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Poverty, inequality and exclusion fuelling terrorism, warns UN chief

UN Secretary-General reminded that more than 50,000 children, women and men remain in Al-Hol and other camps and detention centres.
© UNICEF/Delil Souleiman
UN Secretary-General reminded that more than 50,000 children, women and men remain in Al-Hol and other camps and detention centres.

Poverty, inequality and exclusion fuelling terrorism, warns UN chief

Peace and Security

With terrorism posing a complex, constantly evolving and multi-faceted threat, law-enforcement agencies gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York on Monday in search of a comprehensive, inclusive, and effective multilateral response.

The day also marked the start of the UN’s Third Counter-Terrorism week

Addressing the delegates at the forefront of a great global effort”, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that terrorism affects every region of the world, while preying on local and national vulnerabilities.

Poverty, inequalities and social exclusion give terrorism fuel. Prejudice and discrimination targeting specific groups, cultures, religions and ethnicities give it flame,” said the UN chief, adding that criminal activities like money laundering, illegal mining, and the trafficking of arms, drugs, stolen artifacts and human beings, help fill terrorist coffers. 

UN counter-terrorism tools

Since terrorism festers in complex crises with no region immune, the response to the threat needs to be multilateral and coordinated, said Mr. Guterres – citing some key UN tools that can help combat the scourge.

He pointed to the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact, which is helping countries implement the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

The UN is helping regional organizations like the African Union, working closely with civil society including victims of terrorism, religious leaders, women and young people, to shape counter-terrorism responses, policies and programmes.  

Four priorities

He said there were four priority areas where the counter-terrorism community should direct its efforts. 

Firstly, he said the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy needed strengthening. This week, the General Assembly is expected to adopt by consensus a resolution reviewing the Strategy. 

The second area of focus needs to be prevention, which means addressing the underlying conditions that lead to terrorism in the first place - such as poverty, discrimination, disaffection, weak infrastructure and institutions and gross violations of human rights. 

This means “more than just foiling attacks and disrupting plots”.  It is also necessary to ensure that counter-terrorism strategies and measures reflect all communities, constituencies and voices. 

Terrorism represents the denial and destruction of human rights, the Secretary-General said.

“And so the fight against it will never succeed if we perpetuate the same denial and destruction.”

Identifying promotion of human rights as the third priority, the Secretary-General expressed his conviction that all counter-terrorism policies and initiatives should be based on respect for human rights. That should include the right to repatriation.

Stain of Syria’s camps

“Despite the territorial defeat of Da’esh over four years ago, more than 50,000 children, women and men still remain in Al-Hol and other camps and detention centres in northeast Syria, subjected to dire security and humanitarian conditions, and human rights abuses,” reminded Mr. Guterres.  

He commended Iraq and other Member States working to repatriate nationals from the camps - and reiterated his call for all Member States to accelerate the pace of repatriation as an urgent priority.   

Proper funding

Finally, he called for more sustainable financing for counter-terrorism efforts.

Thanking Member States for funding already provided, Mr. Guterres warned that funds were running short, with some statutory contributions for the year still unpaid.

He warned that could have far-reaching consequences, both for the UN’s peacekeeping efforts and for the Office of Counter-Terrorism.

A terrorism-free future

There are more than 40 different side events backed by State Members and multilateral organizations due to take place during the week.

“In the names of all those who have suffered and continue to suffer, and in the names of all victims and survivors, let’s intensify our work to create a future without terrorism”, he concluded.