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Statement at the UNSC Briefing on a Global Approach to Counter Terrorism

Thank you very much, President.

May I also thank our three guests today, who have given very thought-provoking and emotive briefings to us today. I also want to commend India for its focus on the important issue of counter-terrorism throughout its Council tenure and congratulate you on your successes.

I would like to start my contribution by expressing my deep sadness at the death of an Irish peacekeeper, and the injuries to three others in an incident in Lebanon yesterday. I want to thank the Indian presidency for the respect they’ve shown by offering a minute’s silence at the start of this meeting.

These soldiers were serving proudly as part of the 121st infantry battalion in UNIFIL.

The incident and loss of life is a stark reminder that our peacekeepers serve in dangerous circumstances, they put themselves in harm’s way, all times though, in the cause of peace. They operate under mandates that we decide here, in this chamber, to ensure that they can do the work they need to do, but also to ensure that they operate as safely as possible in terms of our obligation to manage risk.

I want to offer my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the young soldier who died.

And also to the loved ones of all peacekeepers who have died in the course of their duty, too many this year.


When I first addressed this Council, after Ireland joined almost two years ago, I stated clearly that terrorism remains one of the gravest threats to international peace and security.

Over the past two years, we have witnessed that threat evolve and unfortunately spread – in the Sahel; in Afghanistan, with the sheltering of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups under Taliban rule; in Iraq and Syria, with the continuing threat.

As Ireland prepares to leave the Council, I welcome the opportunity to reflect on how our counter-terrorism efforts can be more impactful.


The most effective way to counter terrorism is to prevent it in the first place. Tackling the global terrorist threat means addressing its complex and varied drivers.

We know that communities affected by conflict, poverty, inequality, poor governance, and human rights violations are more vulnerable to radicalisation and recruitment.

Unless we address the root causes, we resign ourselves to addressing the same security challenges over and over again.

Respect for human rights, and the rule of law are vital in preventing the growth of radicalisation and extremism, and they are both critical components of effective counter-terrorism responses.

Too often, measures adopted by States to counter terrorism have been misused to repress human rights and freedoms.

In October, together with UN Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Ireland hosted an event highlighting the ways in which counter terrorist financing measures are sometimes misused, to target civil society, humanitarian actors, and human rights defenders.

These actions serve only to drive radicalisation and reinforce terrorist narratives.

We must also heed the calls of our African partners who have consistently advised us on the ways that climate change can aggravate the root causes of terrorism itself.

Most UN Member States, including the large majority on this Council, recognise the clear link between climate change and instability.  It is staring us in the face.

And it is high time this Council acted on the facts.

We know that there is a wealth of experience and analysis that civil society partners can provide on the issues of counter-terrorism.


Yet the avenues for civil society to engage with the Council’s counter-terrorism architecture are too limited. Dealing effectively with these issues, particularly the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes, requires a much more serious partnership with civil society.


In addition, the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in counter-terrorism processes is also critical. Empowering women, ensuring that they are at the counterterrorism table, fundamentally disrupts the status quo for the better.



UN sanctions are one of the critical instruments employed by this Council to hold terrorists to account and to target them.

But to have the desired effect, sanctions must be targeted and they must be effective in the areas where we need them to be.

During our term on the Council, one of the recurring messages we heard from civil society and humanitarian partners was about the inadvertently negative impact of sanctions measures on the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

We listened carefully to this message - and we responded collectively as a Council.

Alongside the US, we were proud to secure agreement last Friday, on Resolution 2664.  This landmark initiative, providing humanitarian exemptions across all UN sanctions regimes, will help to ensure that aid reaches all populations at risk, particularly in areas where terrorists are active.

At a time of unprecedented global challenges, I am heartened that this Council took decisive action and provided a humanitarian lifeline to those experiencing conflict and terrorism.


To conclude, if I may, let me offer some short reflections on our two-year term on this Council.

Just last week, we marked the 100th anniversary of the Irish Free State. One of its first actions was to seek membership of the then League of Nations. 

100 years on, Ireland is steadfast in our commitment to multilateralism.

To sit at this table, elected by the Members of the General Assembly, is a great privilege. Those of us lucky enough to do so should be frank enough to admit that multilateralism is struggling today.

We need reform.

We need creative, responsive solutions to global challenges that could not even have been imagined by the drafters of the UN Charter.

But most of all, we need political will.

As our Prime Minister said in his speech during the High Level Week this year; we have – in this Council, in the General Assembly, and in other bodies, institutions and agencies that make up the United Nations – the spaces to discuss, to negotiate, to share experiences, and to craft solutions.

We have an interlocking web of Charters, of Treaties, of norms, of resolutions, of international jurisprudence, of political declarations, and of agreed statements and conclusions.

Our global structures are not perfect – we know that. No structures ever are in reality.

But it is not our systems or our structures, nor our Treaties nor our Charters, that are fundamentally failing us today.

It is the lack of political will to implement and uphold them that is the root cause of our failures in his Council.

Reform is essential – particularly reform of the veto, the use of which is self-defeating, the use of which in my view has no place in a twenty-first century Security Council.

But reform alone will not make multilateralism work. That responsibility rests with us, the Member States together.

Member States will continue to have differing perspectives on many of the issues on this Council agenda.

But they must - we must, you must - find a way to work in genuine partnership, and good faith, so that the Council can act with the ambition and determination that is so urgently required.

Too often, we see narrow self-interest taking precedence. We see Council members blocking crucial decisions, to protect themselves and/or their allies.


Council members, whether permanent or elected, have reached this table in different ways.

But once we are here in this Chamber, surely we have a shared responsibility to defend international peace and security. And the hundreds of millions of vulnerable people who rely on us to do that.

We must do better to live up to that responsibility,  

Thank you President.

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