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  • Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs briefs the Security Council on the threat posed by ISIL.
Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

Security Council Briefing on the Threat Posed by ISIL (Da’esh), Under-Secretary-General Jeffery Feltman

Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to brief the Security Council on the third “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.”

As with the previous reports, the 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 United Nations actors and international organizations.        


Mr. President,

The report stresses that ISIL and its affiliates have continued to experience significant military setbacks, which has undermined ISIL’s ability to hold territory, generate assets and maintain “governmental” structures. ISIL is attempting to adapt to this new reality and has intensified its efforts at extortion, to compensate for the loss of revenue from oil. In Iraq and Syria, ISIL’s previous success in holding territory and operating as a quasi-State has been significantly challenged due to the efforts of several Member States.

However, the report notes that the threat posed by ISIL continues to be significant and to diversify. ISIL and associated entities continue to compete strategically but also to cooperate tactically, occasionally providing each other with operational support. The military pressure currently being exerted on ISIL in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic has resulted in an increase in the number of Foreign Terrorist Fighters’ returnees, in particular to Europe and the Maghreb, presenting a growing challenge to global security. ISIL has also increased the number of attacks outside conflict zones, and employs deadlier tactics.

Increasingly complex and nearly simultaneous attacks in different countries—committed through large-scale operations and individual or small terrorist cells, either directed or inspired by ISIL—have a significant impact and present particular problems to Member States in terms of the security response.

ISIL continues to assert itself in cyberspace, using closed fora, encrypted messaging systems, and communications through the “dark net” to recruit and distribute its propaganda.


Mr. President,

To highlight the impact of ISIL in various regions of the globe, the report focuses on South-East Asia, Yemen and East Africa:

  1. In South-East Asia, ISIL’s propaganda has re-energized pre-existing terrorist networks and inspired individuals to travel to conflict zones as foreign terrorist fighters. the region hostsforeign terrorist fighters actively directing attacks, is affected by ISIL  propaganda and fundraising efforts, as well as the risks that foreign terrorist fighters’ returnees present.
  2. In Yemen, even though it has intensified its attacks, especially in the Aden area, and recruitment efforts, ISIL has not yet managed to gain significant local support and is generally rejected by the population. Nevertheless, the ISIL leadership maintains a close interest in Yemen. 
  3. Two new ISIL cells have emerged in Somalia. One of these groups, operating in the Puntland region, is being supported by ISIL in Yemen. The second one is operating in southern Somalia. Both groups face strong resistance from Al-Shabaab.

In regard to Member States’ efforts to address the threat of ISIL, the report highlights some of the actions taken in South-East Asia. For example, it stresses that countries in the region have introduced and continuously updated national counter-terrorism strategies and legislation; established national counter-terrorism coordinating bodies; strengthened international cooperation—although more work needs to be done in this area; developed institutional and legislative counter-terrorism financing tools; recognized the importance of putting in place effective border controls; and payed increased attention to developing comprehensive approaches to countering and preventing recruitment and violent extremism.     

A growing number of Member States have addressed the potential threat posed by returnees through a broad range of criminal justice, administrative and rehabilitation and reintegration measures, as called for in resolution 2178 (2014). They have also taken a preventive approach, including by charging individuals with inchoate and preparatory offences. However, Member States continue to face numerous challenges in this context, such as generating and converting intelligence information into admissible evidence.

The overall progress made by Member States in developing and implementing rehabilitation and reintegration strategies, remains more limited among Member States of some of the most-affected regions.

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 United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force has further developed the Security-Council mandated capacity-building implementation plan for countering the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. The plan was presented to Member States almost ten months ago but has only been 20 per cent funded to date
  • UNODC is developing a program for South and South-East Asian States on strengthening legal and institutional frameworks for targeting the financial flows and economic resources of ISIL, Al-Qaida and their associates.
  • OHCHR submitted a report on best practices on how protecting and promoting human rights helps prevent violent extremism.
  • CTED has been assisting ASEANAPOL (ASEAN Police Chiefs) to establish a Regional Joint Operations Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
  • UNICRI is enhancing its cooperation with Jordan, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia in the design and implementation of rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for Violent Extremist Offenders (VEOs) and FTFs.
  • In the field, UNSMIL continued to prepare assessment reports on ISIL, which it shares with Member States.


Mr. President,

As the military operations against ISIL in Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic and Libya continue to make progress, we anticipate an increase in the number of returnees and of attacks outside conflict zones. The increasingly transnational threat that ISIL represents may therefore become a growing challenge to international peace and security.

In this context, the Secretary-General’s call for “comprehensive and purposeful international cooperation to effectively prevent violent extremism and counter-terrorism,” becomes all the more important.  Despite the international community’s efforts, international counter-terrorism cooperation is still not up to the level of the danger posed.

Furthermore, if we aim to anticipate new terrorist threats and dynamically address the evolving nature of ISIL, military, security and law enforcement measures need to be complemented with preventive actions that address the drivers of violent extremism conducive to terrorism, as demonstrated by the focus provided by the Security Council.

Nevertheless, to effectively address the growing transnational threat of terrorism and violent extremist, I would like to underscore the importance of political will. I would also like to encourage you to consider the need to further mobilize necessary financial and technical resources to meet the growing demands of counter-terrorism and PVE programmes. These efforts would enormously help the United Nations to support Member States in implementing the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly.

Thank you, Mr. President.