Yury Fedotov

Director-General/Executive Director


Remarks at the side event on strengthening criminal justice responses to the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters

18 May 2015


Distinguished participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,                         

The flow of foreign terrorist fighters poses an increasingly dangerous threat to global peace and security that has been recently recognized by the UN General Assembly and Security Council.

While not a new occurrence, the extent of the involvement of foreign terrorist fighters in conflicts and acts of terrorism today appears unprecedented, with terrorist groups such as Al-Qaida, ISIL and the Al-Nusra Front all recruiting foreign nationals.

Thousands of foreign terrorist fighters from over eighty countries have joined ISIL and ANF. The majority of fighters are in their twenties or thirties, with some younger still.

The threat of these adventurers travelling to conflict zones, becoming further radicalized, receiving training in terrorist strategies and tactics, and then returning to their home countries, often with the aim of carrying out terrorist acts, is more serious than ever, as we have seen in the recent tragic events in Belgium, Denmark, France and Tunisia.

The Security Council has also recognized the challenges posed by the nexus of terrorists and organized crime networks, and by terrorist use of criminal activities including kidnapping for ransom and trafficking in drugs, arms, cultural property, oil and other natural resources for financing.

Given this complex interplay, the terrorist threat requires constant adaptability and efforts from Member States to develop effective legal and operational frameworks, based in the rule of law, due process and human rights.

UNODC's five-year programme, which was launched at a first regional conference in Malta in March, will help to build the capacities of criminal justice practitioners to address the threat posed by the increasing flow of foreign terrorist fighters to and from the Maghreb, the Middle East, the European Union and the Balkan countries.

We are also starting work in the Sahel region.

Technical assistance will focus in particular on model procedures, good practices and measures related to investigation, prosecution, adjudication and international cooperation.

By strengthening national criminal justice capacities as well as international cooperation to address the transnational dimension of this phenomenon, UNODC aims to help countries confront challenges including incitement to terrorism, as well as terrorist recruitment, financing and training.

In this way we can seek to disrupt terrorist plans and operations before they happen.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many donors to the UNODC Global Initiative against Foreign Terrorist Fighters, in particular Canada, the European Union, Japan and the United States.

We count on your continued support and that of all Member States to address this very serious challenge.

Thank you.