Secretary-General Kofi Annan today presented a five-point strategy for the United Nations to fight terrorism: dissuading the disaffected from choosing the tactic, denying terrorists the means to carry out attacks, deterring state support, developing state preventive capacity and defending human rights in the struggle against the scourge.
Outlining what he called the “five D’s” in a keynote address to the closing plenary of the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security in Madrid, he announced the creation of an implementation task force under his office to ensure that all parts of the UN system play their roles in handling terrorism and related issues.
“The United Nations has already, for many years, been playing a crucial role in all these areas, and has achieved important successes. But we need to do more and we must do better,” he declared. “All departments and agencies of the United Nations can and must contribute to carrying out this strategy.”
Dealing with each of the five D’s in detail, Mr. Annan said all sectors of society must play their part in dissuading disaffected groups who choose terrorism because they think its tactics are effective and people in whose name they claim to act will approve.
“It should be clearly stated by all possible moral and political authorities that terrorism is unacceptable under any circumstances and in any culture,” he declared. “Not only political leaders, but civil society and religious leaders should clearly denounce terrorist tactics as criminal and inexcusable.”
He called for a comprehensive convention outlawing terrorism in all its forms and said the right to resist occupation cannot include the right to deliberately kill or maim civilians.
He stressed that the high-level panel he set up to study global threats and recommend changes in the international system calls for a definition of terrorism “which would make it clear that any action constitutes terrorism if it is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians and non-combatants, with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a Government or international organization to do or abstain from doing an act.”
Turning to the second “D” – denying terrorists their means – Mr. Annan noted that the UN had already made important contributions, including the Convention on the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism and travel bans. But more effective action is needed against money-laundering and in the “most vital” area of denying terrorists access to nuclear weapons.
“That such an attack has not yet happened is no excuse for complacency,” he said. “Rather, it gives us a last chance to take effective preventive action. That means consolidating, securing, and when possible eliminating potentially hazardous materials, and implementing effective export controls.”
On deterring countries from supporting terrorist groups, Mr. Annan noted that the UN had not shrunk from confronting such states and the Security Council had repeatedly applied sanctions. “This firm line must be maintained and strengthened,” he declared. “All states must know that, if they give any kind of support to terrorists, the Council will not hesitate to use coercive measures against them.”
On the fourth “D” – developing state capacity to prevent terrorism – he called for international aid for poor countries that genuinely cannot afford to build the capacity they need, stressing that good governance was decisive for development and underling the work of the UN Electoral Assistance Division in helping countries vote – often a turning point in their history, as recently in Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Burundi.
“I hope Member States will now build on this work, as President Bush suggested to the General Assembly last September, by supporting a fund to help countries establish or strengthen democracy,” he added.
Finally, on the last “D” – defending human rights – Mr. Annan emphasized that the UN must continue to insist that in the fight against terrorism it cannot compromise on its core values: the rule of law, protection of civilians, mutual respect between people of different faiths and cultures, and peaceful resolution of conflict.
He endorsed a recent proposal to create the position of a Special Rapporteur who would report to the UN Commission on Human Rights on the compatibility of counter-terrorism measures with international human rights laws.
“I regret to say that international human rights experts, including those of the UN system, are unanimous in finding that many measures which states are currently adopting to counter terrorism infringe on human rights and fundamental freedoms,” he declared.
“Compromising human rights cannot serve the struggle against terrorism. On the contrary, it facilitates achievement of the terrorist’s objective – by ceding him the moral high ground and provoking tension, hatred and mistrust of government among precisely those parts of the population where he is most likely to find recruits,” he added.