The Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM) reflection group on terrorism
Presentation by Mahmood Ayub,
UN Resident Coordinator at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM)Reflection Group on Terrorism
Honorable Secretary General Sergio Piazzi
Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of the United Nations family in Turkey, allow me to welcome you all to this beautiful city-at the cross-roads of cultures and civilizations. I sincerely hope that in addition to the important discussion and reflection on the scourge of terrorism, you will also have some time to enjoy the beauty, charm and grandeur of Istanbul.
Ladies and Gentlemen
My presentation today is at a very personal level. I come from the tribal area of Northwest Pakistan, just ten miles away from the Afghan border near the infamous Tara Bora Mountain area. Most of my extended family lives in that area-every day confronted with existential issues. I go frequently to my part of the world. My last trip there was two weeks ago. And I will be going back there again in three days to advise the Pakistani authorities on how to accelerate economic and social development in that area to break the back of militancy and terrorism that is ripping the very fabric of our society.
So you can imagine that this conference today is of more than academic interest to me.
Allow me-Ladies and Gentlemen-to focus on my own little part of the world and ask: What breeds terrorism? And what can, and is, the UN doing to address this cancer of our times?
When I sit back and reflect on the basic causes of terrorism in my region, three main factors come to my mind.
First, a failure of successive governments to deliver basic services to its citizens in an efficient and transparent manner.This applies to basic education, where a continuation of high rates of illiteracy and unemployment are plowing the ground for the seeds of terrorism. This applies to basic health services, where extremist groups are proving more effective in responding to the needs of the ordinary citizens. And it applies to delayed justice through the courts, which allows extremist groups to provide simplistic but speedy resolutions to long-pending legal cases.
The second factor relates to poor control over the funding of terrorist activities,despite the many actions taken internationally to curb the funding of terrorism. It is inconceivable that terrorists in the tribal areas of Pakistan would have so much disruptive power without outside financing-much of it from private, non state sources. And it is incomprehensible how little success the United States and NATO have had in eradicating opium production in Afghanistan-drug money which is the life-line of terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
And the third factor fuelling militancy and terrorism is the long unresolved regional issues with neighbors-whether in Palestine or Kashmir. While no justification can be strong enough to rationalize terrorist acts, such as those in Mumbai a few weeks ago, the fact is that long-simmering unresolved conflicts provide breeding grounds for extremists and terrorists-whether in the name of religion, ethnicity or territorial autonomy.
Let me now turn-Ladies and Gentlemen-to what the UN is doing and can do to squeeze the life out of terrorism.
First, the UN has repeatedly asserted that terrorism is a global scourge and a leading threat to international peace and security, which no cause and no grievance can justify. The best response to this corrosive ideology is a strong and unequivocal assertion of collective resistance, and a defense of human rights that terrorism so brutally violates. The bombing of girls' schools in the Swat Valley of Pakistan by Taliban is repugnant and heart-breaking. UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon has said that the United Nations has a responsibility to lead the international community's efforts to confront this menace. I strongly believe that parliamentarians have an important role to play in this process, not just through their legislative functions-important as these are-but more so through their leadership of, and advocacy in their communities.
Second, the UN General Assembly's adoption of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in 2006 sets out a whole range of actions that member States should consider to prevent the spread of terrorism, such as addressing the conditions conducive to terrorism; building States' capacities to prevent terrorism; ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law, and so on.
The UN's Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, composed of 24 agencies and units from the UN family, assists countries in turning the words in the strategy into effective action on the ground. The speaker after me, Mr. Walter Gehr, will outline the work of the Counter-Terrorism Legal Services Unit of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which during the last six years has supported more than 158 countries in ratifying andimplementing the universal legal regime against terrorism, and in strengthening the capacity of justice systems to implement the principles of the rule of law.
Third, the UN can and should play a more active and robust role in resolving regional conflicts that fan the fire of terrorism. The new Obama administration has made a hopeful start by stressing multilateralism and naming two very well regarded and seasoned diplomats to address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the situation in South Asia.
Fourth, the UN, and the world community as a whole, needs to ensure that human development activities continue to remain focused on providing better access to basic education, health, small infrastructure, employment generating activities, and the speeding up of the justice systems. Communities have to see some positive outcomes in their lives to keep them away from the clutches of terrorism.
Finally, the convening power of the United Nations is another important tool in this struggle. Last November a high-level "Culture of Peace" gathering concluded with leaders and senior officials from more than 70 Member States representing diverse faiths and communities rejecting the use of religion to justify the killing of innocent people and acts of terrorism, violence and coercion. In September, the Secretary General convened a symposium in New York that placed a much-needed spotlight on the plight of victims-the beginning of our efforts to give a human face to the victims of terrorism. And the convening power of the UN is also critically important in bringing together different development partners-bilaterals, multilaterals, private sector, foundations-to mobilize resources that are critically needed to meet the humanitarian and human development needs of those that live and suffer in the shadow of terror.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The job of the United Nations in playing its role in fighting terrorism is not an easy one. Indeed, we ourselves have become a deliberate target of the terrorists.The attack on the UN compound in Baghdad on that fateful day in August 2003; and the bombing of the United Nations offices in Algeria were heart-wrenching for us.
But these incidents have deterred neither our will nor our ability to serve the international community.The United Nations will continue its vital work wherever it is needed, and whenever it is needed.
Thank you very much.