Remarks at a Meeting of the UN General Assembly on the UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy

Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
July 28, 2017


The United States applauds recent efforts to streamline and focus the United Nations’ work to help countries fight terrorism. These recent reforms will advance our common efforts to implement the UN’s Global Counterterrorism Strategy. In particular, the United States strongly supports the creation of the UN Office of Counterterrorism. We hope this office will raise the profile of counterterrorism efforts across the UN system, while reducing duplication among the 38 UN bodies that do CT work. The UN Office of Counterterrorism should enable these bodies to better target and implement their programs, as well as help us all better identify and respond to emerging terrorism threats.

We welcome new Under-Secretary-General Voronkov and pledge our full support for his efforts. Although over a decade old, the Global Counterterrorism Strategy has aged well. It is imperative, however, that the UN Office of Counterterrorism ensure a balanced implementation of the strategy across all four of its pillars. The General Assembly stressed the importance of his approach when it created the new counterterrorism office, and we expect it to meet these expectations.

For example, years of experience have shown that terrorists cannot be defeated through security measures alone. To counter this scourge, we therefore also need to prevent violent extremism and counter violent terrorist ideologies. The UN is uniquely positioned to do this. A balanced approach to implementing the Global Counterterrorism Strategy should therefore integrate the Prevention of Violent Extremism, or PVE.

In particular, we believe the counterterrorism office should place high priority on incorporating the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. That Plan of Action calls for a comprehensive approach to PVE that will support security-based counterterrorism measures. It will do so by promoting preventative measures to address directly the drivers and consequences of violent extremism. The UN should make PVE a priority, and the UN Office of Counterterrorism can help make that happen.

Engaging civil society in countering terrorism is another area in which the UN, with strong coordination from the new office, can be effective. Local youth and women’s groups, academia, and the media all have an essential role. These groups can build trust on the ground and should be at the center of the UN’s efforts to prevent radicalization and violence. We encourage the UN Office of Counterterrorism to integrate locally-rooted civil society organizations into UN CT work wherever possible.

We also know that respecting human rights is an essential element of an effective fight against terrorism. Research shows that when CT tactics are heavy-handed and abuse human rights, local support for terrorism increases. For this reason, both the General Assembly and Security Council have repeatedly reaffirmed the importance of respecting human rights while fighting terrorism. We therefore encourage the UN Office of Counterterrorism to help promote the respect for human rights as a core element of a successful counterterrorism strategy.

Finally, the United States congratulates Secretary-General Guterres on this critical first step in reforming the UN’s CT architecture. We welcome the General Assembly’s support for this reform and we hope a successful Office of Counterterrorism can serve as a model for architecture reform across the UN system.

Thank you.