Terrorism is a threat to world peace. As it thrives in a world of ours where violation of human rights, ethnic and religious discrimination, rising violence and socio-economic marginalization are very much in practice, it has succeeded in disregarding value of human lives, increase violence and conflicts and pose a serious threat to freedom and peace in the world at large. Statistically, it is evident that no country of the world is exceptional to terrorist attacks [i] . As Pius Odiaka writes in the Guardian Newspaper, Friday, July 29th, 2005, that “No part of the world has been left without terrorist bloodshed. From Kenya, Algeria, Egypt in Africa to many countries in the middle East and the Gulf, Indonesia, Philippine, Pakistan and India across Asia, Washington and New York in America, Spain and now London in Europe, many innocent souls have been sniffed out of existence.” [ii]

Certainly terrorism is widely recognized across the world as the worst threat to mankind, which has compelled the nations to spend millions of dollars beefing up their security. However even amidst this seemingly tight security, thousands of innocent souls continue to loose their lives to the threat of terror. We now live in the world characterized by rising violence and conflicts which has led to growing mistrust, fear, division and poses a serious threat to international peace and security. [iii]

Unique Position of United Nations to Counter Terrorism

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the US, there has been wide spread debate on how to response to terror. Even almost by definition the terrorism in the present form cannot be fought by few states in isolation. It is getting widely accepted now that the fight against terror has to global that encompasses as many political entities as possible. Every structure or organization involved in the fight against terrorism has to be collaborated. [iv] In words of Jane Boulden and Thomas G. Weiss, “Gobal nature of the threat implies the necessity of the global response”.

United Nations for two purposes has always been in the ideal position to take on the universal problem of terror. One its principal purpose of maintaining international peace and security is directly marginalized by the terrorist acts around the world and therefore it cannot keep avoiding the problem as in the past for a very long time. Second it is perhaps the only world body with it broad base reach that is uniquely placed to foster international and regional cooperation to fight against terrorism.

The biggest challenge all these years has been to define terrorism in the wake “my freedom fighter is your terrorist” environment existing during all important resolutions of the United Nations in countering terrorism. [v] To illustrate the point is the most publicized disagreement about who is or is not a terrorist today arises out of the Palestinian Israeli conflict. While the Arab countries recognize the struggle for freedom of the Palestinian people and Israel as committing atrocities quite in contrast Israel sees these freedom fighters as the terrorist. Under such confusion and disagreements, the draft treaty defining terrorism drawn in 1934 never came in to force. Subsequently the General Assembly in 1972 first defined international terrorism as a distinct problem in the wake of several major incidents notably was the killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. [vi] While any concrete effort to counter the threat have always been marginalized by those favouring the rights of national liberation movements fighting against colonial regimes and other forms of external domination, United Nations though in an ideal position to counter the threat in the nascent stages could not contribute to the cause more than the lip service during various tragic incidents.

United Nations Ability to Help Member States

Even in the absence of definition of terrorism and a clear strategy the United Nations has taken meaningful measures to address the meance of terrorism [vii] in assistance with Member States. Some of the steps taken by United Nations to assist member states to fight the meance are enumerated as under:-

Universal Condemnation of Terrorism. United Nations serves as a unique global platform where member states can send a collective and forceful message to rogue and other non state actors that terrorism is not at all acceptable to the world community. Member States and the United Nations as a whole have always used the platform to condemn all acts of terrorism across the globe.

Creating Global Legal Foundations. United Nations has instituted a number of international treaties and conventions to fight terrorism. It is these international treaties that provide the legal framework for the suppression and prevention of terrorist acts across the globe. United Nations had 11 conventions in place to fight terrorism even before the incident of 9/11.

Addressing the Conditions Conducive to the Spread of Terrorism [viii] . While this aspect is especially highlighted in the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy but significant efforts to promote peace, security, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law [ix] . by itself works towards long term mitigation of the problem.

Strengthening Nation Capacity To Counter Terrorism. While the international conventions and treaties against terrorism create obligations for states, United Nations through various offices and agencies provide assistance for states in order to meet the challenges in fulfilling theses obligations. [x] :. In this regard the following offices of United Nations are worthy of mention-

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Provides assistance to Member States through its offices established in over 166 countries to strengthen the legal framework and promote good governance [xi] .

Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). Provides assistance to countries emerging from conflicts with training and reorganising the various law enforcement agencies in the state.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO). It spreads religious and cultural tolerance by providing educational assistance to the Member States.

International Monetary Fund(IMF) and World Bank. Provide practical assistance to member states to counter money laundering and terrorism-financing.

International Maritime Organization(IMO) and International Civil Aviation Organization(ICAO). These offices of United Nations assist the member states to strengthen transport security for both people and goods [xii] .

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The work of IAEA includes strengthening state capacity to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological materials [xiii] and also take steps to defend against such attacks.


In the light of above capabilities, it is clear that United Nations is most suited to fight the global spread of terrorism not only due to the grave danger it poses to world peace and security but also United Nations has a universal appeal to coordinate global effort to defeat terrorism. Therefore any individual war on terror by the effected states needs to be coordinated at the overall universal effort since the origin of the terrorist activities are certainly conceived in the another or targeted state. There is underlying need to provide full support to the world body by the member states in leading the fight and any differences in defining the terrorism should be worked out so that the efforts are not marginalized.