By Antonio Guterres
June 28, 2018
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 using chemical, biological or radioactive
Our response needs to be equally agile and
multifaceted. That is why I am convening the first-ever UN 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 partnerships.
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 UN 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
and large numbers of these militants relocating to other conflicted areas or
Fourth, I intend the conference to focus on
how we can prevent terrorism and violent extremism. Improved security will
never be enough.
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 counter-terrorism strategies.
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 to
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 speeches that are proliferating around the
Let us also remember the tens of thousands
of people killed, wounded and traumatised by terrorism. We must also support
the survivors in seeking justice and rebuilding their lives while learning from
Finally, terrorism and violent extremism
have a profound gender dimension. Terrorists continue to violate the rights of
women and girls. 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.
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.