Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
December 21, 2017
Mr. President, this Council and the international community have found common cause in our fight against terrorism, but we are continually reminded of how much more we have to do. In 2017, terrorists have targeted villagers in the Sahel and worshippers in the Sinai. And, here, in this great world city of New York, we’ve twice seen the dangers posed by self-radicalized individuals. But the world is adapting, and we’re getting better at fighting terrorism. In the Middle East, the Defeat-ISIS Coalition has liberated almost all of the territory of the so-called Islamic State. And later today, the Security Council will adopt a landmark resolution to give us new tools to counter the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters.
Here at the United Nations, this has been a remarkable year of change and reform. This year has seen some of the greatest changes to the UN counterterrorism architecture in over a decade. Under the Secretary-General’s leadership, the UN has taken important first steps toward streamlining, elevating, and focusing its counterterrorism efforts with the establishment of the new UN Office of Counterterrorism. To further these reform efforts, today the Security Council has adopted a resolution to update and strengthen the mandate of the Counterterrorism Executive Directorate.
Established by the Security Council thirteen years ago, CTED has grown to become a critical counterterrorism body. In 2017, CTED again showed its great value. CTED experts have visited more than twenty countries to assess their implementation of counterterrorism resolutions, held many important briefings and open meetings, and engaged outside experts from governments, civil society, academia, and the private sector. CTED now has new leadership. We warmly welcome Michele Coninsx and applaud her vision for a strong, dynamic CTED.
The overarching goal of the resolution adopted today – which will renew CTED’s mandate for another four years – was to strengthen CTED even further. Today, more than ever before, we need a CTED that is agile and able to respond to new threats. I would highlight three goals of today’s important resolutions.
First, this resolution aimed to help CTED focus squarely on its core mandate of visiting Member States to assess their implementation of counterterrorism resolutions. We hope it will foster even better CTED assessment reports built around actionable recommendations to counter terrorism. If we strengthen CTED’s ability to carry out this core mandate, we can better ensure CTED’s recommendations are acted on throughout the UN system and beyond.
Our second goal was to strengthen CTED’s role as an early warning system for the Security Council and its Counterterrorism Committee. CTED can help the Counterterrorism Committee identify and assess cutting-edge counterterrorism events, trends, and threats. This requires broad engagement – and not just with Member States, but also civil society, academia, and the private sector. We also must look to media, cultural, and religious leaders, with an emphasis on women, youth, and locally-focused organizations.
And, third, this resolution aims to establish firmly CTED’s place in the reformed UN counterterrorism architecture. Our goal was to promote a close and cooperative relationship with the new UN Office of Counterterrorism. For example, we want to see CTED’s assessments and recommendations directly inform the technical assistance and capacity building efforts undertaken by other parts of the UN.
In addition to advancing these goals, the resolution adopted today recognizes one of the greatest lessons we’ve learned in the fight against terrorism. After many years of experience, the international community has come to recognize that effective counterterrorism strategies must be comprehensive and balanced strategies, which prioritize all four pillars of the UN’s Global Counterterrorism Strategy. In practice, this means counterterrorism efforts must be multi-faceted, tailored to local conditions, and take into account ethnic and religious minorities. Successful counterterrorism efforts must simultaneously focus on strengthening criminal justice systems, tackling terrorist financing, bolstering civil aviation security, and protecting soft targets and critical infrastructure.
And just as terrorists target, exploit, and recruit women, we must respond by integrating gender as a cross-cutting issue throughout our counterterrorism efforts. That’s why this mandate calls for CTED to integrate a gender perspective in its work, and, for the first time in a CTED mandate, also focuses on the impact of terrorism on children.
Now, one of the most essential elements of a balanced counterterrorism strategy is countering violent extremism. The prevention and countering of violent extremism has now become a core component of effective counterterrorism strategies worldwide. Today’s resolution acknowledges the importance of this preventive work. It also brings us closer to an “all-of-UN” counterterrorism effort that includes critical prevention elements whenever and wherever appropriate.
The United States is also encouraged that CTED’s mandate now reflects the reality that we will never defeat terrorism without respecting human rights. Heavy-handed counterterrorism responses and repression are gifts to terrorists. Putting human rights at the core of our counterterrorism efforts doesn’t weaken our response to terrorism – it strengthens it. For this reason, we encourage CTED to ensure that respect for human rights is integrated throughout its work.
We thank our colleagues at CTED and in the Council for their hard work and shared commitment in the struggle against terrorism.
Thank you, Mr. President.