Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorist Acts

Ambassador Nikki Haley
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
September 28, 2017


Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Under-Secretary-General Voronkov, and Mr. Scharia and Amr, as well, for your briefings.

Around the world, all of us are confronting new and dangerous terrorist threats. We see terrorists using trucks to mow down innocent civilians in city centers. Improvised, home-brewed explosive devices left on trains. Airplanes brought down by bombs smuggled on board. More than 17 years after the 9/11 attacks, terrorists continue to adapt their tactics and launch barbaric attacks to try and disrupt our modern way of life.

The United States is leading the fight against terrorism in all of its forms. We lead a coalition of states that is successfully liberating territory from ISIS. ISIS is on the run. It is only a matter of time before ISIS loses what is left of the territory they control. The United States is also committed to holding state sponsors of terror accountable, especially the number one state sponsor of terror, Iran.

But even as we and our partners step up efforts to defeat terror, the UN has remained mostly on the sidelines. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The UN has a strong foundation to be an effective counterterrorism partner, and that foundation is the Global Counterterrorism Strategy. It is imperative, however, that we ensure balanced implementation of the strategy across all four of its pillars, including the integration of the prevention of violent extremism into pillars one and four.

This Security Council has also passed important resolutions obligating all Member States to criminalize acts of terror, stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and end the flows of foreign terrorist fighters.

Yet these resolutions will only be words on paper if Member States do not step up and implement them. That is where the UN can do much more. The UN can help Member States strengthen their defenses and follow through on the tough demands this Council made. That is especially true for Member States that may not have the resources or the expertise to address all of their vulnerabilities. And when states have not shown the political will to follow through, all of us must work together to press them to do so.

As for the UN’s own counterterrorism architecture, the United States wants to see an active, strengthened, and updated Counterterrorism Executive Directorate. We want to see a strong CTED that will help Member States understand the gaps in their counterterrorism efforts and analyze how terrorist threats are changing. The United States will lead the effort to update the CTED mandate later this year to make the organization more relevant to today’s threats.

We also fully support the Secretary-General’s effort to reform the way the UN addresses counterterrorism. But to succeed, these reforms need to be more than changing boxes in an organizational chart. For example, as the campaign against ISIS continues, some ISIS fighters will try to slip back into their home countries to plan new attacks. The UN should help Member States at risk stop the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and assess future threats.

The UN should also help Member States keep their citizens from becoming radicalized in the first place. The UN has a lot of tools available for governments to draw upon. There are experts in governance, development, communications, security, and of course, counterterrorism. The UN needs to bring all of these components together when governments need help fighting the spread of terrorist ideologies and preventing violent extremism from taking hold.

And, we call on the entire UN system to support innovative, on-the-ground efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from inspiring, radicalizing, financing, or recruiting individuals to commit acts of violence.

The UN Office of Counterterrorism and CTED need to lead in making sure everyone at the UN works together in this fight. To expand its impact, the UN can’t work alone. The UN needs to get out of New York and engage the different players in the field. It can gain from their expertise.

As the UN strengthens its counterterrorism efforts, respect for human rights is vital. Counterterrorism should never be an excuse for ignoring human rights. The fact is when governments abuse human rights in the name of counterterrorism, the tactics backfire. Abusing human rights actually increases local support for terrorism. Promoting respect for human rights and the rule of law must be a fundamental part of the UN’s work with Member States around the world.

Counterterrorism is a major test of the UN’s relevance to the threats we face today. The United States will continue to take action against terrorism.

But the UN can and must do more to help. We look to the UN to respond to global threats. Fighting terror is at the top of the list. So we urge the UN to step up and help Member States strengthen their efforts against this shared threat.

Thank you.