At its first ever meeting at Finance Ministers’ level, the United Nations Security Council on 17 December 2015 stepped up its efforts to cut off all sources of funding for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIL) and other terrorist groups, including ransom payments, no matter by whom.
In a unanimously adopted resolution at a session presided over by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew of the United States, which holds its monthly presidency, the 15-member body called for enhanced actions, from closing financial system loopholes to stopping the abuse of charitable causes, as well as updating the existing ISIL and Al-Qaida Sanctions List.*
It stressed that already existing resolutions mandating States to ensure that financial assets are not transferred to terrorists by persons within their territory “shall also apply to the payment of ransoms to individuals, groups, undertakings or entities on the ISIL [Da’esh] and Al-Qaida Sanctions List regardless of how or by whom the ransom is paid.”
The resolution called for increased international cooperation in sharing information and closer collaboration with the private sector to identify suspect transactions.
The Council also called on Member States to promote enhanced vigilance by persons within their jurisdiction to detect any diversion of explosives and raw materials and components that can be used to manufacture improvised explosive devices or unconventional weapons, including chemical components, detonators, detonating cord, or poisons.
“As Da’esh (another name for ISIL) and other terrorist groups disseminate their hateful propaganda and ratchet up murderous attacks, we must join forces to prevent them from acquiring and deploying resources to do further harm,” he stressed.
“We know the challenge before us. Terrorists take advantage of weaknesses in financial and regulatory regimes to raise funds. They circumvent formal channels to avoid detection, and exploit new technologies and tools to transfer resources. They have forged destructive and very profitable links with drug and criminal syndicates – among others. And they abuse charitable causes to trick individuals to contribute,” said the UN chief.
He noted that progress has been made over the years in identifying and limiting various methods of terrorist financing, with Member States ratifying the International Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and adopting legislation to criminalize terrorist financing and strengthen regulatory systems.
“Still, more needs to be done,” Ban stated.
“Terrorists continue to adapt their tactics and diversify their funding sources. Today, Da’esh runs a multi-million dollar economy in territories under its control. Da’esh terrorists raise money through the oil trade, extortion, undetected cash couriers, kidnapping for ransom, trafficking of humans and arms and racketeering,” he said.
“They loot and sell precious cultural property, shamelessly profiting from the destruction of humanity’s common heritage. Social media outreach is exploited by Da’esh, not just for radicalization and recruiting, but also for fundraising. Other terrorist organizations around the world – from Boko Haram to Al-Shabaab to the Taliban – are following suit.”
With terrorists increasingly employing elusive tricks to raise and transfer funds, covering their tracks and leaving little evidence to identify tainted resources, the international community must stay ahead of the curve to combat their ploys, he said, noting that many States have yet to set up the necessary legal regimes and institutions to identify and freeze terrorist assets.
Mr. Ban called for increased international cooperation in sharing information and expertise, especially in stopping the illegal trade of cultural artifacts, and closer cooperation with the private and charitable sectors to identify suspected transactions. (*Source: UN).
UN Weighs Measures to Prevent Terrorists from Exploiting Internet, Social Media
Stressing the need for States to work with the private sector to devise ways to prevent terrorists from exploiting the Internet while respecting human rights, the top United Nations political official on the same day, 17 December 2015 said curtailing the influence of terrorists and violent extremist groups must not come at the expense of curbing legitimate political discourse on the Internet or social media.**
“Today’s topic…brings us to the fine line between benevolent and malevolent: freedoms and human rights apply to anyone anywhere, but only as long as they do not call into question the enjoyment of these freedoms and human rights by others,” Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told a special meeting of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee.
“It is precisely [the] exploitation by terrorists and violent extremists that can easily result in us restricting human rights and fundamental freedoms,” he continued, acknowledging that while it is now “a given that ICT is part of the equation in our effort to achieve a more sustainable, equitable and connected world,” it is this free flow of information that has led the Islamic Stat of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other extremist groups to successfully use the Internet to broadcast their ideology and to recruit foreign terrorist fighters.
Indeed, ISIL, Feltman continued, has raised the exploitation of the Internet and social media to a new level, luring over 30,000 foreign terrorist fighters from over 100 countries to join the conflicts in Syria and Iraq or inciting individuals to commit terrorist acts in their home countries. Thus, local and regional conflicts have unprecedented global repercussions.
“We cannot allow the internet to be abused to undermine the foundations of our societies,” he told the day-long event, which also featured opening remarks from Raimonda Murmokaite Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee and Jean-Paul Laborde, Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED).
“How do we make our preventive and counter-measures more effective without calling into question the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms?” Feltman asked, and noted that the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is central to the answer: where rights and freedoms are jeopardized or granted selectively, the potential for grievances grows and can in turn provide fertile ground for recruitment by terrorist and violent extremist groups, ever more cost-effectively and far-reaching thanks to ICT.
The UN and Member States – working closely with the private sector and civil society – must act together to prevent and counter the exploitation of ICT resources and also develop their own effective strategic communications tools to expose the hypocrisy of terrorist and violent extremist groups as well as inspire and instil in potential recruits tangible alternatives, he underscored.
“The United Nations sees its role in support of Member States both as convener and provider of capacity-building,” stated Feltman, going to spotlight three core areas of activities: UN coherence; innovative dialogue with new partners; and a global framework.
Specifically on that issue, he announced that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will release, in the coming days, a Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which will make strategic recommendations to address the drivers of violent extremism and to broaden our approach beyond ongoing, essential security-based counter-terrorism measures.
“It will call for greater attention to strategic communications at all levels. It will put an emphasis on youth, focusing on the interface between youth and social media, putting young people at the centre of our efforts to address the misuse of the internet,” added Feltman.
To complement Member States’ efforts, he said that the UN Centre for Counter-Terrorism is exploring opportunities for capacity-building programmes to assist them in designing strategic communications that respond to the specific challenges posed by violent extremist communications.
As for what he called the even broader UN-provided framework, Mr. Feltman stressed that the UN Charter and international human rights law form the basis for effective preventive and counter-terrorism measures.
“We have to end impunity and make sure that terrorists and their supporters are held accountable for incitement by having in place the appropriate legislative provisions to bring perpetrators to justice,” he said.
The meeting coincides with the closing of the General Assembly’s High-Level meeting on the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society, and as the Security Council has convened a meeting of finance ministers from among its member States on ways to disrupt terrorist financing. (**Source: UN).