Statement by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen during the Security Council open debate on peace and security in Africa - March 11, 2020

11.03.2020 - Speech

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We heard the three wonderful briefers giving a very bleak picture of where we stand with regard to terrorism. We also had Rosemary DiCarlo mentioning Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and ISIL and the al-Qaida affiliates. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye mentioned the arc of instability and Fatima Mohammed mentioned that whole regions are at war, infrastructure and livelihoods destroyed. And also she mentioned the technological advance of terrorists using drone techniques and others. Also Rosemary and others mentioned the number of victims that we have to encounter: tens of thousands of people who have been killed. I agree with Fatima that there are very complex situations and you need complex solutions to it, or as it is put in the presidential statement, you need a holistic approach to the situation.

What do we have to do? I see a lot of coherence here in the response of the briefers and also what the UK speaker said, and that is prevention. It is important to understand the reasons driving individuals, young people, to join terrorist and extremist groups. It is important to understand these drivers to then enable societies and individuals to become resilient to terrorism and extremist ideology.

So what are resilient societies? These are societies that respect the rule of law and human rights. Inclusive societies that protect rather than marginalize minorities, promote the meaningful participation of women and provide economic perspective. Abdoulaye Mar mentioned that not enough money is spent on prevention and he gave us statistics of how much more could result with one dollar spent on prevention instead of then spending so much money on crisis response. Of course you need to complement these long-term approaches of making societies resilient. You have to complement with the work of law enforcement agencies. You need security sectors that counter terrorism and prosecute perpetrators. But it's very important that enforcement agencies take into account human rights, respect the rule of law and are accountable.

I would like to pick up a figure that Abdoulaye mentioned in his presentation mentioned that we really have to remember: Seventy one percent of the respondents in the study declared that government action was a trigger for them to join a terrorist or violent extremist group. That includes human rights violations, disrespect for fundamental principles like the rule of law. I would like to quote the authors of this study who came to the conclusion: “Dramatic reappraisal of state security focused interventions is urgently required, including more effective oversight of human rights compliance, rule of law and state accountability.”

We should take this advice very, very seriously. Of course, this study also points to socio-economic marginalization that fosters radicalization. But it's a very important conclusion that socioeconomic marginalization is not the main driver for terrorism. So poverty does not automatically lead to terrorism. And on the other hand, prosperity does not immunize societies and individuals against recruitment by terrorists. So, what is important is prevention, respect for human dignity, developing an environment where young people can earn a living and support families, and that they have opportunities for social, economic and political participation. Also, what Abdoulaye said in his presentation is quality education and the UNDP study called for childhood education “enabling critical thinking, social cohesion, peace, education and civic engagement values.” In this respect, of course, it is really depressing what Fatima Mohammed said in her statement about the fact that thousands of schools are closed. Of course, this is extremely worrying because this basis is not set in schools for the individual.

Gender equality, gender perspective is very important to also include in counterterrorism efforts. Gender equality and meaningful participation in decision making. Meaningful participation in peace processes. I mean, we say this every day. We said it yesterday about Afghanistan, but it is crucial. Sexual violence is something we need to mention. And we all still remember and know about the horrible acts of a group like Boko Haram that has abducted hundreds of girls.

I would like to point to one issue, which was a bit new for me reading the study: female radicalization is also something we have to look at. Now, I don't want to be too long. We need to work on regional cooperation. This is clear. Germany is co-chair of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum. We participate a lot in regional cooperation in particular. Also with the G5 Sahel and my French colleague will say more about this. We work on disarmament. We work on controlling the export of arms. We promote the silencing of guns initiative. But still, the most important remains the national action, the national responsibility for counter-terrorism, respect for human rights, and respect for international humanitarian law. And what is very important is our values; that we show as a government then also strengthen our credibility in the fight against counter terrorism.

Thank you.

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