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  • Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman at the Security Council.
Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman. UN Photo

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

Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to brief the Security Council on the second “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 is submitted pursuant to paragraph 97 of Security Council resolution 2253 (2015), which requested the Secretary-General to submit an initial strategic-level report, followed by updates every four months, that demonstrate and reflect the gravity of the threat that ISIL represents to the international community and the principles and values of the Charter of the United Nations.

The Secretary-General’s initial report (S/2016/92), published on 29 January 2016, addressed the areas identified by the Council, including the risks posed by Foreign Terrorist Fighters and ISIL’s funding sources, and contained recommendations for strengthening the capacities of Member States to mitigate the threat posed by ISIL, as well as ways in which the United Nations could support those efforts.

This update report (S/2016/501) provides an updated assessment on the gravity of the threat posed by ISIL and associated groups and entities, their funding sources, and geographic and thematic trends of the threat. It also highlights Member States and United Nations efforts and progress in implementing related counter-terrorism measures.

The report was prepared with the input of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, the contribution of 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.        


Mr. President,

The report stresses that the threat posed by ISIL and its associates remains high and continues to diversify. ISIL’s military setbacks in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic could be one of the factors behind the marked increase in the rate of returnee foreign terrorist fighters.  However ISIL is yet to be strategically or irreversibly weakened. The inflow of arms and ammunition directly or indirectly into ISIL-held territory remains a serious concern.

Given its recent military setbacks, ISIL may be moving into a new phase, elevating the role of its affiliates; trying to move funds outside the current zones of conflict; and increasing the risk of complex, multi-wave and international attacks.

The bombings and shootings in Paris in November 2015 and in Brussels in March 2016 demonstrate the important role that returned foreign terrorist fighters can play in coordinating terrorist operations.

The Report also notes that for the first time since the declaration of its so-called Caliphate, in June 2014, the ISIL core is under financial pressure. ISIL is trying to compensate for the loss in oil revenues, mostly due to international airstrikes, by intensifying efforts at “taxation” and extortion. It is not clear how much revenue ISIL earns from antiquities smuggling, which now also may be from Libya and Yemen, but this practice remains a source of income as well.

The Report emphasizes that in this context, ISIL may attempt to: exploit additional revenue-generating activities, such as the kidnapping of international hostages; move funds internationally, through informal and formal channels; and convert local currency into currency or commodities such as gold which can be more easily transferred internationally. ISIL’s provision of funds to its affiliates and networks also represents a major concern. 

Significant numbers of foreign terrorist fighters continue to travel to join ISIL in the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq from States around the world, often using “broken travel” techniques and false or stolen travel documents. In terms of current trends, the Report notes the risks that returned foreign terrorist fighters represent for regions such as South-East Asia and countries such as Libya.

This update Report also highlights evolving aspects of the threat posed by ISIL:

  1. In Libya, the terrorist group has gained control over territory in a relatively short time. Despite its difficulties to consolidate gains, build alliances, and compete with other actors, Libya risks to become a hub for ISIL’s expansion in the wider Maghreb and Sahel region and beyond. 
  2. In Afghanistan, despite some military setbacks in 2015 and 2016, ISIL has proven its ability to hold limited terrain and to conduct terrorist attacks in cities beyond its core territory.
  3. Information and communication technologies continue to be a key enabler for ISIL and its affiliates, and play an essential role in helping these groups function, recruit, gather supplies and attack.
  4. Sexual violence continues to be used as a tactic of terrorism to increase ISIL’s power, revenue and recruitment base, as well as to shred the social fabric of targeted communities.  


The Report also highlights Member States and United Nations efforts and progress in implementing related counter-terrorism measures in a number of thematic areas:

Since the Secretary-General’s initial report on the threat posed by ISIL, Member States have continued to update their legislation in response to Security Council resolution 2178; strengthened their capacities to effectively investigate and prosecute complex terrorism-related cases; sought to identify barriers to the sharing of financial information; worked on designing and implementing comprehensive border-management strategies; and paid increased attention to the development of comprehensive approaches to countering recruitment and preventing and countering violent extremism, among other areas.

During the same period, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force finalized the Security-Council mandated capacity-building implementation plan for countering the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. The implementation plan includes 37 mutually reinforcing project proposals submitted by 12 CTITF entities, prioritized by CTED geographically and thematically. The Plan addresses the entire life-cycle of the Foreign Terrorist Fighter phenomenon, from their radicalization, to travel, operationalization, fighting, reintegration and rehabilitation. The total budget of the entire plan is 100 to 120 million dollars over 3 to 5 years. To date, we have identified approximately 10 percent of the needed funding from donors, and commenced a number of the projects included in the Plan, including on Advanced Passenger Information.

To implement all the projects and help Member States make an impact on the Foreign Terrorist Fighter phenomenon, further funding will be required. To this end, you will recall that in S/PRST/2015/11, the Security Council encouraged “Member States to provide needed financial and other assistance to CTITF and UNCCT”.

Since January, the UN CTITF entities have also implemented specialized capacity-building programmes to counter the financing of terrorism, strengthen border controls and implement Advanced Passenger Information systems; developed a Counter-Terrorism Prosecutors Network; launched an innovative project on private sector engagement in responding to terrorists’ use of information and communication technologies; organized a major international conference in Geneva on preventing violent extremism.

In the field, UNSMIL has prepared assessment reports on ISIL, which it shares with Member States to support their efforts to counter the threat of ISIL. UNSMIL has continued to support the efforts of the Presidency Council in leading Libya’s transition and the establishment of the Government of National Accord to curtail further expansion of ISIL.  


Mr. President,

Despite the efforts of the international community, including the United Nations, to counter ISIL and despite ISIL’s military setbacks in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic and its financial pressures — ISIL continues to pose a significant challenge to international peace and security.

In the face of this common threat, I would like to reiterate the Secretary-General’s call to unity and action, including in finding political solutions to the conflict in Syria, and assure you that the United Nations will continue to support Member States in implementing the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly.  

The Secretary-General will provide an update of this report to this Council in four months’ time, as mandated by resolution 2253.

Thank you, Mr. President.