To fight the use of the Internet for terrorist ends [fr]
Sixth report of the Secretary-General on the threat posed by Daesh
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 8 February 2018
Let me first warmly thank Under-Secretary-General Vladimir Voronkov, who is leading our counter-terrorism efforts, for his very illuminating briefing on the sixth report of the Secretary-General on the threat posed by Daesh (S/2018/80).
As the report underscores, Daesh has suffered major military defeats in the Levant over the past six months, owing in particular to the efforts of the international coalition. Although the group has lost its territorial anchorage, the fight against Daesh in Syria and in Iraq is not over. We must therefore continue our efforts, including on the military front, to prevent the emergence of safe havens, especially in Libya, West Africa. Afghanistan and South-East Asia. But above and beyond our necessary military efforts, I would like to underscore four areas for action that France considers to be priorities, which broadly meet those outlined by Mr. Voronkov.
1/ First, changes in the flows of foreign terrorist fighters should prompt us to constantly adapt our legislation and plans. Beyond the need to continue to prevent radicalization and block departures, we must anticipate the risks posed by potential returnees and by fighters who decide to travel to a third State. That requires that we improve our detection tools and strengthen information-sharing, especially with INTERPOL. We must also design appropriate legal responses. It is an exceedingly complex undertaking, given the diversity of the people involved, and, in the case of France, the large number of women and children.
With regard to the last point, France attaches great importance to specific care for children. The adoption of resolution 2396 (2017) in December is an important milestone in that regard, as it requests that Member States redouble their efforts and adopt additional measures to address the flow of foreign terrorist fighters.
2/ Secondly, combating the financing of terrorism must remain an absolute priority. As we have sadly witnessed, little money is required to kill indiscriminately in the streets of Paris, New York, Bamako, Kabul or Baghdad. But it takes significant resources to lead a terrorist organization, establish its networks, disseminate its hate narratives and maintain its fighters, while also purchasing their weapons and sometimes even their allegiance.
Significant work has been carried out over the past 20 years to dry up terrorists’ resources, in the United Nations and other entities, such as the Financial Action Task Force. But terrorist groups have proved their resiliency and resourcefulness in raising and transferring their respective financial resources and, as we are aware, have used a wide range of options, including common and online crime, organized fraud, kidnapping, extortion and trafficking in arms and narcotics, to list just a few. Although we have secured results by freezing terrorists’ assets, controlling official and unofficial financial flows and maintaining the integrity of the financial system, all the techniques for transferring money are vulnerable. Our work in that regard must not falter, and that has led the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, to convene an international conference on the financing of terrorism, to be held on 26 April in Paris, to facilitate the needed sharing of expertise and to call for renewed political commitment in the area.
3/ Concerning our third priority, we must continue to counter the spread of this barbaric ideology, in particular on the Internet. While confronting terrorists who use digitization to their advantage, we must also adapt our means of reacting, in full respect for human rights and basic freedoms. Combating Daesh on the Internet is a new frontier in our struggle. The Internet must not become the last refuge for Daesh following the fall of its strongholds on the ground.
At President Macron’s initiative, France is at the forefront of the struggle, seeking to lead a frank discussion with the major Internet companies on ways to counter Daesh’s deadly propaganda. At the United Nations, in September 2017, we co-hosted a high-level event on the sidelines of the General Assembly, together with Italy and the United Kingdom, as well as with companies from the private sector. In the framework of the Group of Seven, the Interior Ministers adopted a strongly worded joint communiqué in Ischia in October 2017, which recalls the need to fight with resolve the use of the Internet for terrorist ends. In the framework of the European Union, France is actively supporting the work initiated by the European Commission in the framework of the European Union Internet Forum, which is leading a dialogue with the major digital technology companies.
As evidenced by the establishment of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism in the summer of 2017, the private sector has grasped the stakes involved, but we must do more and better. Beyond the needed commitment of Government stakeholders and Internet companies, the effectiveness of our action also depends on the mobilization of civil society in terms of counter-narratives so as to expose the contradictions of terrorist groups. Civil society efforts must be encouraged and supported. France is committed to continuing its work to combat the use of the Internet for terrorist ends, which is a major pillar in combating Daesh.
4/ Lastly, and our fourth priority, there cannot be an effective and sustainable fight against Daesh without a fight against impunity for the crimes that it has committed. Too many civilians, including women and children, have been victims of crimes that, in addition to constituting acts of terrorism, may well constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity. Justice must be part of the response to that scourge. That is why France supported the establishment of the Independent International Mechanism of Inquiry on crimes committed in Syria, which also applies to crimes committed by Daesh, and the Security Council’s establishment of the international Investigative Team for crimes committed by Daesh in Iraq. France promotes investigative efforts and prosecutions conducted in accordance with the rule of law and human rights, and recalls, in that regard, its steadfast opposition to the death penalty wherever and no matter the circumstances.
In conclusion, I will emphasize the unique role that the United Nations must continue to play in the multifront struggle that we are waging against terrorism, in particular against Daesh. With the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999), concerning Al-Qaida and the Taliban and associated individuals and entities, the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate and the Office of Counter-Terrorism, the United Nations now has all the tools it requires to analyse threats, assess the implementation of Security Council resolutions, identify the priority needs of States and provide them with appropriate technical assistance. France reiterates its full support for United Nations entities in their work and will fully engage in the sixth United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy review next June to ensure that our collective response remain commensurate to the threat.