to address the rapidly evolving threat posed by ISIL, including the threat posed by returning FTFs.
In this context, the report highlights some points that deserve attention:
Since the adoption of Security Council resolution 2253, 11 associated individuals have been listed in the UN ISIL and Al-Qaida Sanctions List, and among them eight are listed as financiers or financial facilitators.
Member States are making substantial progress on adapting their legal and operational frameworks to the requirements of Security Council resolutions to address the terrorist financing and FTF threats. Notwithstanding, more work needs to be done in regard to the implementation of these norms and mechanisms, including in the context of terrorist asset-freezing; cross-border movement of cash; and human rights compliant travel measures to address the FTF threat.
UN entities’ efforts, as well as those of other key actors such as INTERPOL and the Financial Action Task Force, have helped strengthen regional and national frameworks to counter terrorism financing and stem the flow of FTFs. Other examples in the report include: CTED’s assessments and identification of good practices; and the capacity-building initiatives of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre, UNODC and UNICRI’s, including on the legal and judicial aspects of terrorism financing, kidnapping for ransom and asset freezing, and border security and management.
The CTITF Office and CTED recently concluded the second iteration of the Security Council-mandated “All-of-UN” Capacity Building Implementation Plan to Stem the Flow of Foreign Terrorist Fighters. While the projects included in the Plan continue to address the entire life-cycle of the FTF phenomenon, this updated version focuses on the tail-end of the FTF life-cycle, with a number of projects related to prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration to support Member States in their efforts to address returnees. A number of projects have now been completed or are well under way. The Plan now includes 50 projects submitted by 13 entities, with a total budget of 107 million dollars over 5 years. 41 percent of the total budget is funded.
I invite all of you to inform your capitals of the new and partially funded projects and let us know of any projects you may be interested in co-funding.
The UN is assisting Member States and regions most at risk and where UN support can bring added value. For example, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre, as mandated by Security Council resolution 2195 (2015) and S/PRST/2015/24, and in collaboration with other CTITF entities, is developing a regional “All-of-UN” Integrated Assistance for Countering Terrorism (I-ACT) initiative for G5 Sahel countries, as well as a national I-ACT for Mali.
As mentioned in the report, the UN engagement in the Sahel will evolve in response to the continued threats posed by terrorism, violent extremism, transnational organised crime and illicit trans-border trafficking. Partnerships between the UN system and regional stakeholders need to be strengthened to effectively support G5 Sahel countries’ efforts to fight terrorism and illicit trafficking. The UN is renewing its engagement in the region, following an independent review of the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel.
Since the first report of the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 2253, ISIL and its affiliates have remained under continuous military pressure and experienced significant setbacks. At the same time, ISIL is becoming an increasingly transnational threat, which severely undermines international peace and security.
Consequently, the Secretary-General welcomes the focus that the Security Council has put on this matter, and urges you to enhance multilateral cooperation to address the threats and challenges he has reported on.
The Secretary-General considers countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism one of the highest priorities of the Organization. This is why, in his report A/71/858, currently being considered by the General Assembly, he recommended the establishment of a new Office of Counter-Terrorism headed by an Under-Secretary-General.
I am convinced that the new office will provide stronger leadership to our counter-terrorism efforts, enhance UN coordination, and increase the impact of our assistance to Member States.
Thank you, Mr. President.