The threat of terrorism has expanded and become increasingly decentralized and diffuse throughout the past 10 years, the top United Nations anti-crime official said today, calling for greater efforts to tackle links between crime and terrorism and for increased advocacy among youth.
“Terrorism is now more of a threat to international peace and security than ever,” said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), at the opening of the 15th Meeting of Heads of Special Services, Security Agencies and Law Enforcement Organizations being held in St. Petersburg, Russia, under the auspices of the Russian Federal Security Service.
“Challenges range from the use of information technologies to spread violent extremist ideologies, to the flow of foreign terrorist fighters across borders,” he added.
The rapidity of such changes can be seen in the growth of the Islamic State and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), noted Mr. Fedotov. He said that in addition to inspiring attacks around the world, the group has also been joined by large numbers of foreign terrorist fighters with significant numbers from Europe, South Asia and South-East Asia.
“Some of these fighters have left conflict zones after becoming disillusioned. However, others remain radicalized and retain both the intent and capability to conduct terrorist attacks in their country of origin or residence,” said Mr. Fedotov.
The Executive Director said that there are there are allegedly 5,000 Da’esh fighters in Libya, and affiliated groups have emerged in other parts of the Middle East, Africa and Central, South-East and South Asia, as well as other regions.
“As you are aware, international efforts, both political and military, have helped to halt the expansion of Da’esh in recent months. However, while the capacity and territorial control of Da’esh have begun to diminish in Syria and Iraq, the group remains a formidable threat,” Mr. Fedotov said.
The Executive Director noted that UNODC is helping countries through its Global Programme on Strengthening the Legal Regime against Foreign Terrorist Fighters in the Middle East, North African and Balkan Regions.
In particular, UNODC is expanding its work on countering terrorist financing in relation to foreign terrorist fighters with a new project supporting States to specifically target ISIL-related funding streams.
In addition, UNODC is assisting countries in the Middle East and North Africa to handle extradition requests and mutual legal assistance, the Executive Director said, adding that multi-agency action is also pivotal to the international community’s work.
Mr. Fedotov also highlighted the need to enable countries to successfully counter violent extremism and radicalization among young people, and proposed tackling the links between transnational organized crime and terrorism.
In that regard, he stressed that prevention “clearly needs to be a top priority,” noting that UNODC contributed to the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, and helps countries counter violent extremism and radicalization among young people and in prisons.
Some 99 delegations from 46 countries and international organizations are taking part in the meeting, which focuses on cooperation in combating terrorism.