Remarks at a Meeting of the Sixth Committee on Agenda Item 113: Measures to eliminate international terrorism

Elizabeth Grosso
New York, New York
October 3, 2022


Thank you, Chair.

Before giving our first remarks, the United States joins others in condemning the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and unjustified use of force against Ukraine. We also categorically reject the illegal referenda and purported annexations of Ukrainian territory taking place over recent days. Russia’s attempts to enlarge its own territory through the threat and use of force is a clear violation of the UN Charter, and must be of grave concern to the Legal Committee of the United Nations. We call upon the Russian Federation to immediately cease using force against Ukraine and withdraw its military from Ukrainian territory. I will now turn to our remarks on measures to eliminate international terrorism.

Every year, tens of thousands of lives are impacted by terrorist violence around the globe. The effect on communities, families, and individual lives is profound, with many continuing to suffer for years to come. On this occasion, we take a moment to acknowledge the victims of terrorism and to remember why we come together as an international community to counter terrorism and violent extremism.

One of the United Nations’ founding purposes was the promise of collective measures to prevent and counter threats to international peace and security. Terrorism in all forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motivations. The United Nations plays a critical role in strengthening the capacity of Member States to prevent and counter terrorism, while highlighting the value of whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches, and the importance of respecting human rights and the rule of law. Together, we have taken many steps to diminish terrorist threats, including by targeting terrorist networks’ financing and support systems, countering their propaganda, and preventing their travel.

While recognizing the great strides we have made as an international community to address terrorism, we also must recognize that terrorism remains a serious concern and there is more that remains to be done. Foreign terrorist fighters in inadequate detention facilities and their associated family members living in overburdened camps in Syria and Iraq pose a serious

security threat and constitute a dire humanitarian crisis, raising human rights concerns. Repatriation of Member State citizens, combined with rehabilitation, reintegration, and prosecution, as appropriate, of foreign terrorist fighters would prevent a resurgence of ISIS in Iraq and Syria and the uncontrolled return of foreign terrorist fighters to countries of origin in the future.

Violent white supremacists and other Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists, or “REMVEs” [REM-Vs]–often loosely organized and not formally affiliated with any single group–are exploiting the internet to spread their corrupt ideologies and to encourage attacks, including through international networks and connections. Of note, the Secretary General’s Report from August 3 this year identified research which indicated a 320 percent rise in attacks conducted by individuals affiliated with so-called “right-wing terrorism” between 2014 to 2018. The United States is pleased that last year’s resolution that reviewed the Global Counterterrorism Strategy (GCTS) reflected for the first time a recognition of this REMVE threat. We believe that REMVE is one of the most pressing counterterrorism challenges facing the international community today.

The United States is continuing our efforts to implement the 2021 National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism and to bring to justice those who violated U.S. law in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. We must remain united in our collective efforts to prevent and counter the rising and changing threat posed by REMVE and its international networks and connections. Through multilateral efforts led by the United Nations, the Global Counterterrorism Forum, the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, the Aqaba Process led by Jordan, the Christchurch Call to Action to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online, and the industry-led Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, and regional organizations such as the OSCE and the Council of Europe, we are also leveraging our respective tools and capabilities against REMVE challenges. We hope that further cooperation and conversation on how to address this scourge will be forthcoming.

We continue to strengthen and expand our voluntary collaboration and partnerships with private technology companies to counter terrorism online, including through improving information sharing on terrorist and violent extremist trends and tactics and by companies’ continuing to strengthen and enforce their terms of service. Member States also should continue to seek to build long-term resilience to terrorist messages through partnerships with all stakeholders—particularly youth—to cultivate critical thinking skills and online public safety awareness through education. Positive narratives to counter terrorist propaganda are an important element of these efforts.

The international community must recommit to multilateral efforts to prevent and counter terrorism and violent extremism, coming together to address this international threat to peace and security. In so doing, we must always remember that successful efforts to counter and prevent terrorism and violent extremism respect human rights, including freedom of expression, and the rule-of-law. Indeed, efforts to stifle freedom of expression or freedom of religion or belief and other human rights and fundamental freedoms under the guise of counterterrorism are counterproductive. In fact, according to some former REMVEs, such government overreach has reinforced their narratives and proven useful in recruiting new supporters.

Concerning a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, we will listen carefully to delegates’ statements. However, it is critical that the United Nations send united, unambiguous signals when it comes to terrorism; otherwise we risk some of the progress that we have made.

To close, the United States reiterates its firm condemnation of terrorism in all forms and manifestations, and reiterates its commitment to work with the international community to counter terrorism and violent extremism.