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

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 25, 2023


I shall now make a statement in my capacity as Representative of the United States. Let me thank you, Under-Secretary General Voronkov and Executive Director Gherman, for your work on the 17th Da’esh report and for this briefing. And I thank you also, Ms. Khalaf, in advance, since I will have spoken before, for your courageously sharing your personal story. I look forward to hearing that.

Your leadership as a survivor and advocate is very inspiring to all of us. Your story illustrates the gruesome tactics terrorist groups such as Da’esh and ISIS and al-Qaida use to terrorize civilians. And we must hold all of those responsible for these evils to account.

The United States is committed to promoting justice and accountability for all acts of conflict-related sexual violence. And this commitment is laid out in President Biden’s Memorandum on Promoting Accountability for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence.

In June, the United States designated two Da’esh leaders as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Both individuals committed sexual violence against Yezidis and were responsible for the abduction and enslavement of Yezidi women and girls. The designation of these two individuals was a historic action, marking the first time a dedicated focus on conflict-related sexual violence led to the imposition of U.S. sanctions. And we will never stop fighting for justice or forget the more than 2,700 Yezidi women and children who remain unaccounted for.

Colleagues, we must use all multilateral tools available to us, including UN sanctions, to prevent these acts of violence given how destructive conflict-related sexual violence is for victims and communities, and how destabilizing it is for societies. We urge UN Member States to increase funding for UN agencies and partners working to provide comprehensive services for survivors and gender-based violence. These programs can make a significant impact in the lives of survivors, and they must be funded. Especially because right now the world’s most vulnerable women and girls are in dire need.

As just one example, many of the people residing in the al-Hol and Roj displaced persons camps in northeast Syria – some of whom are family members of ISIS fighters – are also victims and survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. The situation in these camps constitutes a humanitarian, human rights, and security crisis – and there is an urgent need for countries to repatriate their nationals.

The United States views repatriation of both detained ISIS fighters and displaced persons in the al-Hol and Roj camps as a top priority. It will help to ensure ISIS does not re-emerge in Syria and it can prevent further human rights abuses. We have seen an increase in repatriations over the past six months and hope it is a sign of greater efforts to come.

The international community must also ensure vulnerable populations are not susceptible to recruitment by violent extremists, including through stabilization assistance to liberated areas. As the Secretary-General’s report highlights, ISIS continues to take advantage of conflict and inequality to attract followers and organize terrorist attacks.

The United States is particularly focused on the increasing terrorism threat across Africa – as outlined in the Secretary-General’s report. And we are deeply concerned the string of military takeovers in the Sahel will hamper the fight against terrorism in the region. We look forward to the Africa Counter-Terrorism Summit in early 2024 – and the opportunity to discuss durable solutions to the terrorism challenges across the continent. But let’s be clear: The summit must include engagement with civil society organizations in order to be impactful.

Colleagues, the United States continues to provide our African partners critical assistance in disrupting and degrading D’aesh and al-Qaida affiliates – in a manner consistent with international law. And I want to reiterate that capable law enforcement and broader security service responses are essential to preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism. In South Asia, Afghanistan must deny safe haven to terrorist groups, including al-Qaida and ISIS-Khorosan, which continue to harbor ambitions to carry out attacks, and has claimed deadly attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Today, I also want to call on Member States to support increased transparency and operationalization of the Counter Terrorism Committee’s assessments. These expert, neutral reports include recommendations to guide the provision of counter terrorism-related technical assistance. And the Secretary-General’s report rightly characterizes the fight against terrorism as requiring a long-term commitment.

The international community, and this Council, must continue to invest in whole-of-society approaches that respect human rights and the rule of law. By doing so, we can prevent and counter the spread of terrorism. And we can save lives and end needless suffering. We must act with urgency, and we must act together now.

Thank you very much.