NATO and the fight against terrorism

Remarks by Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, Assistant Secretary General Emerging Security Challenges Division, NATO, to the United Nations Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC)

  • 06 Nov. 2014 -
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  • Last updated: 11 Nov. 2014 13:04

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am delighted to be here today in the company of this distinguished Committee. I thank you, Chair, as it is both an honour and a privilege to brief you all today on NATO’s role in the fight against terrorism. I am pleased to be accompanied by the head of NATO’s CT section and the senior representative of NATO’s Liaison Office to the UN.

It is a great pleasure to be back in New York and in the UN environment. My first ambassadorial appointment was that of Permanent Representative of Romania to the UN in New York (2000-2001).  As you can imagine, this put a strong mark on my future diplomatic career and has also influenced my approach and work in subsequent functions which have been related to the Transatlantic Agenda. Indeed, I believe it is meaningful and useful to address the Trans-Atlantic agenda in a global context where the UN and in particular the Security Council has a unique role and responsibility in preserving and promoting peace and security worldwide.

Today, I serve as Assistant Secretary General of NATO’s Emerging Security Challenges Division. This is the Alliance’s newest Division, formed in 2010 in conjunction with NATO’s new Strategic Concept, to address a range of 21st Century security challenges, including terrorism.

I am delighted that NATO and the UN maintain a strong tradition of reciprocal briefings on this important topic. A year ago, the then CTC Chair Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri briefed Ambassadors of NATO and partner countries at NATO Headquarters.  He reminded us that there is a need for a holistic approach to counter-terrorism, noting that NATO has an important role to play as a partner for the UN, contributing valuable expertise and resources toward shared goals. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for this and other important briefings and to say that NATO looks forward to maintaining this tradition in the future.

Ladies and gentlemen

It has been three years since NATO last stood here, and a lot has changed since then – both at NATO and with regards to international terrorism. In my brief remarks this morning I would like to update you all on NATO’s current role in countering terrorism, in particular its specific contributions toward the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism effort.

Let me begin with the recent Wales Summit. Two months ago NATO Heads of State and Government met for one of the most crucial Summits in the Alliance’s history. The Summit addressed a series of important questions for the Alliance; each with potential impact on peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic region and stability across the globe.  I followed the Wales Summit discussions very closely, and was struck that the issue of terrorism pervaded almost every session.  One cannot turn a blind eye to the unspeakable atrocities committed by the so-called “Islamic State” and our leaders concluded that the Alliance will keep terrorism and related threats high on NATO’s security agenda.

It too early to reflect in detail how the Summit conclusions on this matter will translate into concrete actions. However, one thing is clear: whatever measures are decided upon, NATO will build on a solid base of achievements.

NATO went through a process of a profound transformation in the course of 65 years and especially since the end of the Cold War. While collective defence of its member states has remained a core task of the Alliance, this is not the only core task any more. Cooperative Security through active partnerships is another core task reflected in the 2010 Strategic Concept.  In this context, NATO has developed an array of tools, mechanisms and partnerships that can be used to address broader security challenges, including terrorism.

Among these mechanisms are: political consultations, intelligence-sharing, military planning, standardized procedures and interoperable equipment – so we can talk, consult and work together.  Above all, however, NATO has developed political and military ties with dozens of partner countries and many regional and international institutions, including the United Nations.  In fact partnership frameworks of NATO include about a third of the UN’s nations.

Our partnership network is a key asset in the fight against terrorism.  It has enabled us to make progress in many areas.  And, if we use all the opportunities it provides, it will allow us to do even more.

So, what are the key elements of NATO’s approach, and how do they relate to the UN-led global counterterrorism effort?

Let me begin by echoing Ambassador Puri and acknowledge that terrorism is a global threat that knows no border, nationality or religion – it is a challenge that the international community must tackle together.

Three years ago, my predecessor Ambassador Iklody welcomed your guidance as we shaped our new counter-terrorism policy.  Together with our closest international partners – the OSCE, the EU, the Council of Europe, and the United Nations – we were able to identify NATO’s particular role within the global approach to counter-terrorism.

From this base Allies elaborated NATO’s counter-terrorism policy, which was endorsed by Heads of State and Government at the Chicago Summit in 2012. The policy is built on three core principles:

  • The first is Compliance with International Law – meaning that NATO will act in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, International Conventions and Protocols against terrorism and all other relevant UN Resolutions.
  • The second is NATO’s Support to Allies, understanding that individual NATO members have primary responsibility for the protection of their populations and territories against terrorism. Cooperation through NATO can enhance members’ efforts to prevent, mitigate, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism.
  • And the third is Non-Duplication and Complementarity, meaning that NATO takes account of – and does not duplicate - existing efforts of individual nations or other International Organizations.

NATO, as an international organisation, has unique assets and capabilities that can support both Allied and international efforts in the fight against terrorism. Our policy focuses NATO’s efforts under three main pillars:

First, NATO ensures a shared awareness of the terrorist threat among Allies through consultations, enhanced sharing of intelligence, continuous strategic analysis and assessments.

As a current example, let us take Foreign Terrorist Fighters. Unfortunately, many NATO country nationals are amongst the thousands of men and women who have chosen to take up arms in Syria and Iraq. At the recent Wales Summit, NATO decided to strengthen cooperation on intelligence and information sharing to counter this threat.

Second, NATO will ensure that it has adequate capabilities to prevent, protect against and respond to terrorist threats.

Over the years NATO has acquired valuable expertise in countering asymmetric threats and in responding to terrorism. Through the Defence Against Terrorism Programme of Work NATO works on capability development, the use of innovative technologies and improvements to procedures – this can cover topics as diverse as hardening of helicopters against MANPADs to improved procedures for clearance of mines and IEDs from convoy routes.

These defence and deterrence efforts are matched by work on preparedness to deal with the consequences of attacks  - including the threat of CBRN attacks - through civil emergency planning and training coupled with critical infrastructure protection.  In the event of a successful terrorist attack (or a natural or technological disaster) NATO’s clearing house, the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) stands ready to work with others, particularly the UN.

Since the beginning of the century NATO has accumulated experience and expertise in the response to threats from cyberspace.  At the Wales Summit, Allies endorsed a new enhanced NATO Policy on Cyber Defence and an Action Plan for its implementation. Cyberspace is a relatively young domain where, like other stakeholders, terrorists exploit the open nature of cyberspace for their own purposes, including propaganda, recruiting members, training and communications. A senior cyber defence representative recently referred to terrorists’ use of social media as a command and control tool. I fear this will continue until we achieve a trusted and safer cyberspace through international cooperation. Risks to international security could even be higher should terrorist groups attempt to use, or sponsor, cyber-attacks to cause major degradation or disruption of communications or even physical damage. This may not be a likely scenario today but may soon become one.

The final pillar is engagement with partner countries and other international actors. NATO works to promote a common understanding of the terrorist threat, to support partners’ preparedness and identification of vulnerabilities and thus assist partner nations to fight terrorism more effectively.

NATO has particular strengths in civil/military areas and provides help to nations to deal with specific situations that could be exploited by terrorists, be it through assistance to locate shifting mines in the Balkans or North Africa, management or destruction of surplus arms and ammunition in the Caucasus or creation of a national coordination centre in the Sahel region to ensure a coherent response to a terrorist incident or other crisis.

At the Wales Summit, Allies underlined their readiness to help Iraq, a NATO partner country, to strengthen its defence capacity. NATO experts are working to see where NATO might complement coalition efforts. We are also working with other regional partners, such as Jordan.

In conclusion, I want to emphasise that NATO does not see itself in a leading role on counter-terrorism.  That role belongs to you, the United Nations. However, I believe that NATO has some particular strengths and areas of expertise. And I trust that my examples have demonstrated how NATO can be used, indeed is already being used to support UN-led global efforts

To use the opportunities for cooperation to their fullest extent, we need to know each other well. It is therefore essential that our staff liaise closely and that at this level we exchange views, and regularly brief each other on developments within our respective organizations.  NATO stands ready to support the work of this committee wherever appropriate, through sharing best practices and expertise, by providing support to country visits upon request and by participating in relevant Special Meetings. NATO will also explore possibilities for increased cooperation with the CT Implementation Task Force

In this spirit I would like to take the opportunity to invite the Chair to brief Allies and partners at NATO HQ in Brussels in the future. This would be another important step in the partnership of our institutions.  Above all, however, it would demonstrate that the international community stands united, under UN leadership, in meeting the global challenge of terrorism.

Thank you.