Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Combating the Financing of Terrorism

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
March 28, 2019


Thank you, Madam President. We thank France for raising this issue in the Security Council and for its efforts to generate the groundbreaking counterterrorism financing resolution we adopted this morning. Thanks, too, to our briefers today.

Madam President, Ministers, Excellencies, the Security Council has been instrumental in building a global framework for Member States to counter the financing of terrorism, beginning with the adoption of Resolution 1373, which we drafted after September 11th that provides the foundation for our global counterterrorism financing efforts. This Council has come a long way to tackle the financing of terrorist groups, including by adapting our robust 1267 ISIL and Al-Qa’ida sanctions regime to the evolving threat we face, and adopting important resolutions like 2199, 2253, and 2368 that target ISIS use of oil, antiquities, and other illicit activities to raise funds.

The comprehensive resolution adopted today is an important step forward in adapting UN tools to address today’s counterterrorism financing threat. As we heard from the President of the Financial Action Task Force, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Treasury Billingslea, the resolution brings Member States’ obligations under UN Security Council resolutions further into line with the FATF standard on criminalizing terrorist financing.

Specifically, the resolution obligates Member States to criminalize terrorist financing even in the absence of a link to a specific terrorist act, so that States are equipped to stymie the general operations of terrorist groups and individual terrorists. This new and very important global obligation will help ensure that Member States have the frameworks in place to utilize effectively an important counterterrorism financing tool – the prosecution of those who knowingly finance and otherwise support terrorist groups.

Madam President, the Security Council is clear in its intent when creating this obligation, as we have reaffirmed many times before: Member States must implement this in a manner consistent with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and international refugee law.

The United States supports the essential work of humanitarian actors and relief agencies that provide lifesaving assistance to those suffering through conflict. We are the single largest humanitarian donor worldwide, and we urge Member States to coordinate and strengthen risk mitigation efforts so that those in need can receive aid and so that the terrorists who cause their suffering do not benefit from such assistance.

The resolution adopted today also underscores the critical need for the full and effective implementation of all targeted financial sanctions flowing from the UN’s 1267 ISIL and Al-Qa’ida Sanctions regime as well as from each Member State’s domestic sanctions regime pursuant to Resolution 1373 to fully disrupt terrorist financing.

Madam President, the United States employs a comprehensive approach to counter terrorist financing. We use financial sanctions, other financial measures, and law enforcement action to cut off terrorists from their sources of revenue and from the international financial system. This involves close coordination and information sharing with our interagency and international partners. It also involves strong collaboration with the private sector and non-profit civil society groups to share and receive information on terrorist financing threats.

We must disrupt the financing of groups like Hizballah, who export violence and instability across the Middle East and have a long history of destabilizing activity that continues to threaten global peace and security. Hizballah, which continues to fight wars on two fronts in Syria and Yemen, uses an increasingly sophisticated array of tools and international networks of companies and brokers, including seemingly legitimate businesses such as the construction and pharmaceutical sectors, to generate revenue, conceal the procurement of weapons, and circumvent controls to disrupt money-laundering and terrorism finance. Such networks and tools cannot be tackled in isolation or in any one corner of the globe.

We cannot let proven terrorist groups like Hizballah continue to stay one-step ahead of our international monitoring and counterterrorist financing efforts. All of us must recognize Hizballah and other such groups for what they are – a global threat to peace and security. The terrorist financing threat that Hizballah, ISIS, and al-Qa’ida pose requires employing the full range of tools highlighted in today’s resolution.

Madam President, we enhance the impact of our individual efforts to counter terrorism finance by working with key international partners. For example, the United States, together with its co-chair Saudi Arabia, established the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center in Riyadh to facilitate coordinated disruptive actions, information sharing, and capacity building to target terrorist financing networks and activities of mutual concern that pose national security threats to the United States and the Gulf. Together, we’re countering evolving terrorist financing networks, including those supporting ISIS, al-Qa’ida, Hizballah, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. Since its inception in May 2017, we’ve implemented three rounds of multilateral designations, sanctioning 36 individuals and entities.

We also work multilaterally through the FATF, the global standard setting body that promotes the effective implementation of its standards through a rigorous peer assessment and follow-up process to ensure states are taking action to combat terrorist financing, money laundering, and WMD proliferation financing.

In closing, Madam President, we must continue to bring all of our tools to bear to combat terrorist financing around the world. Our collective efforts have had a tremendous impact thus far, and while there is much more work to do, today’s unanimous vote reinforces the Council’s resolve to suppress the financing of terrorism worldwide.

I thank you.