Yury Fedotov

Executive Director/Director General

Remarks on Countering foreign terrorist fighters: national experience and international cooperation, 15th meeting of heads of special services, security agencies and law enforcement organizations

St. Petersburg, 27 July 2016


Distinguished participants,

I would like to thank the Russian Federation for organizing this meeting to discuss how we can strengthen collective action to address terrorism and violent extremism, the major challenge the world is facing now.

Your meeting is very timely, as the UN just held a review of its Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy earlier this month. The UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling upon Member States to step up implementation efforts.

In the ten years since the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy was adopted, the terrorism threat has evolved and expanded, becoming increasingly decentralized and diffuse.

It is more of a threat to international peace and security than ever.

Challenges range from the use of information technologies to spread violent extremist ideologies, to the flow of foreign terrorist fighters across borders.

These rapid changes in terrorist activities can be seen very clearly with ISIL, or Da'esh.

As you are aware, international efforts, both political and military, have helped to halt the expansion of Da'esh in recent months.

However, while the capacity and territorial control of Da'esh have begun to diminish in Syria and Iraq, the group remains a formidable threat.

There are allegedly 5,000 Da'esh fighters in Libya, and affiliated groups have emerged in other parts of the Middle East, Africa and Central, Southeast and South Asia, as well as other regions.

Directly or through affiliated groups, ISIL has been able to inspire attacks by small groups of recruited or even self-radicalized individuals in many locations around the world.

ISIL has also been joined by a large number of foreign terrorist fighters.

Most of these people are reported to have travelled from North Africa, the Middle East, North Caucasus and Central Asia. Significant numbers have also come from Europe, as well as South and South-East Asia.

In recent months, several countries have reported an increase in the rate of returnees from Iraq and Syria.

Some of these fighters have left conflict zones after becoming disillusioned.

However, others remain radicalized and retain both the intent and capability to conduct terrorist attacks in their country of origin or residence.

This flow without a doubt represents an urgent challenge to the international community.

In response, the UN established an ad hoc inter-agency working group and identified capacity-building projects addressing the entire "life cycle" of foreign terrorist fighters, including their radicalization, training, travel to conflict zones, financing and return, as well as eventual reintegration and rehabilitation.

As part of these system-wide efforts, UNODC helps countries adopt and update national legislation and build capacity of their criminal justice systems, notably through our Global Programme on Strengthening the Legal Regime Against Foreign Terrorist Fighters in the Middle East, North African and Balkan Regions.

Already in its second phase, the programme is addressing areas including use of intelligence as admissible evidence, use of special investigation techniques, countering financing of terrorism and international cooperation.

Furthermore, UNODC is supporting the establishment of a multi-agency task force mechanism for judicial cooperation in the Middle East and North Africa, and disseminating practical guides to facilitate effective requests for extradition and mutual legal assistance.

Prevention clearly needs to be a top priority. UNODC contributed to the Secretary-General's Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, and helps countries counter violent extremism and radicalization among young people and in prisons.

Another important area of action is tackling the linkages between terrorism and transnational organized crime.

UNODC is planning to further expand work on countering terrorist financing in relation to FTFs with a new project supporting States to specifically target ISIL-related funding streams.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Your meeting represents an important opportunity to discuss how we can strengthen and target our support as effectively as possible, to address the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and other existing and evolving threats posed by terrorism and violent extremism.

I look forward to our discussion.

Thank you.