Speech by Minister Blok at Global Counterterrorism Forum, UN General Assembly

Speech by Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok at the Ninth Meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, UN General Assembly, New York on 26 September.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for being here today, at the ninth meeting of the GCTF in the margins of the UN General Assembly. Your presence underlines our firm ongoing commitment to this forum and its cause.

This ninth meeting is my first as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Establishing the GCTF was a great and very necessary initiative, led by very different countries who shared one common goal: to jointly fight the scourge of international terrorism. By focusing on a shared vision in a non-political, action-oriented way, this group was able to transcend their differences. A fine example of effective multilateralism in this new and challenging era.

Seven years after the first meeting of the GCTF, our joint efforts have, indeed, borne fruit.

But as we all know: terrorism is an agile monster. The need for our undiminished vigour remains − no less today than seven years ago.

Today, I’d like to focus on three points in this regard.

First: the biggest danger right now is complacency.

Indeed, seven years on, there are successes to report:

ISIS has lost almost all its territory − an essential result in fighting this monster.

Member states have become better at protecting soft targets, countering extremist content online, and at prevention strategies.

Positive steps have been taken on border protection, information sharing, and detection. As a result, it’s now virtually impossible for foreign terrorist fighters to travel to conflict zones.

But it’s too soon to consider ISIS’s dark ideology defeated. It may have lost significant ground, but the threat remains. It is transforming and morphing – it has gone back underground, into insurgency METHOD. Its ideology still strongly appeals to people in all our societies. It’s a hard battle that all of us need to fight at home.

And it’s not just ISIS, but also al Qa’ida, Boko Haram, al Shahaab and others.

So yes, it’s an agile monster we’re fighting.

We must remain alert, vigilant, and ahead of the curve.

And the GCTF has been doing exactly that. By addressing the hard questions early on.

Like the issue of returning foreign terrorist fighters; the rise in home-grown terrorism; and the link between terrorism and organised crime.

We tackled these questions early on in this forum. And now that they’re at the top of many agendas, the GCTF stands ready with guidance and advice on how to deal with them.

I’m pleased that this forum has thus moved quickly from agenda-setting to concrete action. Providing practical tools. Speaking of which, I’m proud to present to today The Hague Good Practices on Transnational Organized Crime and Terrorism.

This brings me to my second point: Terrorism is a broad problem that requires long-term commitment. A broad spectrum of measures across society.

I think it would be fitting to pay tribute to the foresight of the late UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose recent passing we all mourn.

As early as 2006, he wrote a report entitled ‘Uniting against terrorism – recommendations for a global counter-terrorism strategy’.

In it, he identified conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism – conflicts, extremist ideologies, political exclusion and socioeconomic marginalisation – and he called for a concrete action plan with a multi-track strategy of dissuasion, denial, deterrence, capacity-building and defence of human rights.

Now − eleven years on − these elements remain key, both in the UN and in the GCTF.

Today I want to praise this forum for taking an ever more realistic, broad and inclusive approach to the problem. Offensive solutions are not enough. We also need to focus on the bigger picture: the root causes, future prospects and inclusion.

And there are hard questions to be discussed, too:

How to prevent citizens from becoming radicalised? How to spot the early signs that something is wrong? This can only be done with an all-society approach. Involving parents, friends, teachers, family and neighbours.

And what about those who have already made the wrong choices?

Accountability is essential. Impunity can never be the answer; justice for the victims should be our primary focus.

ISIS probably committed genocide, and I would want the UN Security Council to ascertain that this is the case. Our joint aim should remain to hold Foreign Terrorist Fighters accountable for their horrific crimes.

Therefore We need to look into all options for prosecution, also considering prosecution in the region, in accordance with the rule of law and human rights. The collection of evidence is key in order for justice to be served. Therefore the NL has supported evidence collection mechanisms both in Iraq and in Syria.

But we need to be realistic as well. Some returnees – women and children, for example – will at some point need to be reintegrated into our societies. This will require considerable efforts from experts and the public at large. To what extent are our societies able, willing, equipped and resilient enough for this difficult task?

These are tough questions that all our countries are struggling with. Questions that the GCTF needs to focus on in the years ahead. Exchanging experiences. Sharing best practices – as widely as possible. Because this is a problem that affects not only the GCTF, but the broader UN membership.

This brings me to my third and final point: the importance of outreach and broad cooperation.

This 29-member GCTF is finding ways to connect effectively with the broader membership, as today’s final statement on UN-GCTF cooperation actively demonstrates. Together, we stand much stronger.

We highly appreciate the firm commitment of – and solid cooperation between – the UN and the GCTF. Investing in multilateral cooperation remains vital.

And with that in mind, today the Netherlands handed over the ownership of our Travel Information Portal – or ‘TRIP’. It allows ‘passenger name record’ data to be used to track the travel movements of those who pose a terrorist threat.

This TRIP − developed by experts in the Netherlands − has already proven its worth in practice. By handing this tool over to the UN, we are committing to the agreement we signed up to in UN Security Council resolution 2396, in the strong hope that it will help us all to unite against the terrorist threat.

In closing, the Netherlands is well into its final year as GCTF co-chair. I want to assure you all of our continued strong and ambitious commitment to this forum in 2019 and beyond. And I look forward to continuing our excellent working relationship with all GCTF members.

Thank you.