Foreign terrorist fighters: major challenges [fr]

Security Council - Foreign terrorist fighters - Speech by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - 28 November 2017

"No State can act alone when faced with a threat of this magnitude. Only close international cooperation, within the United Nations and the relevant regional organizations, that involves civil society, and in particular major online players, will enable us to act effectively. ", Ambassador François Delattre, 28 November 2017.


Allow me first of all warmly to thank Mr. Voronkov, Ms. Coninsx and Ambassador Umarov for their very enlightening presentations on the issue that brings us together today, that is, the return of foreign terrorist fighters, which is one of France’s major priorities. I shall make three key points today.

The first concerns the evolution of the terrorist threat and the main challenges we face today.

The commitment of the international community, particularly through the action of the coalition, has made it possible to push back Da’esh and deprive it of its main refuges in Iraq and Syria. The fall of Raqqa, the city from which terrorist attacks against various capitals were planned, including Paris, has a particular symbolic value in that respect.

However, we know that the fight against Da’esh is not over. The fighters who a few years ago moved to Iraq and Syria are now leaving the conflict zone either to return to their countries of origin or to move to other countries. In the case of France, there are currently 688 French nationals or residents in Syria and Iraq, of whom 295 are women and 28 are minors over the age of 15. In addition to those individuals, there are some 500 minors under the age of 15 who were taken to the area by their parents or who were born locally; over half of them are under five years old. With regard to returnees, since 2013 244 adults and 59 minors have returned to France.

The diversity of profiles, especially the large number of women and children, the highly variable level of radicalization among those people and the continued attraction of the barbaric ideology of Da’esh — still too widely spread on the Internet — are all major challenges that we must meet.

My second remark concerns France’s response to the evolving threat of foreign terrorist fighters. French legislation has been constantly updated since 2014, following the adoption of resolution 2178 (2014), to strengthen our system with new security and prevention measures, in accordance with international law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Since 2014, France has been developing an action plan against radicalization and terrorism, which was updated for the first time in May 2016 after the wave of attacks that we experienced, and will be updated again soon. The plan aims, among other things, to dismantle recruitment channels, prevent displacement that could pose a terrorist threat and cooperate more effectively at the international level. It also contains a preventive and family-support component.

With regard to the care and reintegration of minors returning from Iraq and Syria, France created a mechanism last March specifically to mobilize all State services. It provides targeted support tailored to the age and individual situation of each child, as well as medical and psychological monitoring, and it raises awareness of those specific problems among the professionals who are responsible for monitoring such minors.

Finally, we believe that the United Nations has a central role to play. In France’s opinion, the United Nations has two particular essential missions to fulfil regarding the issue that brings us together today.

The first mission is to oversee and strengthen international cooperation in the face of the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters. Three years ago, resolution 2178 (2014) laid the foundations for international cooperation at a time when individuals were traveling in droves to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside Da’esh. That led many States, including France, to adapt their laws and mechanisms. Today, faced with the evolution of the threat and the risk posed by returnees, we need to update that framework. France is ready to work with its partners to develop a strong and united Security Council response. Further efforts are needed, particularly in the areas of information-sharing, including the need for a better use of INTERPOL tools; border management; cooperation with the private sector to prevent the use of the Internet by terrorists; the prosecution of foreign terrorist fighters, taking into account the central issue of evidence gathering; and reintegration measures.

The second essential mission of the United Nations is to support States in implementing their obligations under the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy of the General Assembly and relevant Security Council resolutions. In that respect, close coordination between, on the one hand, the Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, which are responsible for analysing the threat and assessing the measures taken by States; and, on the other, the Office of Counter-Terrorism, which is responsible for supporting States in implementing their obligations, is absolutely essential. I am pleased that the representatives of those three entities highlighted that key coordination in their interventions.

No State can act alone when faced with a threat of this magnitude. Only close international cooperation, within the United Nations and the relevant regional organizations, that involves civil society, and in particular major online players, will enable us to act effectively. The Council can be assured of the continued and resolute commitment of France in that regard.

Dernière modification : 19/07/2018

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