The Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM) reflection group on terrorism

03 Jan 2009

Presentation by Mahmood Ayub,

UN Resident Coordinator at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM)Reflection Group on Terrorism

Honorable Secretary General Sergio Piazzi
Distinguished Guests
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.