Terrorism is a persistent and evolving global
menace. No country is immune. Social
media, encrypted communications and
the dark web are being used to spread propaganda,
radicalise new recruits and plan atrocities.
The threat ranges from the crude tactics of lone
actors to sophisticated coordinated attacks and
the horrific prospect of terrorists using chemical,
biological or radioactive weapons.
Our response needs to be equally agile and
multifaceted. That is why I am convening the
first-ever United Nations High-level Conference
on Counter-Terrorism this week in New York.
Heads of national counter-terrorism agencies
and representatives from international institutions
and civil society will discuss how to improve
international cooperation and build new
The conference will focus on four key areas.
First, it will consider how governments, security
agencies and law enforcement bodies can improve
the exchange of critical information and strategies
to detect, disrupt and prosecute terrorist
networks. Second, the conference will discuss
how the United Nations can do more to assist
countries around the world affected by terrorism.
Third, it will address the threat posed by foreign
terrorist fighters. With the military defeat of ISIL
in Syria and Iraq, large numbers of these ideologically-driven
mercenaries are relocating to other
theatres of conflict or returning home, passing on
their battlefield expertise, recruiting new followers
and planning further attacks.
Fourth, I intend the conference to focus on how
we can prevent terrorism and violent extremism.
Improved security will never be enough. We need
to address the underlying conditions that make
people susceptible to toxic ideologies.
Terrorism is a transnational threat that cannot
be defeated by any single government or organisation.
It needs a concerted multilateral response
at global, regional and national levels. It is essential
to strengthen counter-terrorism structures
and institutions. But we must also address root
causes by promoting education, tackling youth
unemployment and addressing marginalisation.
That means engaging with local communities,
religious organisations and the media. Civil society
is central to the conference and our broader
Clearly, the response to terrorism and violent
extremism must respect human rights and comply
with international law. That is not just a
question of justice, but of effectiveness. When
counter-terrorist policies are used to suppress
peaceful protests and legitimate opposition movements,
shut down debate, target human rights
defenders or stigmatise minorities, they fail and
we all lose. Indeed, such responses may cause
further resentment and instability, and contribute
No cause or grievance can justify terrorism. But
we will only diminish the threat by ending the
conflicts, human rights abuses, poverty and exclusion
that drive so many to violent extremism. Most
new recruits to terrorism are between 17 and 27
years old. We must offer them better prospects,
economically and socially. And we must reverse
the polarisation, xenophobia and hate speech that
are proliferating around the world.
Let us also remember the tens of thousands of
people killed, wounded and traumatised by terrorism.
Survivors need our support in seeking justice
and rebuilding their lives, both financially and
psychologically. We must also listen to them and
learn from their experiences.
Finally, terrorism and violent extremism have
a profound gender dimension. Terrorists continue
to violate the rights of women and girls
through sexual violence, abduction, forced marriages
and preventing free movement and access
to education. Involvement in domestic abuse is a
common thread among many perpetrators. That
is why we must urgently prioritise the rights,
participation and leadership of women.
The international community has come a long
way in its efforts to counter-terrorism. There is a
clear international framework that makes it easier
to prosecute terrorists, disrupt their financial
networks and prevent online radicalisation. But
there is much still to be done.
Terrorist groups share an agenda of authoritarianism,
misogyny and intolerance. They are an
affront to the common values encapsulated in the
United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. Our responsibility is to
unite to build a world of peace and security, dignity
and opportunity for all people, everywhere,
so we can deprive the violent extremists of the
fuel they need to spread their hateful ideologies.