United Nations action to counter terrorism

Implementing the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy

The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy was adopted by the General Assembly on 8 September 2006. This marks the first time that Member States have agreed to a comprehensive, global strategic framework to counter terrorism. The strategy spells out concrete measures for Member States to take individually as well as collectively to: address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, prevent and combat terrorism and strengthen their individual and collective capacity to do so, and protect human rights and uphold the rule of law while countering terrorism. The strategy calls for Member States to work with the United Nations system to implement the provisions of the plan of action contained in the strategy and at the same time calls for United Nations entities to assist Member States in their efforts.

The United Nations departments, programmes, funds and agencies have been taking actions in a number of areas in line with the strategy both in their individual capacity and through joint efforts in the framework of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF)[1]:

Coordination and cooperation

The Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, established in 2005 by the Secretary-General, works to ensure overall coordination and coherence among at least two dozen entities throughout the United Nations system involved in counter-terrorism efforts. The Task Force has developed a programme of work and established working groups to carry forward a first set of initiatives to help Member States implement the strategy. Working groups include:

  • Facilitating Integrated Implementation of the Strategy: The

working group aims to develop a practical methodology to assist interested Member States, at their request, and in cooperation with Task Force entities and organizations, as appropriate, with the integrated implementation of the strategy.

assistance in identifying how radicalization and extremism may lead to terrorism and ideas for undermining the appeal of terrorism.

  • Countering the Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes: The

working group aims to identify and bring together stakeholders and partners to discuss the abuse of the Internet for terrorist purposes and identify possible ways to combat this abuse at a national, regional and global level.

  • Protecting Human Rights While Countering Terrorism: The

working group aims to support efforts by Member States to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of counter-terrorism, including through the development of practical tools, and facilitate an exchange of information on priority human rights concerns, as well as good practice examples on the protection of human rights in the context of countering terrorism, drawing on experiences at the national and regional levels.

  • Strengthening the Protection of Vulnerable Targets: The

working group aims to establish appropriate mechanisms to facilitate both the sharing of existing best practices and the development of further best practices to protect vulnerable targets.

  • Supporting and Highlighting Victims of Terrorism: The working group aims to promote the sharing of best practices between relevant actors in supporting victims of terrorism; lay the foundation for a constructive dialogue between victims and Member States; build solidarity between victims, Member States, the international community and civil society; and galvanize broad support for counter­terrorism efforts by highlighting the plight of victims.
  • Tackling the Financing of Terrorism: The working group aims to examine the various components of counter-terrorism financing strategies and make proposals that would contribute to increasing the effectiveness of the implementation by Member States of inter­national standards, including the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Special Recommendations.

The Task Force has established relations and currently is developing cooperation with a number of regional and subregional organi­zations, including: the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe (CoE) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism

The Special Representatives and Envoys of the Secretary-General, in providing mediation support and backstopping the Department of Political Affairs, have helped to facilitate peace agreements in 13 conflicts around the world since 2001. The Department’s recently established Mediation Support Unit and the Peacebuilding Support Office will further enhance the United Nations peacemaking and peacebuilding capacity.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

promotes dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, including interreligious and interfaith dialogue, through the fostering of exchanges and quality education at different levels of society that advance human rights, democratic citizenship and tolerance, cross-cultural journalist networks, and training in intercultural mediation. The UNESCO Culture of Peace programme assists civil society organizations in denouncing terrorist acts as inexcusable.

The department of Public Information works with Member States, media, educational institutions, non-governmental organizations and civil society to promote dialogue, respect, tolerance and cultural diversity. DPI organizes a series of seminars entitled “Unlearning Intolerance,” aimed at examining different manifestations of intolerance, as well as exploring means to promote respect and understanding among peoples. The five seminars held so far focused on: confronting anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, the role of the media in “fanning the flame of tolerance,” preventing genocide and the role of political cartoonists.

The Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism, operating under the new Human Rights Council, addresses the role of promoting human rights in eliminating conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. This is done through country-specific work, including country visits, and in thematic reports submitted to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.

Preventing and combating terrorism

Sixteen universal legal instruments (13 instruments and three amendments) have been developed and adopted under the auspices of the United Nations and related intergovernmental organizations. Most of these instruments are in force and provide a legal framework for multilateral actions against terrorism and criminalize specific acts of terrorism, including hijacking, hostage-taking, terrorist bombings, financing of terrorism and nuclear terrorism. They are complemented by resolutions of the General Assembly (49/60, 51/210 and 60/288) and of the Security Council (1267 (1999), 1373 (2001), 1540 (2004), 1566 (2004) and 1624 (2005)).

The Counter-Terrorism Committee and its Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate are responsible for monitoring implementation of Security Council resolutions 1373 (2001) and 1624 (2005), and facilitating technical assistance to countries requesting it. On the basis of multiple reports submitted by all 192 Member States and additional sources of information, the Committee is completing prelimi­nary assessments of implementation of resolution 1373 (2001), which calls on all countries to enact measures to prevent terrorist acts, and providing recommendations for improvements. The Committee has also conducted visits to 22 Member States and is planning visits to another 11.

Under the Al-Qaida and Taliban sanctions regime, which is managed by the 1267 Committee of the Security Council, the Council requires all States to impose an assets freeze, a travel ban and an arms embargo on individuals and entities who have been placed on the 1267 Committee’s Consolidated List on the basis of their association with Al-Qaida, Usama Bin Laden and/or the Taliban. These sanctions measures apply wherever the listed individuals and entities are located. As of November 2007, the Consolidated List contained the names of 367 individuals and 112 entities and 36 States had frozen financial assets as a result of the listings.

The Monitoring Team, which assists the 1267 Committee in promoting implementation of the sanctions regime, has so far compiled seven analytical reports assessing the implementation of the sanctions, the changing nature of the threat posed by Al Qaida and the Taliban and the best measures to confront it. The Team has visited more than 60 Member States to discuss how to improve the sanctions regime, and has established cooperation with 28 international and regional bodies. It has also established four regional groups of intelligence and security agencies from various countries as well as a group of bankers and others from the private financial sector to provide further advice and offer proposals for the Security Council’s consideration.

The Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004) and its experts have examined reports from 136 Member States (with 85 of those providing additional information) and one organization (the

European Union) on their efforts to meet the requirements of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), while working to identify deficiencies and suggest improvements in preventing access by non-State actors to weapons of mass destruction and their components.

Military and police components of United Nations peacekeeping operations have provided a more secure environment in 16 conflict zones all over the world in the last five years. This has helped to limit terrorist opportunities to recruit and to conduct their operations in these regions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is implementing its second dedicated Nuclear Security Plan (nSp) – the first covered the years 2002­2005 and the second covers 2006-2009 – which is geared to further improve and strengthen security globally of nuclear and other radioactive materials in use, storage and transport by supporting States in their efforts to bolster their national nuclear security regimes.

The Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA) has commenced the first phase of establishing a single comprehensive Bio-incident Database mandated by the strategy. The Database will store detailed information on all reported events (biological incidents) in which a biological agent harms or threatens to harm humans, livestock or agricultural assets. It will also include information on all related reported hoaxes. Consultations on the scope of the Database with interested Member States have taken place. The Office also maintains the roster of experts and laboratories for the Secretary-General’s investigation mechanism on alleged use of biological weapons. In early 2007, ODA sent a request to all Member States to provide an updated list of qualified experts and laboratories. The technical guidelines and procedures for such an investigation are currently under review by a group of technical experts.

The International Civil Aviation Organization develops treaties, international standards and recommended practices as well as guidance material to protect aircraft, airports and other air navigation facilities. It has performed security audits in 159 Member States as of 31 March 2007, and coordinated assistance to resolve deficiencies identified during the audits. It also addresses the security of travel documents and the rationalization of border clearance systems and procedures.

The International Maritime Organization adopted mandatory measures to enhance Maritime Security including the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code which was implemented by 158 Member States representing 99% of the world’s merchant fleet (around 40,000 ships) engaged in international voyages and about 10,000 port facilities had their port facility security plans developed and approved.

The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute has collected data from the 25 countries of the Euro-Asian region on national strategies to combat illicit trafficking of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear material and has produced an assessment report and country profiles that identified gaps and best practice in the national strategies to combat illicit trafficking in those materials.

The World Health Organization is concerned with public health readiness and response to all public health emergencies of international concern, whatever their origin or source, within the framework of the International Health Regulations (2005). A Global Alert and Response system detects international public health events, performs a risk assessment and is able to mobilize an international network of public health partners to assist countries to respond. Guidance has been prepared to assist countries to assess and improve their readiness for managing the public health consequences of a biological, chemical, radiological or nuclear terrorist incident. WHO has developed standards and provides training for laboratory biosafety and biosecurity, to encourage safe use and safekeeping of biological materials, thus minimizing the risk of their diversion. [2]

Building State capacity to counter terrorism

The Office of Legal Affairs has prepared publications and conducted seminars and training programmes to disseminate information regarding the universal counter-terrorism instruments and to encourage State participation in these treaty regimes.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has assisted more than 149 countries in becoming parties to and implementing the universal instruments related to the prevention and suppression of international terrorism and in strengthening international cooperation mechanisms in criminal matters related to terrorism, including through national capacity­building. The Office has provided legislative advice on counter-terrorism issues to over 80 countries. The Office has also developed (or is in the process of developing) more than a dozen technical assistance tools, including legislative databases and model legislation, aimed at assisting countries in strengthening their legal regimes against terrorism. The Office continues to deploy professional expertise in the field to train officials of relevant authorities and build institutions to improve countries’ capacities in combating money-laundering and the financing of terrorism. The Office moreover assists Member States in building criminal justice systems in accordance with the rule of law and human rights standards.

The Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive directorate has

identified and prioritized the technical assistance needs of over 90 Member States and has referred these needs to potential donors. It has also created on the website of the Counter-Terrorism Committee a directory of international best practices, codes and standards for the implementation of resolution 1373 (2001).

The Monitoring Team of the 1267 Committee has also collected information and requests from 151 Member States relating to their technical assistance needs for more effective implementation of the Al- Qaida/Taliban sanctions regime, and forwarded this information to both the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (Terrorism Prevention Branch) and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate for information and action.

With its field presence in 166 countries, the United Nations develop­ment Programme undertakes, at the request of Governments, numerous activities to promote governance and rule of law, including programmes to support the implementation of anti-money-laundering legislation and the strengthening of justice systems.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations provides training to national police and law enforcement officers and officials on criminal matters including kidnapping, information-gathering, hostage-taking, close protection, and the investigation of assassinations, murders and bombings.

The Department of Safety and Security is responsible for coordinating the activities of the UN integrated security management system relative to the safety and security of UN staff, assets and operations at all UN duty stations around the world taking into account various threats, including terrorism. The Department, INTERPOL and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs are also working together to develop emergency response capacity for security threats, including terrorism.

In compliance with the ECOSOC resolution on IPO (E/2006/28) adopted in July 2006, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute continued to provide support to numerous Member States engaged in the security preparations of major events such as the Olympic Games and other large-scale sporting events, high-level summits and mass events. It has also provided training to security planners from 17 Latin American countries, while in Europe it has promoted the development of an integrated research area on major event security. In addition, UNICRI has developed a number of technical tools in support of national policymakers and security planners.

The International Atomic Energy Agency activities aimed at assisting States have included: more than 100 evaluation missions to help States to identify their own broad nuclear security requirements; arranging for the recovery, disposition and/or storage of approximately 100 high-activity and neutron sources; helping States in training customs and other border officials and installing detection equipment at border crossings; and, operating a 24-hour contact network to facilitate States’ cooperation in the event of a nuclear accident or a radiological emergency. The Agency also helps States to implement current and future undertakings to the instruments that form the strengthened international platform in the area of nuclear security, like the recently amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials, the Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons contributes to global anti-terrorism efforts by promoting universal adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention. It is continuing its efforts, within its mandate, to assist States to build capacity to prevent terrorists from acquiring chemical materials, to ensure security at related facilities and to respond effectively in the case of attack using such materials. The OPCW has inventoried and secured over 71,000 metric tonnes of chemical agents and all former chemical weapons production facilities in the world have been inactivated.

Through its Global Programme on Maritime Security, the International Maritime Organization has conducted 60 country needs assessment and advisory missions and 68 national and 50 regional seminars, workshops or courses that have resulted in the training of approximately 6,000 persons on methods for ensuring maritime security. These activities aimed to bring awareness to maritime security and other threats through the understanding and implementation of the provisions of SOLAS chapter XI-2 and the ISPS Code and have encouraged regional and subregional cooperation on counter-terrorism and promoted the prevention of unlawful acts in ports and at sea. IMO’s train-the-trainer courses, both at the regional and national level, have trained instructors capable of training others to achieve these aims.

The International Monetary Fund has conducted, since early 2002, 61 country assessments on Anti-Money-Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) capacity. The Fund has provided technical assistance to 222 countries, through national and regional training workshops and tailored capacity-building assistance such as drafting of legislation and strengthening of financial sector supervision for AML/CFT. About 2,470 officials have participated in IMF-led workshops over the last five years.

The World Bank has conducted 32 assessments – 11 jointly with the IMF – on Anti-Money-Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) compliance since 2001. Throughout this period, approximately 275 technical assistance missions were performed on a bilateral or regional basis to strengthen all components of an AML/CFT regime. In addition, the World Bank has undertaken 14 bilateral remittance corridor analyses that offer sending and receiving countries new information on the characteristics of remittance flows. This information provides the basis for policy reviews to promote increased flows at lower costs, while enabling better compliance with AML/CFT standards. The World Bank is also in the process of conducting a study on the AML/CFT risks of mobile phone technology for financial services. This study will include recommendations to Governments and stakeholders on how best to regulate this new industry to simultaneously promote business and mitigate the risks.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organi­zation provides frameworks supporting human rights-based approaches to education, learning materials and curricula to promote inclusive pedagogies and diversified content. Inter-university solidarity, understand­ing and dialogue are promoted through the network of 550 UNESCO Chairs, the Global Learning Portal and the UNITWIN programme, which provides opportunities for young people in all regions. UNESCO has also prepared a code of conduct for scientists to help deter the use of scientific work for terrorist purposes.

**The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) initiates and coordinates numerous training programmes covering different priority crime areas and aimed at enhancing the capacity of States to combat terrorism. To complement the courses, INTERPOL provides corresponding Training Guides, including the “Bio-Terrorism Incident Pre-Planning and Response Guide”. INTERPOL has conducted to date five regional workshops on Bioterrorism, attended by delegates from over 130 countries and has commenced train-the-trainer sessions, which brought together police, health, prosecution and customs, promoting ways to work together. The sessions identify effective strategies for prevention and response, forge subregional cooperation and assess the legal authorization for undertaking critical police functions. INTERPOL has provided support to member countries during major events by deploying specialized teams to bolster national efforts to secure and protect the event. It also developed a Best Practices Guide in Combating Terrorism, available on the CTC website. As part of the CTITF Working Group on Strengthening the Protection of Vulnerable Targets, INTERPOL will establish a Referral Centre in order to facilitate the exchange of expertise, best practices and, where necessary, technical assistance.

Defending human rights while combating terrorism

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human

Rights advocates the promotion and protection of all human rights and the implementation of effective counter-terrorism measures as complementary and mutually reinforcing objectives. OHCHR is examining the question of protecting human rights while countering terrorism by making general recommendations on States’ human rights obligations and providing them with assistance and advice, upon their request, in particular in the area of raising awareness of international human rights law among national law-enforcement agencies. The Office provides assistance and advice to Member States on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, including the development of human rights-compliant anti-terrorism legislation and policy. Additionally, OHCHR contributes to the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force by leading the Working Group on Protecting Human Rights While Countering Terrorism.

OHCHR is promoting strengthened protection of human rights through leadership and advocacy, providing technical assistance and training, and developing tools to assist practitioners. The Office has focused on deepening the understanding of international human rights obligations in the context of terrorism through focused research and analysis, in particular a fact sheet on human rights, terrorism and counter-terrorism. OHCHR is also in the process of organizing regional seminars on human rights and counter-terrorism, updating the Digest of Jurisprudence of the United Nations and Regional Organizations on the Protection of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism and developing a fact sheet on the relationship between international humanitarian law and human rights law.

The Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism, operating under the new Human Rights Council, works to identify, exchange and promote best practices on measures to counter terrorism that respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Special Rapporteur also addresses allegations of human rights violations in the course of countering terrorism. He conducts visits to selected individual countries and has engaged in correspondence with more than 40 countries about their law and practice. He reports regularly both to the Human Rights Council and to the General Assembly, including on selected thematic issues and his country visits.

The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute has provided training on witness protection, with a specific focus on the persons who participate or who have participated in terrorist or organized criminal groups as well as on victims of terrorism, for public prosecutors and other relevant investigating officials from 19 Latin American countries. Training activities aim at improving skills to optimize the use of information provided by witnesses in accordance with the right of defence and to promote appropriate approaches to victims of terrorism.

*The Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force includes representatives from: the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED), the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), the Department of Public Information (DPI), the Department of Safety and Security (DSS), the Expert Staff of the 1540 Committee, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Monitoring Group of the 1267 Committee, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA), the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA), the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Customs Organization (WCO), the World Bank, and the World Health Organization (WHO). In its planning and coordinating work, the Task Force goes beyond the wider UN system to include other entities, such as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).

**While INTERPOL is not part of the UN system, it is a member of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) which was established in 2005 and is chaired by the Office of the UN Secretary-General.

(The above inventory of United Nations counter-terrorism related actions is based
on information provided by CTITF member entities.)

For more information please visit:

Published by the Peace and Security Section of the Department of Public Information – DPI/2439B/ Rev. 2 – December 2007

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[1]  Addressing Radicalization and Extremism that Lead to Terrorism: The working group aims to offer Member States

[2]The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), through a special Task Force, provides a forum for Counter-Terrorism experts to exchange best practices, as well as operational information, in order to identify active terrorist groups and their membership, including organizational hierarchies, methods of training, financing and recruitment of terrorist suspects and groups. INTERPOL maintains a broad range of global databases that contain key information (e.g., wanted individuals, fingerprints, photos, etc.) and has developed technology to make such data, especially its database on Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD), available at border security points. It also coordinates the circulation of alerts and warnings on suspected or wanted terrorists and assists the UN Security Council with the implementation of the Al-Qaida and Taliban sanctions regime by circulating relevant information on individuals under UN sanctions to law enforcement authorities worldwide. Upon request, INTERPOL assists its member countries in their investigations in the aftermath of a terrorist act by deploying on-site Incident Response Teams (IRTs).