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Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate: Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow (21 December), the Council is set to renew the mandate of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), the Secretariat body that assists the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC). CTED’S mandate is due to expire at the end of the year.

CTED was established on 26 March 2004 in resolution 1535 as a special political mission to support the work of the CTC. The directorate has also been involved in assessing the implementation of resolution 1373, which established the CTC, and resolution 1624, which called upon member states to criminalise the incitement to commit terrorist acts.

CTED’s mandate was last renewed on 17 December 2013 (S/RES/2129). Resolution 2129 underlined CTED’s crucial role in supporting the committee in the fulfilment of its mandate. It encouraged CTED to continue to work with states and regional and subregional organisations to facilitate technical assistance. Resolution 2129 further underscored the essential role of CTED in assessing issues and trends relating to the implementation of resolution 1373 (2001). It directed CTED to identify related emerging issues, trends and developments in consultation with relevant partners, and to advise the CTC on practical ways for states to implement these resolutions. In addition, in six resolutions in recent years the Council has given CTED the mandate to consider specific aspects of terrorism, such as foreign terrorist fighters and countering violent extremism.

The draft resolution circulated by the US renews CTED’s mandate as a special political mission under the guidance of the CTC until 31 December 2021. It tries to delineate the various cross-cutting tasks entrusted to CTED by the Council in various resolutions, such as countering violent extremism and on foreign terrorist fighters, in order to provide a comprehensive text encompassing CTED’s full mandate. It further reiterates the essential role of CTED in identifying and assessing issues, trends, and developments relating to the implementation of resolution 1373 and other relevant counter-terrorism resolutions.

CTED’s mandate is being renewed for the first time since the establishment of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (OCT) on 15 June, headed by a new Under-Secretary-General, Vladimir Voronkov (A/RES/71/291). Among other things, the office is tasked with enhancing coordination and coherence across the 38 UN entities comprising the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force and strengthening the delivery of UN counter-terrorism capacity-building assistance to member states. The office is expected to maintain a close relationship with the Security Council, strengthening existing links and developing new partnerships.

Thus, a new element of the draft resolution is on CTED’s functions within the wider UN system, including the relationship between CTED and the OCT. The draft underscores the importance of strong coordination and cooperation between the two bodies to ensure effective UN engagement with member states to improve the implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, as well as other key counter-terrorism resolutions.

The draft stresses that the assessment of the implementation of resolution 1373 and other relevant counter-terrorism resolutions is the core function of CTED, and that the analysis and recommendations from these assessments are invaluable in identifying and addressing gaps in implementation and capacity. It notes the crucial role and expertise of CTED in assessing counter-terrorism issues and in supporting the development of counter-terrorism responses. It further stresses that the heads of CTED and the OCT should meet regularly to discuss areas of mutual interest and the incorporation of CTED recommendations and analysis into the OCT’s work.

However, the language is more nuanced regarding the implementation and follow-up process of CTED recommendations. Recognising that CTED’s country visits, comprehensive assessments, and related follow-up activities are mutually beneficial for states, the CTC and the UN, the draft requests CTED to report to the CTC by 30 March 2018 on potential ways to strengthen the assessment process, including by considering targeted and focused follow-up visits and shortening timelines for reviews of member states and reports where possible. At the insistence of a few states, including Russia, the resolution adds that follow-up and timelines are to take into account differences of capacity between member states.

In addition, an issue that was expected to be controversial during the renewal process was Russia’s position that CTED’s mandate to engage with non-state actors—such as relevant international, regional, and sub-regional organisations, academia, think tanks, civil society, and the private sector should be restricted. Other states appreciate the importance of these interactions to enhance CTED’s work. As a compromise, the draft notes these relationships, but with some constraints, for example, in the context of country visits, “as a complement to primary engagement with Member State actors, so that assessments are more useful, accessible, and targeted to specific audiences”.

In order to improve effectiveness, the draft resolution requests the Chair of the CTC to invite states assessed by CTED to coordinate action plans on implementation of CTED’s recommendations and to report within 12 months after the initial assessment report to the CTC on implementation. It seems that the draft initially said six months, but Egypt maintained that states should have more time to implement CTED recommendations, and its request was accommodated. In addition, some states maintained that these reports take into account “differences in capacity and availability of resources,” language that was incorporated into the text as a result.

One technical element of CTED’s current mandate was that its country visits were approved in advance for the life of its mandate, thus rendering some scheduled visits less of a priority or less timely. The new draft directs the CTC to determine this list on an annual basis to address this issue.

Some other changes to the text, incorporated at the request of Russia, included limiting the number of references to the work of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (a counter-terrorism platform consisting of 29 states and the EU to which Russia does not belong), and to the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. Russia has expressed negative views about the latter, asserting that it infringes on state sovereignty and that it is not objective in identifying the root causes of extremism.

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