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UN’s potential role in fighting terrorism

New expert report outlines UN’s potential role in fighting terrorism

10 September – Nearly a year to the day after the terrorist attacks on the United States, an expert report outlining new ways the United Nations can contribute to the international battle against terrorism was released today at UN Headquarters in New York.

The report, prepared for Secretary-General Kofi Annan by a group of senior UN officials and outside experts, identifies the policy dimensions of terrorism for the UN, and offers a series of concrete recommendations on steps the Organization can take to further address the problem.

While counter-terrorist activities have been on the world body’s agenda almost since its inception, this report, by the UN Policy Working Group on the UN and Terrorism, aims to provide a strategic conceptual framework for future efforts. The Group argues that the UN must project a clear message that terrorism, no matter what the stated cause, is unacceptable and deserves universal condemnation. It also notes that terrorist acts are an assault on human rights.

At the same time, the report underscores that the struggle against terrorism “should be carried out in keeping with international human rights obligations.” It warns that the UN should be wary of offering, or being perceived to be offering, a blanket endorsement of measures taken in the name of counter-terrorism.

The Working Group’s recommendations aim to dissuade groups from embracing terrorism, deny groups and individuals the means to carry out terrorist acts, and promote broad-based international cooperation in the struggle against the menace.

Among other measures, the experts say the UN must urge its Members to adhere to international anti-terrorism treaties. They also suggest the publication of a UN digest to guide governments on those elements of human rights law that have the greatest application to counter-terrorist activities. The UN should provide more support to its Counter-Terrorism Committee, while the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs should consider producing an annual review of the potential use of weapons of mass destruction in terrorist acts. Civilian police on UN peacekeeping missions should also receive training to identify and counter terrorist groups.

The report calls for more coherence in the way the UN liases with other bodies, including Interpol. It also proposes discussions of anti-terrorism activities at regular meetings of senior staff coordinating activities across the entire UN system.

Established in October 2001, the UN Policy Working Group on the UN and Terrorism is chaired by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast. The Secretary-General considers the report’s recommendations.

ENDS

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