Terrorist threats persist and diversify – Guterres

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The worldwide fight against terrorism continues with advances made. At the same time threats “persist and diversify” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the world body’s heads of counter-terrorism.

He said “lone actors and co-opted groups” were part of this threat diversification which comes from known terrorist groupings exploiting social grievances and gender stereotypes.

On Africa specifically, Guterres told the second heads of counter-terrorism conference, it is important to support the continent as a global priority because of “alarming advances made by Al Qaeda and ISIL terrorist fighters.”

He is “concerned about foreign terrorist fighters” according to UN News and wants them held accountable.

Noting “slow and not comprehensive progress” Guterres called the African situation “dire”.

“The threat from white supremacist and other ethnically or racially motivated movements is increasingly transnational, he said adding terrorist groups were exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need consistent, co-ordinated and comprehensive efforts across countries, sectors and disciplines, anchored in human rights and the rule of law”, he said, urging the General Assembly to “re-affirm the consensus” behind the UN global counter-terrorism strategy  to enhance national, regional and international efforts and adopt “a forward-looking resolution for review”.

To successfully counter terrorism a start has to be made with resilience, the UN chief said, calling for strong, just and accountable institutions as a “prerequisite for States to deny terrorists space to operate, bring them to justice and provide security for populations”.

He also wants a “human rights reset for counter-terrorism”.

“We know when counter-terrorism is used to infringe on the rights and freedoms of people, the result is more alienation in communities and stronger terrorist narratives”, he said adding this must be addressed by “protecting and promoting human rights, including gender equality”.

Counter-terrorism must “rise to the challenges and opportunities of transformative technologies” Guterres said.

To this end, technological innovation must be nurtured while mitigating its risks.

“New technologies need to be harnessed responsibly for counter-terrorism, within the framework of the rule of law and human rights,” he said.

Highlighting that social media is used to accelerate hate speech and violent ideologies, he pointed out since the pandemic started, there was a spike in cyberattacks and cybercrime.

Capabilities and actions have not kept pace with risks, UN Member States have responsibility to prevent technologies falling into terrorist hands, he said.

The Secretary-General urged States to develop capacity to collect, use and exchange electronic evidence of terrorist activity “on and offline”.