Speech minister Koenders at Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) New York
Speech by minister Bert Koenders of Foreign Affairs at the 7th meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum in New York City (21 september 2016).
It is my honour to welcome you, on behalf of the Netherlands and Morocco, to the 7th Ministerial Meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. We are here today to reaffirm and redouble our resolve to stop terrorism.
You just saw a fictitious scenario depicting a terrorist attack on a Formula 3 track. The scenario was used Monday for a discussion by the Coordinating Committee.
It may have been fictitious, but it was not unrealistic. Unfortunately, we all face threats like this one and the dilemmas they give rise to. Yet, it also shows the strength of our cooperation, the power of a credible and trusted voice.
That is what the GCTF stands for.
The GCTF was set up 5 years ago, on 22 September 2011. At its inception then Secretary of State Clinton said, ‘Today is just the beginning. We don’t want another debating society. We want to catalyse ourselves to action.’
The need for action is now. During the summer we witnessed a steady stream of terrorist attacks around the world: at Istanbul and Brussels airport, at a nightclub in Orlando, at a park in Lahore, at a tourist cafe in Thailand, and on a boulevard in Nice. Each and every one a brutal attack with a devastating impact on the families of the victims and serious repercussions for our societies.
The act of terrorism is not related to any religion, culture or ethnicity. Nor is the pain of terror. I strongly support the words of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, when he spoke out in August about terrorists distorting Islam.
The prime minister of France, Manuel Valls, said, ‘Le terrorisme fait partie de notre quotidien pour longtemps.’ I agree with him, but I cannot accept terrorism as a fact of life. We should not be guided by fear, nor should we allow polarisation and xenophobia to create tensions in our own societies.
Especially since the enemy keeps evolving. As with a hydra, when we chop off one of its heads, 2 more pop up.
I’ve spoken about ‘terrorism 2.0’ before. But we are now facing terrorism 3.0 with new dynamics of its own:
Instead of cells of operatives, more lone wolves – some with mental health issues – are carrying out attacks.
ISIL now uses an ‘external affairs’ branch called EMNI. Focused on recruiting fighters to commit attacks in their own societies. This is blurring the line between foreign fighters and home-grown terrorism.
A reversed trend from high-impact bombs to easily accessible means of attack like knives and cars. This makes it all too easy to commit violent acts.
Increased use of encrypted and underground communication, which is difficult to intercept.
The picture these challenges paint is a grim one. But counterterrorism is no longer in its infancy. Information-sharing has improved; the territory held by ISIL has diminished; the stream of foreign terrorist fighters has decreased and international cooperation is closer than ever.
We are not yet at the end of our fight. This is not even the beginning of the end.
But ladies and gentlemen, it is perhaps the end of the beginning.
Five years ago our esteemed Turkish and American colleagues took the initiative to create this forum. I compliment our previous co-chairs on their leadership.
Over the past 5 years, the GCTF has developed and matured. Let me highlight a few results:
We have trained more than 1000 judges, policemen, prosecutors and parliamentarians.
The 3 GCTF-inspired institutions are leading the way. Collectively, we have invested more than $60 million in capacity-building around the world through GCERF [G-SURF], the IIJ and Hedayah.
We have developed more than 25 good-practice documents, offering first-line practitioners guidance on topics like the role of education in countering extremism and setting up tailor-made detention programmes.
Information-sharing has improved. Many countries have set up task forces to share information and intelligence. In the European Union, experts from 28 European states work together on a daily basis exchanging operational information between their intelligence services.
Together we have invested more than $400 million to support capacity-building around the world.
You can see from this list the GCTF is more than a talking shop. We have delivered results. After 5 years we are no longer at the beginning, but we need to continue to improve and do better. We need to make the next years count.
We need to do more: our focus should be on implementation. You’ve heard me say this before. What we need is Results, Resources, Renewal, Relations and Reinforcement.
I want to focus on results. Measuring success in counterterrorism is difficult. How many people did we stop at the border? How many attacks did we prevent? Have we gotten better at noticing signs of radicalization in young boys and girls when we can still turn them away from the path towards terror?
We are not an operational or law enforcement body. Demonstrating the value of our work to the broader public is a challenge.
Coming back to results, what were we able to deliver in our first year?
Under the FTF Working Group we set up an FTF Knowledge Hub.
We adapted to new trends like the huge challenge of prosecuting returning fighters, the involvement of juveniles and possible alternatives to detention.
On 11 January we hosted a unique meeting on foreign terrorist fighters together with the Anti-ISIL Coalition. We focused on the three themes of Share, Stop and Secure. The meeting supported the implementation of various UN Security Council resolutions.
This meeting delivered results: we increased information-sharing via Interpol and Europol databases. Within the EU we are also exchanging national sanction lists and forming joint investigation teams at Europol.
Many countries represented here have taken steps nationally to break the radicalisation cycle:
France is setting up deradicalisation centres to identify extremists and prevent them from joining ISIL.
Turkey has tightened its borders and has stopped more foreign terrorist fighters from heading to Syria and Iraq.
Canada has pledged $35 million for a national centre of deradicalisation to coordinate efforts to fight extremism.
Kenya and Somalia have developed national action plans to counter violent extremism. Hedayah has played an important role in supporting this
And we as the Netherlands have almost tripled our national sanctions list since 2014. We have also increased our bilateral CVE cooperation in third countries. For example working in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan to prevent very young kids from radicalizing and working with role models supporting at risk teenagers in Tunisia and in Delft.
But, ladies and gentlemen, the GCTF does not operate in a vacuum.
Our daily work supports the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The partnership between GCTF and the UN remains strong; this was also evident during the review of the UN Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
Our work is part of a broader international political dynamic. Our civilian efforts to counter terrorism cannot be seen independently from the military efforts to dismantle the terrorist nerve centres in Raqqa and Mosul.
And we are making progress: the territory under ISIL control has diminished, both on the battlefield and in cyberspace: ISIL has lost 40% of its territory, and their Twitter traffic has dropped by 45%. In Nigeria the MNJTF is successfully destabilising Boko Haram, and Barkhane is making progress in Mali. In Somalia efforts are continuing to contain the spread of Al Shabaab.
Our international CT efforts need to be part of a broader palette of interventions:
Firstly, we need to continue our efforts to end the major conflicts of our time. Syria is a tragic case in point. What have we actually gained if we fail to end the atrocities occurring on a daily basis in Syria?
The picture of little Omran, injured in an attack in Aleppo, gave the war another human face this summer.
Secondly, we need to do more in terms of stabilisation, with a specific focus on the areas in Syria and Iraq where ISIL has been defeated. We cannot turn our backs on populations like the citizens of Aleppo. We need to provide future prospects and livelihoods for young people. This can help prevent a young boy from Gao in Mali or a young girl from Falujah, Iraq from strapping on a vest and becoming a suicide bomber later on. It is the only way to prevent Libya from becoming a new safe haven for ISIL.
Thirdly, in order to achieve stabilisation and peace, we need strong international commitment and action. We need to put enough resources – people, funds and equipment – into our UN peacekeeping missions and stabilisation efforts to enable the international missions to deliver on their mandates. Support for UN efforts is essential. This includes critical enablers like helicopters via MINUSMA, for example.
These challenges are huge and cannot be tackled by any one country. Countering terrorism is not as easy as ‘Pokémon GO’.
But there is no reason to feel discouraged. We have already cut a path towards success.
We do need to continue to look for new avenues:
We need to learn lessons from the past. In NL we learned from the attacks in Brussels that sharing information is not enough. We have to connect and share the right information and break the code of silence in communities where the natural inclination is not to trust the police.
We need to anticipate and identify new trends: the link between organised crime and terrorism; attacks by lone wolves; public spaces as new targets; aviation security; individuals who commit attacks in their homeland instead of travelling to a warzone.
We need to be prepared for the wave of returning terrorist fighters. What happens when we beat ISIL, and 25,000 fighters are let loose in the region and the world? Do we need a special court to deal with this group? Can they be prosecuted in our own countries? How do we shape tailor made programs to reintegrate the ones that did not commit serious offences and punish the guilty?
We need to continue to respect human rights and the rule of law in our approaches. Creating a security state is not the answer. This will only increase the sentiments we’re fighting.
We need to continue to look critically at our own societies and make them resistant to the ISIL brand. A positive narrative remains essential. ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, and hate cannot drive out hate.’
The GCTF must be prepared for the next wave of terrorism.
This means: Taking a critical look at ourselves. I’ve said it before: the GCTF was set up in 2011. That may seem like yesterday, but it’s quite a long time ago.
Just to give you an idea: 5 years ago Adele released her first major album, and the first episode of Game of Thrones was broadcast. In 2011 most people had never heard of ISIL/Daesh.
The world has changed in these 5 years. And in that time, we’ve seen a transformation in terrorist tactics, techniques and procedures. So, the GCTF has to adapt.
There can be no progress without change. So, we must step up our ongoing efforts:
to show our joint political commitment to winning the fight against terrorism;
to provide funding and resources to international efforts to counter the root causes of terrorism: UN missions; peacekeeping efforts; stabilisation; international diplomatic channels; and
to give enough funding to the GCTF institutions, and other partners we work with, to enable them to do what needs to be done.
That is why today I’m also pledging an additional €2.5 million to counter this threat.
We will use this money:
to help countries cope with the flow of returning fighters;
to fund projects in local communities to eliminate the root causes of radicalisation. We are contributing an additional half million euros to GCERF [G-SURF] to do this.
And we will use the additional funding to work with the UN to implement Security Council Resolution 2178.
I look forward to the next year of our GCTF co-chairmanship. Remember: we have only just reached the end of the beginning. Now let’s work towards the beginning of the end of terrorism.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you a productive meeting. Due to the tight time schedule we are on, I kindly ask you to adhere to keeping your interventions limited to 3 minutes.