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17. U.S. statement to Sixth Committee on counter-terrorism (Oct. 11, 2007)

Statement by John B. Sandage
Chief, Counterterrorism and Sanctions Policy
Bureau of International Organization Affairs
United States Department of State

Mr. Chairman, and fellow delegates, thank you for the opportunity to speak on this important question.

Global terrorism remains one of our greatest collective challenges. It affects the way we live our lives, raise our families, travel to other nations, carry out business. No geographic region is immune. No individual can feel totally safe from this modern day plague. The vast majority of the victims of terrorism have been innocent civilians. In 2006, the majority of victims were followers of the Islamic faith. Last year, attacks on children were up more than 80 percent, with more than 1,800 children killed or injured in terrorist attacks. The terrorists also targeted the workers essential to civilized society. They targeted police. They targeted government leaders. They targeted teachers. They targeted journalists. And they targeted diplomats.

The international community is working together to confront these extremists because they threaten the right of people everywhere to live in peaceful, just, secure neighborhoods and societies. Joined together, through the UN, we have collectively said "enough." The unanimous adoption of the Global Counterterrorism Strategy is a testament to that collective will. And it is one the United States welcomes. The United States remains strongly committed to supporting the efforts both of the General Assembly, and the Security Council, toward this end.

We must measure counterterrorism success in the broadest perspective. While capturing and bringing to justice key terrorist actors is fundamental in combating terrorism, these actions do not eliminate the threat. We can destroy terrorist leadership, disrupt terrorist networks, and eliminate terrorist safe havens, but unless we start eroding terrorist recruitment and the expansion of terrorist groups' global reach, we won't be successful in eliminating terrorism. We must thus employ all the tools of statecraft to establish long-term measures to marginalize terrorists. We must also seek to build trusted networks of governments, private citizens and organizations, multilateral institutions, and business groups that will work collaboratively to defeat the threat from violent extremism and its radical ideology. Such networks, over time, help wean at-risk populations away from subversive manipulation by terrorists, and they create mechanisms to address people's needs and grievances, thus marginalizing the terrorists.

The US strategy to defeat terrorists is structured at multiple levels: a global campaign to counter violent extremism and disrupt terrorist networks; a series of regional collaborative efforts to deny terrorists safe havens; numerous bilateral security and development assistance programs that are designed to build liberal institutions, support law enforcement and the rule of law, to address political and economic injustice and to develop military and security capacity.

But we, the global community, need to do better at galvanizing public opinion to reject violence as an unacceptable means of expressing any type of grievance. These grievances may include geo-political issues, lack of economic opportunity, ethnic conflict, governance issues, corruption and political injustice. Violence can never be an acceptable way to express or address these grievances. Effectively countering violent extremism means creating pathways for alienated groups to redress their legitimate grievances without joining the terrorist network.

Toward this end, I am pleased to be able to share with you that the United States has pledged to the Counterterrorism Strategy Implementation Task Force a voluntary contribution of nearly one-half million dollars to support programs to address the issue of radicalization and extremism, and to protect vulnerable infrastructure. We call on those Member States in a position to do so to respond to the Task Force’s call for contributions. We believe that the Task Force, under the leadership of Assistant Secretary-General Robert Orr, and with the active involvement of the entire UN Secretariat, is doing laudable work.

We as Members must match that effort. We must continue to work closely together in building and supporting effective multilateral mechanisms for combating terrorism, including the long-pending Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. We must ensure the full and effective implementation of the Strategy. And we must continue to cooperate with the Security Council's three counterterrorism committees, to ensure that our obligations under the Charter are fully implemented, and that those Member States having the will, but not the capacity to fulfill these obligations, get the help they need to do so.

We look forward to hearing the views of others and, we hope, reports of great progress in our collective effort. I thank you for your attention to my remarks.


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