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White Press Office Feed

Monday, December 22, 2014


Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
New York, NY
December 19, 2014


Thank you, Foreign Minister Faki. And thank you again for being here with us in person. The United States greatly appreciates Chad’s leadership and its work to focus the Council on the nexus between terrorism and transnational organized crime. Thank you, also, Foreign Minister Wali and Minister Asselborn for your presence here today underscoring the critical importance of these issues. I particularly appreciated Luxembourg’s attention to the impact these issues have on the welfare of children – an issue that Luxembourg insistently raises with regard to all the challenges we face and a critical part of Luxembourg’s legacy on this Council. The United States is very eager to support Nigeria, and Chad, and the other multinational partners in the effort against Boko Haram – a monstrous movement.

While the motivations of terrorists and transnational criminal organizations may differ, their use of brutal violence, and the insecurity, fear, and suffering that they cause, are often remarkably similar. Terrorists and transnational criminal organizations are increasingly learning from one another’s sophisticated tactics to raise funds, to move people and arms, and to spread the fear that is a critical source of their power.

We see this cross-pollination between terrorist groups and transnational organized crime all around us. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram, the al-Nusra Front, and numerous other terrorist organizations raise tens of millions of dollars annually through kidnapping for ransom. In Somalia, al-Shabaab has filled its coffers through illegal and environmentally devastating charcoal exports; of the $250 million worth of charcoal estimated to have been exported from Somalia in 2013 and 2014, 30 percent is estimated to have gone to al-Shabaab. AQIM and other terrorist groups regularly obtain arms through Maghreb and Sahel trafficking networks, relying on the same trade routes as transnational smugglers. And extremist groups raise cash through a variety of other criminal activities that cross borders – from selling drugs to stealing natural resources.

ISIL is another example of the increasingly similar modus operandi between these groups. While continuing to carry out deadly attacks propelled by its sadistic ideology, ISIL is also increasingly operating like a profit-driven criminal organization. Using fear, threats, and attacks, ISIL extorts money from local businesses and traders, and robs from banks and households alike. Working through long-established regional smuggling networks, ISIL transports oil across borders, netting roughly $1 million a day through black-market oil sales. And there are credible reports that ISIL is profiting from the sale of Syrian and Iraqi so-called "blood antiquities,” sold by criminal middlemen to unscrupulous or unknowing buyers worldwide. These new sources of financing allow extremist groups to diversify their revenue streams and reduce risk of disruption of the funds that they need to carry out their horrific attacks.

As terrorists’ criminal activities become more entrepreneurial and business-minded, the Security Council needs to better understand their tactics. And we must develop and deploy a set of sophisticated tools to disrupt these expanding networks, and cut off the funds that they are generating. To this end, the Council should prioritize three tasks.

First, the Council should build greater international cooperation needed to fight the interrelated problems of terrorism and organized crime. We have taken steps to address this urgent need in previous resolutions, including Resolution 2170 on ISIL, and Resolution 2178 on Foreign Terrorist Fighters. And we have established a robust international legal framework under the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, the UN Convention Against Corruption, and the three UN drug control conventions that, taken together and implemented effectively, provide common parameters and tools for recognizing and responding to different forms of transnational crime.

Building on this work, the Council should encourage member states to do more to collectively address transnational threats. For example, greater international cooperation should facilitate the exchange of information and analysis about terrorist and crime networks. For its part, the United States has effectively used the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime as the basis for international legal and law enforcement cooperation against transnational organized crime with more than 55 countries. And our use of the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and bilateral treaties has led to the return of nearly 30 fugitives to face prosecution in the United States. Greater cooperation is needed both among and within governments, so we can bring together experts from the law enforcement, military, diplomatic and intelligence communities. This is why today the Council called on Member States to work together to secure their borders, counter illicit financing and money laundering, and implement international best practices and existing conventions.

Second, the Security Council should acknowledge that weak governance both encourages and is exacerbated by terrorist use of crime. Terrorist groups and criminals gravitate towards places with rampant corruption and impunity. For this reason, strengthening criminal justice systems in vulnerable countries is one of the most effective ways to fight transnational organized crime. Since our collective security is only as strong as our weakest link, we have a shared interest in building stronger, more transparent governance and justice institutions beyond our own borders. Military measures alone will not be enough.

Third, the Security Council should call on states to provide assistance to those states most affected by these terrible threats. Tackling these challenges requires deploying all the tools we have, from innovative law enforcement and criminal justice tools, to financial measures and sanctions. Yet all states do not currently have the same ability to take these steps. Member states should therefore identify areas where targeted assistance is most needed, and focus support in those places. We particularly welcome the role of the UN's counterterrorism bodies – particularly the al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee’s Monitoring Team, the Counterterrorism Executive Directorate and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime – in identifying threat and capacity gaps.

We have come through a horrific week, as others have mentioned, of terrorist attacks. On Tuesday, the Pakistani Taliban killed 145 people – 132 of them kids, age 5 to 17. It was an appalling attack on a school. A young student named Zeeshan told a reporter: “I saw militants walking past rows of students, shooting them in the head.” On Wednesday, more than 230 bodies of people believed to have been executed by ISIL were found in a mass grave in Syria’s Deir al-Zor province. And yesterday, we learned that more than 100 women and children were kidnapped, and 35 people killed, during a weekend raid in the northeastern Nigerian village of Gumsuri, believed to have been carried out by Boko Haram.

We know that we must do more to prevent these attacks – not only in Pakistan, Syria, and Nigeria, but in all of our countries. We must dismantle the groups that threaten our collective security. But we cannot achieve that goal without tackling the organized criminal networks that extremists increasingly rely upon to fuel their terror. That is the work before us and we must succeed.

Thank you.