The Importance of Counterterrorism Cooperation in Regional & Sub-Regional OrganizationsAmbassador Cofer Black, Coordinator For Counterterrorism
Remarks to the Organization of American States, Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE)
October 7, 2003
Remarks as delivered
Thank you Minister “Brizwehla” for chairing this important event and for your exemplary leadership as CICTE chair over this past year. I would also like to thank Assistant Secretary General “Inowdi”, Ambassador Arias, and the other distinguished participants who have joined us today.
The events of the last few years have shown the entire world that terrorists respect no boundaries. They respect no creed, no set of laws, no reasoning but their own. They often attack the easy target -- the soft target -- to make their brutal and misguided point as easily and cheaply as they can.
And as they are chased from the known “hotspots” of the world, they seek out new lesser known locations that allow them to operate more effectively. As we have seen recently in unsuspecting places such as Indonesia, Kenya, and Morocco, no country, no airport, no hotel, no citizen is beyond the terrorists' reach. In an instant, one act of terror can affect us all.
Today's terrorists operate globally. Terrorists often raise funds in one country, plan in another, and conduct operations in a third -- all the while communicating, recruiting, and traveling across borders. No one nation can defeat this multinational threat alone. Regional and sub-regional fora can help us to confront terror together.
We can prevent and disrupt terrorist activity by working together to secure our borders, control migration, strengthen customs enforcement, and develop strong legal and financial regulatory systems to criminalize terrorism and terrorism finance. By marshalling our shared resources to provide capacity-building assistance, we can deter terrorists from targeting weaker states or from using them for safehavens or fundraising. And by sharing information, as well as coordinating joint investigations and efforts to bring terrorists to justice, we can deal a serious blow to terrorism.
Some regional and sub-regional organizations stand out as models of this cooperation against terror. Our host, the Organization of American States' Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE), is one of the shining examples. Created in 1998, CICTE has been an important player in antiterrorism in the region since September 11. We support CICTE's contributions to the development of the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism -- the first to be adopted after 9/11 -- and to member states’ efforts to implement the convention by sharing information, experience, and technical knowledge. We commend CICTE's Work Plan and its detailed road map to help member states implement counterterrorism legislation, strengthen financial controls, enhance border security, and organize training and conferences on specific counterterrorism objectives.
We also strongly support the UN's efforts to keep combating terror at the top of the international community's agenda. We are proud collaborators in the efforts of the UN Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee (UNCTC) to assist member states to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1373. We also commend and support Ambassador Arias’ efforts to lift the CTC to a new level of effectiveness. Important contributions have emerged from the UN/ODC’s Terrorism Prevention Branch’s outstanding efforts to fully implement the 12 international counterterrorism conventions. Full implementation of UNSCR 1373 and the 12 international CT conventions will close many of the security seams that terrorists seek to exploit.
In June, I attended the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) first Annual Security Review Conference in Vienna, and saw real progress being made to enhance regional counterterrorism cooperation, develop common standards, and lay the groundwork for capacity-building programs. The OSCE is currently developing an initiative to help all 55 members achieve the most rigorous document security standards.
We also strongly support the efforts of the G-8's Roma-Lyon Group and Counterterrorism Action Group, the “3+1” Counterterrorism Dialogue formed last year in South America's Tri-border region, and other regional and sub-regional fora.
I have named only a few of the multilateral fora in which the U.S. is active. Time constraints prevent me from detailing our involvement in Africa, East Asia, and other areas
Will member states of your organizations soon suffer a terrorist attack? I hope not but I do not know. No one does. Will your member states soon be used for secret training camps, points of transit, or bases of operation for attacks? Again, no one can say for certain.
We can say for certain, however, that the terrorists will try to do all of the above. We must try to prevent them. We require sustained and high level action and programs to defeat them.
Effective counterterrorism cooperation means more than just attending meetings and sharing information. It means being committed to coordinating a broader counterterrorism agenda on the diplomatic, financial, military, intelligence, and law enforcement fronts. It means working together to identify needs and develop specific capacity-building programs to meet those needs. Most importantly, it means developing strong, continuous, and collaborative relationships to use shared resources and expertise to make real advances in the war on terror. And I think it is obvious that regional and multilateral organizations play a powerful role in all of the above.
And we are seeing the benefits of cooperation today. Two-thirds of al-Qaida’s leadership have been detained or killed, and 3,400 terrorists have been taken out of action worldwide. As the recent arrest in Thailand of Jemaah Islamiyah leader Hambali shows, regional cooperation has proven critical to achieving success in the war on terror.
We must maintain momentum in the counterterrorists’ favor; our work is far from finished. We urge you to continue to advance counterterrorism issues and programs in your organizations. And we look forward to working together to keep up the momentum against terrorism and build on our shared successes.
Thank you for coming together here today, and thank you for your valuable work, and for the critical tasks you are about to undertake in this gathering today.