Continuous review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is necessary to ensure that the international response remains relevant as the dynamic threat posed by terrorism evolves, Member States stressed in the General Assembly today, as debate continued on the resolution titled “The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy: seventh review”, adopted unanimously on 30 June (for background, see Press Release GA/12343).
Welcoming that resolution’s adoption by consensus, many Member States stressed the need to address the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism amidst the fallout of COVID-19. Increased inequality and isolation resulting from the pandemic, along with the global shift into the online space to facilitate social distancing, has strengthened terrorists’ ability to radicalize and recruit as hate speech and propaganda proliferates over the Internet.
Speakers emphasized that the Global Strategy must react appropriately to these emerging threats, demonstrated by rising terrorist activity motivated by xenophobia, racism and intolerance. Many also urged the international community to tackle the documented link between terrorism and organized crime and to counter terrorist narratives with messages of peaceful coexistence. Others highlighted the importance of national ownership of counter-terrorism measures, detailing national efforts on the domestic and international levels to tackle this phenomenon, while still others spotlighted the challenges facing the global counter-terrorism response.
Pointing out one such obstacle was Brazil’s representative, who said that, despite seven reviews of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Member States still do not agree on what constitutes terrorism. While constructive ambiguity may have allowed the Assembly to achieve consensus on the Strategy over the years, this lack of clarity must not become the norm, and he welcomed the resolution’s call for Member States to conclude a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.
The representative of India also called for agreement on a universal definition for the term “terrorism”, pointing out that the lack thereof continues to hamper States’ ability to eliminate this phenomenon. He warned against justifying terrorism in any way — whether on grounds of religion, ideology, ethnicity or race — as doing so would diminish the international community’s collective fight against this scourge.
“Terrorism is terrorism is terrorism,” stressed Israel’s representative, who expressed hope that the Assembly will adopt a zero-excuses and zero-tolerance policy when the Global Strategy next comes up for renewal in 2022. He expressed regret that some of the resolution’s provisions could be interpreted as excusing or justifying acts of terrorism and the killing of innocents.
The representative of Syria also took issue with certain aspects of the latest review, which he said witnessed an attempt by some Member States to prioritize their own narrow interests. Fighting terrorism, he stressed, cannot be a pretext for interfering in the internal affairs of States, to launch aggression or to occupy parts of another country’s territory.
Ukraine’s representative concurred on that point, urging all States to uphold the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity mentioned in the resolution. She said that the Russian Federation is manipulating information and inciting violent activity to interfere in Ukraine’s internal affairs. These and other acts must be condemned and punished to ensure that all perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of terrorist activity be brought to justice, wherever they might be.
The representative of Kenya, noting that her country has experienced the effects of terrorism first-hand, stressed the need for Member States to move past normative debates and instead implement practical counter-terrorism measures to give effect to the Global Strategy. She also underscored that constant, regular review of the same is essential to mitigating the dynamic threat posed by terrorism.
Also speaking were the representatives of Peru, Norway, Qatar, Venezuela, Egypt, Switzerland, Iran, Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Nepal, El Salvador, Paraguay, Pakistan, Indonesia, Guatemala, Côte d’Ivoire, Singapore, Malaysia, Armenia and Mexico.
The General Assembly will next meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 7 July, to conclude its debate on counter-terrorism.