Dr. Jehangir Khan, Director, Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) and Director, United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCTC), United Nations
The session was part of the ICT's 16th World Summit on Counter-Terrorism: "Unpuzzling Terrorism". Dr. Khan discussed the role of the United Nations in counter-terrorism, explaining that while there is a UN counter-terrorism strategy signed by many nations, international cooperation is still lacking. He notes the importance of prevention of terrorism, rather than focusing solely on fighting terrorism militarily and on the intelligence front.
Dr. Khan noted the world's need to admit that international cooperation on counter-terrorism has not been up to par to face the danger transnational terrorism poses to the international community. He claims that there is a need for us to step up our international cooperation.
Khan noted that there is a document that all nations have signed and agreed to—the United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy, which was adopted 10 years ago. The General Assembly of the UN met on the 10th anniversary of the signing of this document to reassess its relevance and effectiveness. It decided to modify the document in order to address current threats as well as emerging threats. With these new modifications, the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy has shown, especially through its emphasis on international cooperation, that it is more relevant today than it was 10 years ago.
Terrorism should be fought through military and intelligence measures as well as preventative measures. Khan notes that while this claim seems obvious, in practice we have not seen it carried out effectively.
Many transnational terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and others are a direct threat to international peace and security. Despite recent military success against these groups, the threat of transnational terrorism is diversifying in new directions. These terror organizations continue to control territory and resources and prove their capability to conduct complex attacks in and out of conflict zones. They are constantly introducing innovations, new propaganda strategies and more. There is a move towards carrying out attacks that cost little and require minimal training and planning that still have significant impact. These kinds of attacks render detection virtually impossible.
What does this mean? Transnational groups in the last decade have found it easier to survive than those with a more local agenda suggesting international cooperation has been less effective than national action. It is imperative that member states leverage financial and technological resources to support UN counter-terrorism efforts.
The UN has also been as the forefront of the battle in legal changes to increase international cooperation. This international legal framework includes the necessary conventions and protocols relating to terrorism. Full implementation of this framework would greatly contribute to better international counter-terrorism cooperation. In the face of this threat, the international community needs to unite to be more creative, proactive and effective.
Operationally, improving international cooperation means strengthening communication and actionable intelligence. We also must share databases and interpols internationally to disseminate knowledge of terrorist activity. Furthermore, there needs to be strong criminal justice mechanisms to successfully investigate and bring to justice those who commit these acts. Inter-agency coordination and public-private cooperation are also necessary to combat these threats.
Khan concluded that prevention must be our primary goal. Through its coordinating role, the UN wishes to step up efforts to strengthen international cooperation. The UN looks to collaboration with centers such as the ICT.