Remarks Following Briefings by Chairs of Subsidiary Bodies of the UN Security Council

Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
May 11, 2017


Thank you, Mr. President.

The international community has made notable progress in degrading terrorist groups worldwide, with recent significant gains against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But this Council must stay vigilant to counter the dynamic threat that ISIS and other terrorist groups, including al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and others, pose around the globe.

As ISIS loses territory and funding, thousands of foreign terrorist fighters are returning from the conflict zone. We also see ISIS and al-Qa’ida affiliates radicalizing and recruiting others, with ISIS continuing to establish and support its affiliates around the world. This demonstrates that terrorist groups and their extensive networks are still very capable of expanding their areas of attack and convincing others to carry out their heinous mission. No country is immune from this threat. That is why the UN has an ever-important role to play in supporting the fight against terrorism in all of its forms.

Moreover, it is critical that the three committees that briefed us today – and indeed all parts of the UN system – coordinate their efforts closely and take a “whole-of-UN” approach to support efforts to defeat terrorism wherever it exists.

One way the Security Council can support such an approach is by working closely with the new UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, which, when established, will coordinate CT efforts across 38 UN offices. The Office’s close engagement with our three counterterrorism committees will help eliminate duplication across the UN system and contribute to the balanced implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy across all four of its pillars.

The Counter-Terrorism Committee, CTC – with the help of the Committee’s experts in the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate, CTED – has examined over the past year issues we consider critical. These include identifying good practices on countering terrorist narratives; leveraging “real world” experience from judges, prosecutors, and police officers on prosecuting terrorists; and promoting respect for human rights and rule of law issues when countering terrorism.

We encourage the CTC and CTED to work with other parts of the UN system, including UNODC, INTERPOL, and other actors, to encourage states to cooperate better, adopt new, needed CT legislation, share best practices, and build the vital capacity necessary to thwart terrorists’ ability to carry out attacks.

The upcoming review of CTED’s mandate offers an opportunity to further enhance CTED’s mission to assess states’ implementation of existing UN CT obligations and identify opportunities to strengthen capacity. We hope that the new UN Office of Counter-Terrorism can take advantage of CTED’s country assessments to enhance strategic planning of Member State capacity-building.

We continue to see the 1267 ISIL and al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee as vital to countering the threats posed by these groups. We appreciate Ambassador Umarov’s active stewardship of this committee and thank the monitoring group for its great work in reporting on the changing terrorist threat picture, challenges to implementing resolution 2253, and new areas on which the committee and the Council should focus on to better counterterrorism financing.

Although much focus has been on ISIS, we should also remember that al-Qa’ida remains a potent threat, blending in with local populations and assuming the guise of a more “moderate” organization. We hope that this Committee and its Monitoring Team will focus on financing and recruitment activities, including the challenges posed when foreign terrorist fighters return home or relocate from Iraq and Syria.

We must keep in mind that for many UN Member States, the 1267 sanctions list is the only guide used at border posts and at sea and airports to screen against terrorists. It is therefore crucial that all Member States help update this list so that it accurately reflects current threats.

We must also work together and with the UN to build state capacity to implement the sanctions. We hope to use the Council’s regular review of the ISIS and al-Qa’ida sanctions next month to make sure that sanctions are best adapted to this evolving terrorist threat.

Turning to 1540, I want to thank you, Ambassador Llorentty, for Bolivia’s leadership of the 1540 Committee. The United States considers UN Security Council Resolution 1540 to be the cornerstone of international efforts to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Today’s briefing is timely because the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the risk if they fall into the hands of terrorists is by no means a theoretical one.

North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. In Syria, we have seen the devastating consequences of confirmed chemical weapons use by both state and non-state actors. Yet, despite these challenges, the obligations in 1540 are still not fully met.

Last year, in a comprehensive review, the 1540 Committee found that notable implementation gaps remain, particularly in the areas of chemical and biological security, countering proliferation finance, and controlling means of delivery. But we think that together we can improve this trend, using the many tools at the 1540 Committee’s disposal. While today’s briefing is important, it should by no means be the only time these committees interact.

There needs to be regular, continued engagement on the intentions and capabilities of terrorists. These committees should also be sharing notes on how the UN can help to build state capacity to counter such threats. We look forward to working with other countries to bolster these efforts and advance our common security.

Thank you, Mr. President.