11 May 2016 - Countering the narratives and ideologies of terrorism: The UN has a major part to play in combating terrorism [fr]
Countering the narratives and ideologies of terrorism - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representatuve of France to the Unied Nations - Security Council - 11 May 2016
Allow me to start by thanking Egypt for having undertaken this initiative of organizing this very important debate. I would also like to thank all the briefers for their extremely enlightening presentations. Inviting the Secretary-General of Al Azhar Islamic Research Academy and the Vice-President and Deputy General Counsel of the Microsoft Corporation is an eloquent illustration of the United Nations desire to strengthen its partnership with civil society — some will say to embrace a world that is increasingly post-Westphalian, with its risks but also with the opportunities that flow from it. I assure the Foreign Minister of Egypt of France’s sympathy and solidarity following the attack that plunged Cairo into mourning last Sunday. France associates itself with the statement to be delivered later by the observer of the European Union.
While significant successes has been achieved in recent months in the fight against Da’esh in Iraq and Syria, that group’s propaganda unfortunately continues to exert an important pull on our people. In France more than 2,000 citizens or residents are involved in the Iraqi-Syrian terrorist networks, and nearly 9,300 people have been reported to the authorities for radicalization. Globally, it is estimated that nearly 30,000 foreign terrorist fighters from close to 100 countries have joined the Iraqi-Syrian theatre.
The propaganda of terrorist groups, particularly Da’esh, seeks to convince by painting an ideal, but false, world. As French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has stated, “An ideology of chaos is afoot. It glorifies death and corrupts the ideals at the very heart of our societies.” Its recruiters deceive young people by promising them a future, an ideal or a cause to defend. But in fact they end up experiencing only manipulation, cruelty and death. Terrorist groups use mind control techniques to get young people to reject their schools, their work and even their families.
Despite the recent decline in the number of messages and videos posted by Da’esh, the Internet remains the recruitment channel favoured by terrorists. They have refined their indoctrination techniques and exploit its full potential: sites defending terrorism, discussion forums, direct messaging services, videos and social networks. For them, the Internet is the way to massively spread their propaganda and present young people with a message tailored to those they wish to capture in their nets.
Faced with a threat of this magnitude, the international community must take action to break this large-scale recruitment and indoctrination exercise. We must fight terrorism and resolutely counter its propaganda of hatred with the greatest determination and with the necessary means and always with the weapons of the law and with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. For it is precisely those rights that terrorists want to destroy because they lie at the heart of our democracies.
The French approach is based on two axes. The first dimension is preventive and dissuasive. It is based on countering influences and taking actions aimed at delegitimizing Da’esh in the eyes of potential recruits and the public. As an example, in January France created the stop-djihadism website, aimed at the families and friends of those on the path of radicalization, which was then supplemented by a Twitter account and a Facebook page. It is not simply aimed at the propaganda Da’esh, but also at that of Al-Qaida and Boko Haram. Similarly, France has set up a free hot line, which is accessible 24 hours a day, to enable families and friends to report their concerns to the authorities. France’s plan of action against radicalization and terrorism, which was just updated on 9 May, provides 50 new concrete measures to improve its understanding of the phenomenon and further strengthen its prevention policies. For example, the cutting off of any source of financing for those who join the ranks of terrorists. We will intensify our strategic communications efforts within the framework of the new action plan. At the international level, France actively supports the work of the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which has produced some highly effective communications campaigns, particularly through the Sawab Centre. But beyond Governments’ necessary stance and commitment, the effectiveness of our action also depends on mobilizing civil society. We must expose the contradictions of terrorist groups on the ground, and that requires boldness, innovation and the ability to mobilize society as whole — public authorities, associations and the private sector.
The second aspect of France’s approach is punitive, involving blocking websites and removing content while respecting fundamental human rights and freedoms. A law enacted on 13 November 2014 enables the administrative authority to require Internet service providers to block access to sites hosted in France that advocate terrorism, and 60 have been blocked so far. The PHAROS reporting platform enables Internet users to report findings of illegal content, which are then transmitted to police, gendarmerie or customs special services.
Finally, since early 2015 France has had a close and constant dialogue with the major Internet players — Microsoft, whose presence here today I welcome, but also Facebook, Twitter and Google. That dialogue has been further strengthened in the wake of the attacks of 13 November in order to urge all Internet businesses to take responsibility. Those tragic events have in fact enabled us to see where social networks can play a catalytic role in mobilizing society.
Today’s debate enables us to send two main messages. The first is that the United Nations has a major part to play in combating terrorism in general and Da’esh in particular. That is the message of resolution 2249 (2015), which the Council adopted unanimously, at France’s initiative, on 20 November, exactly a week after the Paris attacks, and which outlines the framework for our shared fight against Da’esh in particular. The second is that the United Nations has a unique role to play in mobilizing the international community and civil society against terrorist ideologies and narratives. In that fight, our great diversity is our best asset for bringing to bear the values that we hold in common and that lie at the heart of the United Nations.
In urging the international community to redouble its efforts to counter terrorist propaganda with the help of the private sector, civil society and stakeholders on the ground, the presidental statement we have just adopted (S/PRST/2016/6) will enable us to further deepen that mobilization and to usefully supplement the Secretary-General’s call for developing a United Nations communications strategy for preventing violent extremism, as described in his January Plan of Action (A/70/674). France will continue to play its full part in those efforts.