Statement by the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations during the UNSC Briefing on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts – Isil/Da’esh Strategic Report, 24 August 2020
We congratulate Indonesia on its successful Presidency of the Security Council and thank the briefers for their insightful perspectives on the Secretary-General’s Eleventh Strategic-Level Report on the threat posed by ISIL (Da’esh) to international peace and security and the range of United Nations efforts in support of Member States in countering the threat.
Appropriately, this meeting takes place shortly after the United Nations marked the third International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism on 21 August 2020, in an event which provided a moving and timely reminder of the immense human costs that result from terrorism. As humanity continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa strongly supports the call by His Excellency, the Secretary-General, Mr António Guterres, in calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.
Much like the COVID-19 pandemic that is proving to be such a stubborn threat despite massive efforts against it, the Secretary-General’s report illustrates that ISIL/Da’esh remains a similarly stubborn threat to international peace and security. The report describes a new surge of ISIL activity in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, whilst elsewhere the group continues to pursue its deadly agenda via new affiliations in different regions of the world. In terms of the on-going challenge of individuals with suspected links to ISIL, especially women and children, stranded in camps or being held in the northeast of the Syrian Arab Republic, South Africa is encouraged by the progress made by the UN’s leadership in its development of a global multi-agency framework to assist Member States with the protection, repatriation, prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of third-country nationals returning from Syria and Iraq.
The report also describes the inherent risks for greater online recruitment and radicalisation of a much larger “captive” audience, making greater use of the internet as a substitute for activities restricted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Equally important, is the report’s mention of the possibility that the widespread economic depression resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to an exacerbation of socio-economic challenges linked to radicalisation and terrorism.
South Africa has consistently sought to highlight the importance of measures to address these root-cause issues that give rise to the resentment that ultimately fuel terrorism. On this point, we urge the UN and its Member States not to allow the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent us from reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by their target date, which would inevitably allow extremist movements throughout the world to take further root.
We are of course particularly concerned by the situation in Africa. As the report details, the persistent instability in Libya continues to provide fertile ground for the spread of terrorism on the Continent. At the same time, Islamic State affiliates in the form of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), and Al-Shabaab in Somalia, as well as Islamic State Central African Province (ISCAP), continue to carry out frequent attacks whilst attempting to entrench their operations and strengthen their ties with ISIL core and local strategic partners.
Naturally, a key concern for South Africa is the situations described in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where ISCAP has continued its attempts to establish a greater operational presence and has carried out attacks against the DRC’s Government and MONUSCO forces. We are also particularly concerned about the insurgency which is gripping northern parts of South Africa’s neighbour, Mozambique, where some attacks were claimed on behalf of ISCAP.
Both of these situations are the focus of High-Level regional attention by the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Indeed, only a few days ago the leaders of SADC’s 16 Member States expressed their commitment to support Mozambique in addressing terrorism and violent attacks. It is important that these regional efforts continue to enjoy the full support of the international community and the UN.
Allow me in this regard to express South Africa’s appreciation to the United Nations for its continued support including the UN Counter Terrorism Centre’s (UNCCT) valuable contribution to a Southern Africa-wide counter-financing of terrorism operational plan, developed and implemented in collaboration with the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money-Laundering Group (ESAAMLG).
Allow me to conclude by reiterating South Africa’s steadfast condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and our strong commitment to supporting UN-led efforts to fight this scourge. As always, we call for the further development and enhancement of regional strategic partnerships, including with the African Union, and we emphasise the critical importance of ensuring that all of our counter-terrorism measures, across the board, are conducted in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law.
I thank you.