Explanation of Position on the UN General Assembly Adoption of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy

U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 30, 2021



As the United States said in 2018, the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy review resolution should guide global efforts to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism, not be yet another vehicle to unjustly criticize Israel at the UN. The United States cannot accept the divisive reference to foreign occupation in preambular paragraph 43 of the resolution that serves to justify terrorist acts, which are categorically unacceptable under any circumstances, and undermine a Member State’s legitimate right to self-defense. Accordingly, the United States dissociates from consensus on preambular paragraph 43 of the resolution. We must reject all terrorist acts. All forms and manifestations of terrorism are criminal or unjustifiable.


We continue to promote increasing humanitarian assistance and access for those in need consistent with both counterterrorism and humanitarian imperatives. We endorse the language in paragraph 60 – drawn from UN Security Council Resolution 2462, adopted in 2019 – which urges Member States, when designing and applying counterterrorism measures, to take into account the potential effect of those measures on exclusively humanitarian activities, including medical activities, that are carried out by impartial humanitarian actors in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law. However, the United States rejects the efforts by some to read language included in paragraph 109 to mean that all Member States – including non-parties to the relevant armed conflict – have obligations under international humanitarian law (IHL) any time it applies to ensure that counterterrorism legislation does not impede humanitarian aid, even if terrorists benefit from such aid. Rather, we read paragraph 109 consistent with paragraph 60, which states that all measures undertaken by Member States to counter the financing of terrorism should comply with their obligations under international law, including when their obligations under IHL are applicable. While we support the critical role humanitarian actors play to alleviate the suffering of those who are displaced and otherwise victimized by terrorism, there is no obligation under international law that requires the completely unrestricted delivery of humanitarian or other assistance to terrorist groups or individual terrorists at all times. We emphasize that paragraph 109 has no impact upon the binding obligation for Member States to criminalize the financing of terrorism and prohibit their nationals or those within their territories from providing funds or other economic resources directly or indirectly to terrorist organizations or individual terrorists for any purpose, even without a link to a specific terrorist act, regardless of whether such support is meant to further the “terrorist,” “humanitarian,” or any other goals or activities of a terrorist or terrorist organization.


Additionally, the United States believes that the important work of the Financial Action Task Force, which sets global standards for preventing and combating money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing, as well as its recommendations, and guidance should be recognized in the Strategy review.


The United States also remains deeply concerned about the references to a so-called “Principle to Extradite or Prosecute” in operative paragraphs 26 and 29 of the Strategy review, which is a misstatement of international law. While extradition and prosecution are vital elements of law enforcement response to terrorism, we remind the Assembly that the obligation to “extradite or prosecute” arises under specific multilateral treaties, including the international counterterrorism conventions. It is incorrect to suggest that it exists as a freestanding principle of law that applies and has independent meaning outside the specific relevant provisions of those treaties. Attempting to advance incorrect and ambiguous legal propositions through this resolution harms the very legal cooperation it purports to advance.


Though it is disappointing that we could not come to consensus on language that encompasses both race and ethnicity as motivating factors for violent extremism, we welcome new language on terrorism and violent extremism based on racism. In the Human Rights Council in February, Secretary-General Guterres noted that white supremacy movements, which are a subset of racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism, are becoming a transnational threat. He called for coordinated action from the international community to address this grave and growing danger. The international community has learned valuable lessons from countering Islamist terrorism, which can be applied to racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism. As a first step, our governments must share information. This will allow us to develop a comprehensive picture of the threat, so we can more effectively protect our citizens at home and overseas. Additionally, we must share that information as appropriate with the private sector and civil society. Both are key partners in our efforts to protect critical infrastructure and public places or soft targets from terrorist attacks.


In preambular paragraph 23, as with all economic, social, and cultural rights, the right to education is to be progressively realized. In that same paragraph, we read “all feasible measures” to encompass existing obligations under IHL. This resolution does not expand on the obligations of parties to an armed conflict vis-a-vis schools. In operative paragraph 68, we read the term “nuclear, chemical and biological materials” to include only materials with potential weapons of mass destruction applications and not, for instance, bona fide medical supplies. With respect to operative paragraph 112, Member States cannot ensure that persons that allege violations of human rights or fundamental freedoms receive effective remedies; merely access to remedies. We also reiterate that successful counterterrorism and prevention of violent extremism efforts must respect human rights, including freedom of expression, and the rule-of-law. As such, we read this resolution in light of our Constitution and international obligations.