Welcome to the United Nations

Statement to the International Counter-Terrorism Focal Points Conference, Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman

13 Jun 2013 - 10:45

Your Excellency, Mr. Didier Burkhalter, Vice-President of the Federal Council and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Government of Switzerland

Your Excellency, Ambassador Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva

Your Excellency, Ms. Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


Distinguished delegates,


Ladies and Gentlemen.


It is my distinct privilege to welcome you all to the International Counter-Terrorism Focal Points Conference on Addressing Conditions Conducive to the Spread of Terrorism and Promoting Regional Cooperation.

Let me begin by extending my sincere gratitude to H.E. Minister Burkhalter for co-chairing this Conference. Through him, I wish to thank the Government of Switzerland for the support it has provided to the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) in convening this event.

And I thank all of you who have traveled from great distances to participate in what I trust will be rich and thought-provoking discussions.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

This Conference takes place at a critical time in the international community’s struggle against terrorism and extremism. If we scan the international landscape today, unfortunately, we see terrorism expanding its geographic range, reaching distant and unlikely corners and not confined to a select group of countries or a single region.

At the same time, the mere fact that conferences such as today’s as well as the regional workshops preceding it take place, also points not only to increased international awareness but also resolve to jointly tackle one of today’s greatest global challenges.

When considering the twin aspects of our theme:

Addressing Conditions Conducive to the Spread of Terrorism;

and Promoting Regional Cooperation

and putting them in relation to the UN’s mandate as stipulated in the Global Counter-terrorism Strategy, there appear to be three main questions that we should address today and tomorrow:

  • How do we translate the global resolve to counter terrorism into practical cooperation at regional level?
  • How do we move beyond combating the criminal aspects of terrorism and address its root causes more effectively?
  • And how do we ensure that we do not call into question the full respect of human rights when fighting terrorism?

Allow me to sketch some initial suggestions based on the Secretary-General’s call for the UN as a whole to closely work with Member States to ensure that we do not simply respond to ever more sophisticated attacks but that we get ahead of the ones calling into question everyone’s right to a life in dignity and security.

With regard to the question of how to translate the global resolve to counter terrorism into practical cooperation at regional level, the UN has started by reviewing its own internal cooperation:

The Secretary-General has requested all relevant UN agencies to collaborate under their respective mandates to counter terrorism.

While the primary responsibility for the implementation of the Global Strategy rests with Member States, CTITF’s coordination and coherence role ensures that the UN system is attuned to the needs of Member States and provides them with the necessary policy support, as well as technical assistance.

CTITF has brought 31 UN entities under its framework to coordinate the UN’s CT-related activities. Several Security Council mandated bodies, including the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, the Al-Qaida Taliban Sanctions Monitoring Teams and the 1540 Monitoring Team and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) are key partners under the CTITF framework.

While progress has been made, we are striving to further enhance internal coordination and coherence.

With regard our role in assisting enhanced regional cooperation, I see it two-fold: first, building in-depth knowledge of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy amongst a broad spectrum of national authorities, relevant ministries, regional organizations, civil society and a variety of other non-traditional stakeholders; and second, to assist member states with capacity-building.

Under this initiative, the CTITF has convened regional events on the implementation of the Strategy in Southeast Asia, Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and South Asia, and will convene the next regional event for Western African and the Sahel in Nigeria next month.

I thank the Governments of Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Namibia, Nigeria and Indonesia for their partnership in this important endeavor. I also thank the Governments of Austria, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States for making this initiative possible.

In each of the regional workshops that the CTITF organized, three key messages were shared: first, terrorism can be effectively countered through meaningful, inclusive and broad-based coordination between all relevant national ministries, agencies and civil society partners. Second, regional counter-terrorism mechanisms must be strengthened to enhance cross-border cooperation against a threat that is not confined within political borders. And last but not least, states must give due consideration to conditions that are conducive to the spread of terrorism and provide terrorists an appealing narrative to spread hate, foment extremism and provoke violence.

Moving beyond the national level, we know that States cannot win the battle against terrorism alone. They must cooperate with each other, starting with cooperation at the regional level.

When a group of regional States synchronize their respective legislation, appoint coordinators or focal points on institutional coordination, develop mechanisms for sustained cooperation and address the threat of terrorism with collective resolve, terrorists find it difficult to recruit, move, raise funds or carry out their activities within that region.

A number of regions in the world have demonstrated that strong counter-terrorism cooperation at the regional level is possible. We should continue supporting more regional cooperation in other regions of the world. The UN is your partner in enhancing regional links.

Let me now turn to my second question: How do we move beyond combating the criminal aspects of terrorism and address its root causes more effectively?

While terrorism cannot be justified for any reason or for any grievance, we also know that there are socio-economic and political conditions that let terrorists gain sympathy, spread extremism and develop a narrative in support for violence.

Unemployment, intolerance, lack of education, on-going conflict, the absence of the rule of law and good governance – all can become factors that could help terrorism and extremism spread. We need to learn from each other and work across sectors to ensure that link short-term actions with longer term investments in better livelihoods and opportunities for all.

National counter-terrorism focal points serve a critical purpose in ensuring that all relevant sections of Government, including those sections that are not traditionally associated with security, are playing their part in fostering dialogue between communities, preventing radicalization, improving law enforcement, suppressing the financing of terrorism and ensuring that all national counter-terrorism policies are in accordance with international human rights, humanitarian and refugee laws.

Through this Conference, the United Nations intends to further emphasize the critical role that counter-terrorism coordinators play in the fight against terrorism at the national, regional and international levels.

And now to my final opening question: how do we ensure that we do not call into question the full respect of human rights when fighting terrorism?

The human rights principles provide us with our common basis on how to allow every person to lead a life in dignity and freedom.

If we allow compromise on human rights we are not countering terrorism but letting it gets its way. When the principles enshrined in the human rights instruments are disrespected, extremism tends to thrive. In turn, the human rights principles provide us with a strong basis for making the case against terrorism. Thus, rather than seeing a dichotomy, I see human rights as one of our greatest assets in finding sustainable solutions to countering extremism and terrorism.

High Commissioner Pillay’s team closely cooperates with CTITF and Member States and provide us with practical suggestions on how to make the positive correlation more explicit.

As we begin our two days of discourse, I invite you to share your experiences and your knowledge on these topics. We at the United Nations are keen to hear your views. At the conclusion of this Conference, we will share a short informal Chair’s summary that will help guide our work in the near future. And I will brief the Secretary-General upon my return to New York.

As Chairman of the CTITF and Executive Director of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT), I will ensure more effective action in implementing the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy by the United Nations.

I am confident that the challenge of terrorism is not insurmountable if we act jointly.


Thank you.