Security Council moves to cut off all funding sources for ISIL and other terrorist groups

December 17, 2015 – At its first ever meeting at Finance Ministers’ level, the United Nations Security Council today stepped up its efforts to cut off all sources of funding for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIL) and other terrorist groups, including ransom payments, no matter by whom.

In a unanimously adopted resolution at a session presided over by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew of the United States, which holds its monthly presidency, the 15-member body called for enhanced actions, from closing financial system loopholes to stopping the abuse of charitable causes, as well as updating the existing ISIL and Al-Qaida Sanctions List.

It stressed that already existing resolutions mandating States to ensure that financial assets are not transferred to terrorists by persons within their territory “shall also apply to the payment of ransoms to individuals, groups, undertakings or entities on the ISIL [Da’esh] and Al-Qaida Sanctions List regardless of how or by whom the ransom is paid.”

The resolution called for increased international cooperation in sharing information and closer collaboration with the private sector to identify suspect transactions.

The Council also called on Member States to promote enhanced vigilance by persons within their jurisdiction to detect any diversion of explosives and raw materials and components that can be used to manufacture improvised explosive devices or unconventional weapons, including chemical components, detonators, detonating cord, or poisons.

“They (the terrorists) are agile and have been far too successful in attaining resources for their heinous acts,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Council at the start of the debate. “As Da’esh (another name for ISIL) and other terrorist groups disseminate their hateful propaganda and ratchet up murderous attacks, we must join forces to prevent them from acquiring and deploying resources to do further harm,” he stressed.

“We know the challenge before us. Terrorists take advantage of weaknesses in financial and regulatory regimes to raise funds. They circumvent formal channels to avoid detection, and exploit new technologies and tools to transfer resources. They have forged destructive and very profitable links with drug and criminal syndicates – among others. And they abuse charitable causes to trick individuals to contribute,” said the UN chief.

He noted that progress has been made over the years in identifying and limiting various methods of terrorist financing, with Member States ratifying the International Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and adopting legislation to criminalize terrorist financing and strengthen regulatory systems.

“Still, more needs to be done,” Mr. Ban stated. “Terrorists continue to adapt their tactics and diversify their funding sources. Today, Da’esh runs a multi-million dollar economy in territories under its control. Da’esh terrorists raise money through the oil trade, extortion, undetected cash couriers, kidnapping for ransom, trafficking of humans and arms and racketeering,” he said.

“They loot and sell precious cultural property, shamelessly profiting from the destruction of humanity’s common heritage. Social media outreach is exploited by Da’esh, not just for radicalization and recruiting, but also for fundraising. Other terrorist organizations around the world – from Boko Haram to Al-Shabaab to the Taliban – are following suit.”

With terrorists increasingly employing elusive tricks to raise and transfer funds, covering their tracks and leaving little evidence to identify tainted resources, the international community must stay ahead of the curve to combat their ploys, he said, noting that many States have yet to set up the necessary legal regimes and institutions to identify and freeze terrorist assets.

Mr. Ban called for increased international cooperation in sharing information and expertise, especially in stopping the illegal trade of cultural artefacts, and closer cooperation with the private and charitable sectors to identify suspected transactions.

‘Monumental triumph’ in Paris as world adopts new climate change agreement, says UN chief

Following the adoption of the new Paris Agreement on climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said government representatives made history today.

“The Paris Agreement is a monumental triumph for people and our planet,” said Mr. Ban in a tweet, immediately following its adoption. “It sets the stage for progress in ending poverty, strengthening peace and ensuring a life of dignity and opportunity for all.”

Gaveling the Agreement with a green hammer, the French Foreign Minister and President of COP21 Laurent Fabius announced the historic news—a moment greeted with loud applause and cheers, as the room stood up. Many delegates hugged, while others had tears in their eyes.

For the first time today, every country in the world—all 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and joined to take common climate action. This followed two weeks of tireless negotiations at the United Nations climate change conference (COP21).

“In the face of an unprecedented challenge, you have demonstrated unprecedented leadership,” the UN chief said taking the COP21 stage just minutes later. “You have worked collaboratively to achieve something that no one nation could achieve alone. This is a resounding success for multilateralism.”

Recalling that he made climate change one of the defining priorities of his tenure as Secretary-General, Mr. Ban said that most of all, he has listened to people – the young, the poor and the vulnerable, including indigenous peoples, from every corner of the globe.

“They seek protection from the perils of a warming planet, and the opportunity to live in a safer, more bountiful world,” he underlined. “They have demanded that world leaders act to safeguard their well-being and that of generations to come.”

Turning to the agreement itself, the Secretary-General said negotiators reached “solid results on all key points,” with an agreement that demonstrates solidarity and “is ambitious, flexible, credible and durable.”

“All countries have agreed to hold global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius. And recognizing the risk of grave consequences, you have further agreed to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees,” he announced.

In addition, a review mechanism has been established whereby every five years, beginning in 2018, Parties will regularly review what is needed in line with science.

“Governments have agreed to binding, robust, transparent rules of the road to ensure that all countries do what they have agreed across a range of issues,” Mr. Ban added.

Meanwhile, highlighting the role of the private sector, the UN chief said business leaders came to Paris in unprecedented numbers and that “powerful” climate solutions are already available while many more are to come.

“With these elements in place, markets now have the clear signal they need to unleash the full force of human ingenuity and scale up investments that will generate low-emissions, resilient growth,” he said, adding that “what was once unthinkable has now become unstoppable.”

“When historians look back on this day, they will say that global cooperation to secure a future safe from climate change took a dramatic new turn here in Paris,” Mr. Ban stated. “Today, we can look into the eyes of our children and grandchildren, and we can finally say, tell them that we have joined hands to bequeath a more habitable world to them and to future generations.”

Ending his remarks, the UN chief said that all Parties should be proud of the Paris Agreement and that “the work starts tomorrow.”

“For today, congratulations again on a job well done,” he concluded. “Let us work together, with renewed commitment, to make this a better world.”

Earlier today, at a meeting of the Committee of Paris [Comité de Paris]—the body which is overseeing the negotiations at COP21—the UN chief spoke alongside the President of France, François Hollande as well Minister Fabius.

“The end is in sight. Let us now finish the job. The whole world is watching. Billions of people are relying on your wisdom,” the Secretary-General had told delegates.

In an emotional address during which he held back tears, Laurent Fabius said the agreement “will serve meaningful causes, food safety and security, public health, the fight against poverty and for essential rights, and therefore peace.”

“People worldwide, our citizens, our children, wouldn’t understand if we didn’t adopt it and wouldn’t forgive us,” he insisted.

“It is rare to be given the opportunity to change the world,” said President François Hollande, wrapping up the meeting. “You have the opportunity to do that.”

Fundamental freedoms ‘inalienable and inherent – now and always,’ UN says on Human Rights Day

Marking this year’s Human Rights Day amid extraordinary global challenges, the United Nations is calling on the world to recognize and guarantee fundamental freedoms – long recognized “as the birthright of all people” – freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of speech and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

“In a year that marks the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, we can draw inspiration from the history of the modern human rights movement, which emerged from the Second World War,” said Mr. Ban in a message to mark Human Rights Day, celebrated annually on 10 December.

Mr. Ban hailed the four basic freedoms identified by former United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt – freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear, and stressed that today’s extraordinary challenges can be seen and addressed “through the lens of [those] four freedoms.”

The Secretary-General highlighted the condition of millions of people, who are denied freedom of expression and are living under threat and urged to defend, preserve and expand democratic practices and space for civil society for lasting stability.

Mr. Ban also noted that across the globe, terrorists have “hijacked religion, betraying its spirit by killing in its name,” or targeting minorities and exploring fears for political gain, thereby denying people their freedom of worship.

“In response, we must promote respect for diversity based on the fundamental equality of all people and the right to freedom of religion,” stressed the Secretary-General.

Speaking about freedom from want, UN chief said much of humankind is plagued by deprivation and called on world leaders to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the aim of ending poverty and enabling all people to live in dignity on a peaceful, healthy planet.

Mr. Ban also said that millions of refugees and internally displaced persons are a tragic product of the failure to fulfil the freedom from fear, adding that not since the Second World War have so many people been forced to flee their homes.

“They run from war, violence and injustice across continents and oceans, often risking their lives. In response, we must not close but open doors and guarantee the right of all to seek asylum, without any discrimination. Migrants seeking an escape from poverty and hopelessness should also enjoy their fundamental human rights,” said the Secretary-General.

Lastly, reaffirming UN’s commitment to protecting human rights as the foundation of the Organization’s work, Mr. Ban highlighted the features of the Human Rights Up Front initiative, which aims to prevent and respond to large-scale violations.

Echoing those sentiments, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein added that “freedom is the ideal that underpins what we now recognize as international human rights law, the norms and regulations that protect and guarantee our rights.”

In a video message, Mr. Zeid noted that Human Rights Day 2015 marks the launch of a year-long campaign to celebrate the 50th anniversary of two of the oldest international human rights treaties – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

“These two documents, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, form the ‘International Bill of Human Rights,’ which together set out the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights which are the birth right of all human beings,” said Mr. Zeid.

He also stressed that freedoms set out in these documents are universal, applicable to everyone, everywhere and noted that traditional practices, cultural norms, cannot justify taking them away.

“The world has changed since the UN General Assembly adopted the Two Covenants in 1966.

The Covenants, together with the other human rights treaties, have played an important role in securing better respect and recognition during the past five, at times turbulent, decades,” added Mr. Zeid.

At the same time, the UN rights chief noted that the drafters of the Covenants could have had little idea of issues such as digital privacy, counter-terrorism measures and climate change, but respect for freedom continues to be the foundation for peace, security and development for all.

Lastly, echoing the theme of this year’s Day, he urged everyone to join the celebration of freedom, to help “spread the message the world over that our rights, our freedoms are inalienable and inherent – now, and always.”

UN Security Council adopts first-ever resolution on youth, peace & security

The United Nations Security Council today adopted a historic resolution on youth, peace and security that urges greater representation by young men and women in the prevention and resolution of conflict amid “the rise of radicalization to violence and violent extremism amongst youth, which can be conducive to terrorism.”

Along with positioning youth and youth-led organizations as important partners in the global efforts to counter violent extremism and promote lasting peace, the resolution also gives impetus to the youth-led peacebuilding and conflict-prevention interventions to build peaceful communities and underpin democratic, inclusive governance.

By the text, the 15-member Council “urges Member States to consider ways to increase inclusive representation of youth in decision-making at all levels in local, national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention and resolution of conflict…and, as appropriate, to consider establishing integrated mechanisms for meaningful participation of youth in peace processes and dispute-resolution.”

The resolution, introduced by Jordan during its presidency of the Security Council in April, also covers the protection of youth in armed conflict, including asking “all parties to armed conflict to take the necessary measures to protect civilians, including those who are youth, from all forms of sexual and gender-based violence.”

Reacting to the Council’s action, Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, haled the text as “a major breakthrough” in collective efforts to change the predominantly negative narrative on youth and recognize the significant role of young people in peacebuilding.

“Youth have for too long been cast away as either the perpetrators of violence or its victims,” he continued, stressing that: “With this resolution the Security Council recognizes the important contributions that young people make in countering violent extremism and supporting peacebuilding efforts around the world.”

Through the resolution, the Council also urged Member States to increase their political, financial, technical and logistical support, that take account of the needs and participation of youth in peace efforts, in conflict and post-conflict situations, including those undertaken by relevant entities, funds and programmes.

It also encourages all those involved in the planning for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration to consider the needs of youth affected by armed conflict.

And for next steps, the resolution requests Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to carry out a “progress study” on the youth’s positive contribution to peace processes and conflict resolution, in order to recommend effective responses at local, national, regional and international levels.

It also requests the Secretary-General to include in his reports measures taken to implement the text, “including information on youth in situations of armed conflict and the existence of measures relating to the prevention, partnerships, participation, protection, disengagement and reintegration of youth under this resolution.”

At the Security Council’s first-ever meeting on the issue in April, Mr. Ban said that “the role of youth lies at the heart of international peace and security” and emphasized the need “to encourage young people to take up the causes of peace, diversity, and mutual respect.”

Despite less fighting, eastern Ukraine still ‘highly flammable,’ UN reports, as death toll tops 9,000

Despite a significant reduction in hostilities in eastern Ukraine in the last few months in a conflict that has already left over 9,000 people dead and nearly 21,000 injured, serious human rights concerns persist, including killings, torture and impunity, the United Nations reported today.

The situation remains “highly flammable” due the inflow of ammunition, weaponry and fighters from Russia into territories controlled by armed groups, although an accord in August to strengthen a frequently violated earlier ceasefire led to the withdrawal of heavy weapons by the Ukrainian military and the armed groups, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said in its latest report.

Serious human rights abuses against people in the territories controlled by the self-proclaimed “Donetsk people’s republic” and “Luhansk people’s republic” continue, including killings, torture, ill-treatment, illegal detention and forced labour, lack of freedom of movement, assembly and expression, the Mission added in the report, the 12th it has issued on the nearly two-year-old conflict.

It also noted that elements of Ukraine’s security service appear to enjoy a high degree of impunity in documented cases of “enforced disappearance, arbitrary and incommunicado detention as well as torture and ill treatment of people suspected of trespassing against territorial integrity or terrorism or believed to be supporters” of the two self-proclaimed republics.

Moreover, millions of people living in the affected areas face a difficult humanitarian situation and local residents continue to remain without effective protection of their rights.

“An estimated 2.9 million people living in the conflict area continued to face difficulties in exercising their economic and social rights, in particular access to quality medical care, accommodation, social services and benefits, as well as compensatory mechanisms for damaged, seized or looted property,” the report said.

“The situation for an estimated 800,000 people living along both sides of the contact line has been particularly difficult.”

Between 16 August and 15 November, the time period covered by the report, 47 civilians were killed and 131 injured. The total death toll since mid-April last year is at least 9,098, with another 20,732 injured, including civilians, Ukrainian armed forces and armed groups.

The new casualties resulted largely from explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices, “underscoring the urgent need for extensive mine clearance and mine awareness actions on both sides of the contact line,” the report said.

It cited pervasive self-censorship and the inability of media professionals to exercise their freedom of expression in the east, adding that restrictions against media professionals by the Government also undermine freedom of expression.

Turning to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the report said residents continue to be affected by the broad curtailment of their rights due to the application of a restrictive legal framework imposed upon them by Russia.

The Mission continues to receive allegations of violations of the right to life, liberty, security and physical integrity, to a fair trial and to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, it added, also noting that the trade blockade of Crimea imposed by Ukrainian activists has led to human rights abuses, which were not properly addressed by law enforcement officers.

“Civilians in the conflict-afflicted eastern parts of Ukraine end the year as they began it, in a very difficult humanitarian and human rights situation,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said, summing up the report.

“Elderly people have no access to their life savings, people with disabilities have little assistance, and reduced access to healthcare has left many in dismal, precarious, even life-threatening situations.”

While welcoming the reduction in hostilities, he urged all sides to fully implement the ceasefire accords and reminded all sides, including those in control of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, that they can be held criminally accountable for the human rights abuses committed in territories under their control.

In late February 2014, the situation in Ukraine transcended what was initially seen as an internal Ukrainian political crisis into violent clashes in parts of the country, later reaching full-scale conflict in the east. Nevertheless, despite a September 2014 ceasefire agreed in Minsk, the situation has since deteriorated, with serious consequences for the country’s unity, territorial integrity and stability.