Regional cooperation in combating terrorism
A three day workshop for police officers and
prosecutors in South Asia on effectively countering terrorism, with the
support of UN Counter Terrorism, began on Tuesday at the Cinnamon Grand
Hotel, Colombo. The following article deals with the background of this
workshop and issues being discussed.
Terrorism threatens the security of every region of the world.
Decades of socio-economic progress are today put at risk by terrorism.
In an instant, a single terrorist attack can obliterate painstaking
efforts to promote development and to foster economic opportunities,
access to education, agricultural and industrial innovation, and civil
and human rights. Attacks on markets, schools or offices, destroy not
only lives but also livelihoods; each attack devastates a family, a
community, a future generation, often targeting those least able to
defend themselves. In regions connected by history, kinships and shared
borders, what happens in one State cannot fail to have an impact on
others. Terrorism therefore threatens the political stability, economic
progress and security, not just of individual States, but of entire
Thriving in South Asia
South Asia is no stranger to terrorist violence. We recall watching
in shock as the attacks unfolded in Mumbai; as schools, mosques, offices
and hotels are targeted in Pakistan; as tactics such as suicide bombing
are used with deadly precision against Heads of State. We, in the United
Nations family, have mourned the deaths of friends and colleagues who
were working in the region to foster peace and provide relief to those
The contemporary terrorist threat has evolved beyond national, and
even regional boundaries. The horrific terrorist acts perpetrated in New
York, London, Madrid, Moscow, Jakarta and elsewhere demonstrate that no
State is immune to attack, even if its perpetrators are motivated by
events that are geographically distant from the target. Moreover,
terrorists are increasingly associated with organized criminal networks
and with trafficking in narcotics, weapons and persons. Their activities
contribute to armed conflicts and political violence throughout South
Asia, as they do in other parts of the world. As the challenge of
combating terrorism has grown more urgent and complex, so too has the
Efforts to combat terrorism
At the direction of the Security Council, the United Nations supports
the efforts of Governments to combat terrorism, including, through
criminalization, suppression of financing of terrorism, and denial of
safe haven to terrorists. Combating terrorism is a process that needs to
be sustained and strengthened as the nature of the threat evolves. In
addition, it also advocates approaches that fully respect human rights,
as we believe this is the only way that will be effective in the long
term against terrorism.
the post-conflict era. File photo
We also recognize that no State can achieve all this alone. The
office that I head, the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive
Directorate (CTED), is tasked with facilitating the delivery of
technical assistance to States to develop and strengthen their
counter-terrorism capabilities and with working together with other
members of the United Nations family to support implementation of the
United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
As part of this effort, CTED is helping to organize a series of
workshops for prosecutors and law enforcement officials working at the
frontlines of national counter-terrorism efforts in South Asia. The flow
of illicit goods and persons - of explosives, illegal funds, suspected
terrorists and criminals - across the regionís porous boundaries
requires that law enforcement officials on all sides of the border be
adequately equipped to effectively address these threats. Yet,
opportunities for interaction in the region remain limited.
The workshops provide a much-needed platform for regional
counterparts to share their experience, lessons learned and good
practices, and to discuss key challenges.
Our workshop in Colombo this week follows a successful workshop held
last year in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This second workshop is co-hosted by
CTED, in association with the Sri Lankan Government and organized by the
Regional Centre for Strategic Studies and the Center on Global
Counterterrorism Cooperation, with the financial support of the
Australian and Canadian Governments.
Police officers and prosecutors from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan,
India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well as observers
from SAARC and representatives of INTERPOL, the Commonwealth, the Office
of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United
Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Federal Bureau of Investigation
and the US Marshals Service will meet to share their experience and
challenges in relation to investigating and prosecuting terrorist acts
in the region.
Making great strides
The goal in Colombo is to build on the valuable dialogue started in
Dhaka and to support continuing efforts to strengthen law enforcement
capacities and cooperative regional mechanisms in South Asia.
This regional workshop will focus on certain key issues raised by
participants in Dhaka, such as the need to provide training for
prosecutors, police and the judiciary in pursuing terrorism-related
cases; issues relating to witness protection and financial controls,
including the challenge posed by terrorists' use of new technologies for
money-laundering and fraud; and the relationship between
counter-terrorism efforts and international and human rights law.
It is our hope that such gatherings will serve not only to enhance
the technical expertise of law enforcement officials in the South Asia
region, but also to foster cooperation that will enable them to prevent
and more effectively respond to terrorism and its related legal
While several States in the region have made great strides in their
domestic counter-terrorism efforts, a critical element for continued
progress will be to sustain and build on these successes, to develop and
strengthen mechanisms to support law enforcement officials in their
efforts to bring to book those who threaten the lives and livelihoods of
their fellow countrymen.
We at the United Nations stand ever ready and willing to support
those efforts, and we believe that our discussions in Colombo will help
strengthen interaction among regional counter-terrorism actors and
support the continued growth and development of South Asia.
The writer Mike Smith is an Assistant Secretary General of the United
Nations and the Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee
Executive Directorate (CTED).