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Annual high-level "Tripartite Plus" meeting

14 February 2007
Annual high-level "Tripartite Plus" meeting

Opening remarks by Mr. Sergei Ordzhonikidze
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
High-Level Meeting of the Tripartite Plus Process 2007

Hofburg Conference Centre, Vienna
Wednesday 14 February 2007

Mr. Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to address you today, as we start this high-level meeting of the Tripartite Plus Process. I am very happy that many of my United Nations colleagues, representing a wide array of specialized expertise have been able to join us today. We are also privileged to welcome representatives from many other organizations whose role is so crucial in our common struggle. Allow me to thank Secretary-General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut for his hospitality and for suggesting this most timely topic for our Tripartite meeting.

It is indeed fitting that we should meet in the splendid setting of the Hofburg Conference Centre, so rich in history; for today we are to discuss the implications of a truly historical document, the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Representatives of all countries assembled a few months ago in New York agreed for the first time to a common strategic approach to fight terrorism. They condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes. Not only did they send a clear and unanimous message that terrorism is always unacceptable, never justifiable, but they also resolved to take practical steps, individually and collectively, to prevent and combat it.

We must now rise to the challenge of putting these decisions into effect. The Strategy is ground-breaking in the breadth of the measures which it calls for. Our response must be equally comprehensive, and we must explore a wide range of methods and approaches to preventing and combating terrorism. We must ensure that next year, when the General Assembly of the United Nations examines progress made in the implementation of the Strategy, we are not found wanting.

Prevention must begin by denying terrorists access to the means to carry out their attacks, and in particular by curbing their access to weapons of mass destruction and their components. The Global Strategy calls on the international community to build capacity to stop terrorists from accessing nuclear, chemical or radiological materials.

The Security Council had already decided, in resolution 1540, that all States should refrain from providing any form of support to non-State actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Importantly, the resolution also requires from all States that they establish effective domestic monitoring systems for expert control to prevent the proliferation of such weapons. Although there is wide recognition that full implementation of the resolution is a long-term objective, we must urgently devise ways to address the threat of nuclear, chemical and biological terrorism effectively.

In denying access to weapons of mass destruction for terrorists, the issue of transparency and governance of these weapons is paramount. Therefore, we must also keep in mind the valuable role that existing multilateral mechanisms play in wider arms control and disarmament efforts. Political support for the Conference on Disarmament, the world’s only multilateral negotiating body on disarmament matters, takes on renewed urgency as we learn daily of efforts by terrorist cells to build or acquire ever more lethal weapons.

Clearly, we must remain vigilant and alert, and see the Counter-Terrorism Strategy not as a static document but one that may need to be adapted as new terrorist threats emerge.

Nowhere is this more manifest than in cyberspace. The Strategy calls for the Internet to be used as a tool for countering the spread of terrorism. Unfortunately, to this day, the great virtues of the Internet -ease of access, speed of information, lack of regulation- have been turned to the advantages of groups committed to terrorism. Hundreds of websites have been established to serve the interests of terrorist groups, who use these sites for propaganda and incitement purposes, and also, increasingly, for fundraising, recruitment and coordination. I hope that our organizations can work together to reverse this alarming trend.

The private the sector is particularly well positioned to develop innovative and effective approaches in countering the use of the Internet by terrorists, and we should tap its resources. In fact, it is becoming more and more evident that to weaken terrorists significantly, we must bring all social and economic actors together and forge new partnerships.

The Global Strategy encourages us to reach out to the private sector and stresses the helpful role that it can play in other fields such as maritime and aviation security. Let us remember that terrorism does not differentiate between public and private sectors, and that governments, ordinary citizens and businesses alike suffer when infrastructure is damaged, the economy disrupted and confidence sapped.

Likewise, we must call on all social and economic actors to join in our efforts to build a culture of peace and institute a genuine dialogue among civilizations. Tolerance must replace confrontation, understanding must supplant suspicion, and the fabric of societies torn by conflicts and abject poverty must be mended. Then, it will be much more difficult for terrorists to radicalise our youths and recruit their foot soldiers.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I spoke earlier of the need to ensure that all facets of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy are fully implemented. I would now like to examine more specifically how we can work together to that end and translate our solemn commitments into reality.

The purpose of our tripartite meetings is precisely to maximise the impact of cooperation between our organizations, based on their comparative advantages and on the specialized expertise which they have developed in past decades. As organizations covering a continent that has been the theatre of vicious terrorist attacks, be they in Omagh, Beslan, Madrid or London, the OSCE and the Council of Europe have a direct stake, like the United Nations, in ensuring that our combined efforts achieve the greatest outcome possible.

When they adopted the Strategy, Member States underscored that effective counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights are not conflicting goals, but complimentary and mutually reinforcing ones. It is imperative that our responses to terrorism, as well as our actions to thwart and prevent it, should uphold the very human rights that terrorists aim to destroy.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has assigned high priority to the question of protecting human rights in the context of counter-terrorism measures. The OSCE and the Council of Europe, being at the forefront of the promotion of human rights and the rule of law, are also well placed to provide advice to individual countries on lawful counter-terrorism action and the safeguard of human rights standards in the fight against terrorism.

Their efforts to encourage their members to become without delay parties to the existing international and regional conventions and protocols against terrorism are particularly valuable. They can also bring new momentum to our efforts to reach an agreement on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism, and can be instrumental in solving the outstanding issues related to the legal definition of terrorism.

A core element of the international legal framework that guides our fight against terrorism and underlies the Council of Europe’s new Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, is the need to ensure the apprehension and prosecution of perpetrators of terrorist acts. Aut dedere, aut judicare, the obligation to extradite or prosecute is therefore the cornerstone of international cooperation in combating terrorism.

Here again, as the focus of technical assistance shifts in coming years from ratification support to legislative implementation and reinforcements of criminal justice systems, the OSCE and the Council of Europe, as well as the other regional organizations joining us today, will be in a unique position to help many governments.

The United Nations, for its part, must work harder at helping its Member States surmount their difficulties in closing implementation gap, which has too often appeared between the provisions of the Security Council and General Assembly resolutions on terrorism and the reality in countries lacking the resources, or will, to apply them.

These difficulties are linked to some extent to the sheer number and scope of these resolutions, and the burden on Member States arising from reporting obligations under the resolutions. With nearly 30 per cent of states having failed to comply with these obligations, ways must be found to lessen their load and remedy this information lacuna without undermining the quality of information provided. We must all consider new means of assisting countries that have genuine problems in complying.

The situation has improved somewhat over the past two years, due in part to closer ties established among the subsidiary bodies of the Security Council and to the establishment of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate. Besides sharing information, granting mutual database access and coordinating technical assistance efforts, these subsidiary bodies, namely the 1267 Committee, the Counter-Terrorism Committee and the 1540 Committee, now coordinate their means of gathering information.

Nevertheless, many states have yet to implement adequately the resolutions. All regional organizations have a crucial role to play in helping countries develop their capacity to cooperate fully with the counter-terrorism subsidiary bodies of the Security Council.

The Global Strategy places great emphasis on capacity-building in all States as a vital component of the global counter-terrorism effort. I am convinced that contacts established in the past few years between regional organizations and the Council’s committees can have a decisive impact in this regard. Let us now reflect on ways in which we can work with Member States more coherently and systematically, be it through joint assistance programmes or joint country visits, to identify and answer their needs.

The realization that improved coordination and coherence in our action is the sine qua non condition of its success has also led to the establishment by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force. My colleague Mr. Orr will certainly attest to the vital role played by the Task Force. Coordination with other international and regional organizations is equally important and I am particularly pleased that so many have joined us today in Vienna. Together we must find ways to demonstrate unequivocally that the only road to success is multilateral, that the only way to defeat the scourge of terrorism is to confront it with the full support of our community of nations and using the whole array of methods at our disposal.

Thank you.