As foreign fighters continue to flood the world’s zones of conflict, exacerbating already tenuous security situations and further destabilizing States, the United Nations Security Council reiterated today its pledge to counter the global terrorist threat by adopting a statement reaffirming its commitment towards the preservation of international peace and security.
At a high-level debate held today in UN Headquarters in New York, the 15-member body unanimously approved the text, which calls on Member States to increase cooperation in their efforts to address the perils posed by foreign terrorist fighters around the world – from helping each other build capacities to address terrorist threats to collaborating in suppressing the transit of violent extremists between states.
According to a recent UN assessment, the number of foreign terrorist fighters in the Syria and Iraq conflicts alone has grown to over 15,000 from more than 80 countries while other fighters are reportedly seeking to join militant groups in Somalia, Yemen, as well as several countries in the Maghreb and Sahel regions.
The bulk of the prospective fighters seek out well-known terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Al-Nusrah Front (ANF), and other entities associated with Al-Qaida, which continue to terrorize local populations while also committing atrocities.
The Council reiterated its “grave concern” about these terrorist groups and “the negative impact of their presence, violent extremist ideology, and actions on the stability of Iraq, Syria and the region,” including the “devastating humanitarian impact on the civilian populations.”
Since January 2014, in fact, an estimated 1.9 million people have been displaced across Iraq as they fled the violence and persecution of ISIL’s recent offensives. According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), close to 50 per cent of the displaced have found refuge in the high altitude areas of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, where winter temperatures can plummet to well-below zero.
In addition, the statement highlighted the “continued need to improve the visibility and effectiveness of the UN’s role in countering the spread of violent ideologies” adding that terrorism “in all forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.”
In his remarks to the Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the body for its “unity of purpose” in addressing a threat which continues to cause “profound suffering” for the millions living under the control of such groups.
“We are increasingly seeing terrorism, drug trafficking and transnational crime grow in intensity and feed off each other,” Mr. Ban said. “The international community and the UN must ensure the full implementation of our many tools for action – including Security Council resolutions and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.”
The Security Council last met for a high-level debate on terrorism in September when a resolution calling on Member States to cooperate in efforts to address the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters was adopted.
However, noted Mr. Ban, since then a number of specific steps had been taken towards combatting the spread of extremist ideologies and their deadly offshoots, including a preliminary analysis prepared by the Counter-Terrorism Committee’s Executive Directorate focusing on the principal capacity gaps in Member State implementation of resolution 2178; the creation of a UN coordination mechanism to mobilize action to support the needs of Member States; and the initiation of a UN system-wide programme on foreign terrorist fighters to develop inter-agency projects to assist Member States.
In addition, he added, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime was also working to “strengthen the legal and criminal justice capacity of Middle East and Northern African countries to address the threat posed by foreign fighters.”
“Violent extremism is a multi-dimensional challenge that needs to be effectively addressed at the grassroots level,” the Secretary-General continued, remarking that the “scourge of violent extremism” also had its socio-economic roots that needed to be addressed.
“We must continue to think more deeply into the fundamental conditions that allow extremism to thrive. Looking at these challenges solely through a military lens has shown its limits.”