Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar (R) presides over an open debate of the UN Security Council on terrorism at the UN headquarters in New York, Jan. 15, 2013. Pakistan on Tuesday called on the international community to adopt "global strategies and responses" in the fight against terrorism, as terrorism poses "a threat to international peace and security." (Xinhua/Shen Hong)
by William M. Reilly
UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- Scores of diplomats in the UN Security Council on Tuesday debated how to counter international terrorism and heard a call to implement social media to help combat "shrill appeals to intolerance and extremism."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed participants in the debate, a series of speeches by about 50 diplomats, including ministers, vice ministers, special envoys and permanent representatives to the world body's headquarters in New York.
Citing recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan, the secretary-general repeated condolences to families of victims and reiterated the United Nations' support for the government's efforts to combat terrorism. He addressed his remarks to Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, this month's president of the Security Council.
Speakers following the secretary-general took the cue and also prefaced their remarks with expressions of condolences.
"Nothing can justify terrorism -- ever. No grievance, no goal, no cause can excuse terrorist acts," Ban said, calling for removal of conditions that feed the problem.
"Terrorism festers where conflicts are endemic, and where human rights, human dignity and human life are not protected and impunity prevails," he said.
"We have to drown out shrill appeals to intolerance and extremism with sound calls for compassion and moderation," the UN chief said, expressing concern about "the increasing use of information technology to spread hate."
"Terrorists and extremists are exploiting social media networks to radicalize people. This is yet another arena where we have to replace the terrorist narrative with messages of peace, development and human welfare," Ban added.
Echoing Ban's view, Khar warned that "short-sighted methods of dealing with terrorism can offer ideological fodder to the cause of terrorism."
"What we are looking for is a comprehensive and interlocking approach which is much more effective than our present effort," she said. "It is conventional wisdom and a compelling reality that terrorism will not be defeated alone by law enforcement measures, or intelligence operations or military and security strategies."
Khar urged the international community to quash "terrorists' misleading, distorted and malicious narrative and their demented ideology that justifies killing of innocent people."
"It is our responsibility to counter terrorists' propaganda. Our stories about human dignity and values should be louder than their criminal saga. We must move in concert to decrease the ideological space in which terrorists operate," she added.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai agreed with the Pakistani position that there is no single solution to combat terrorism.
"Terrorism is the result of a complex array of political, economic and social factors; it cannot be resolved by military means alone. Counter-terrorism efforts must be combined with economic growth and proper settlement of regional conflict," he said.
"There should also be more dialogues and exchanges between different civilizations, religions and ethnic groups so as to promote mutual understanding, tolerance and harmonious coexistence," Cui added.
Cui noted that China's west has been suffering terrorist attacks for years from the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement and stressed that, "All terrorist activities, regardless of who commits them under what pretext and no matter where and when they take place, should be condemned and fought back. There should not be different standards for different attacks."
"We should not bring ideology into the fight against terrorism or link it to any specific country, government, nationality or religion," Cui said.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, senior minister of state for Britain's foreign and commonwealth affairs, picked up on a thread introduced at the debate by the UN secretary-general, info-tech, saying terrorists were quick to exploit technology.
"In the field of cyber security, the UK is playing a key role in shaping an international cyber strategy, including hosting the 2011 London Conference on Cyberspace," she said. "We welcome international initiatives, particularly in the United Nations, aimed at reducing the threat we face from cyber-crime."
Warsi said there were 31 international entities involved in combating terrorism and endorsed Ban's call for a counter-terrorism coordinator.
"We would need the right mandate, and we would need to think carefully about how best to use the available resources," she aid. "But we remain convinced that more effective coordination within and between international organizations is crucial to our success in tackling the global terrorist threat."
Youssef Amrani, Morocco's delegate minister for foreign affairs and cooperation, endorsed the global counter-terrorism effort and the United Nations' leading role in the endeavor.
However, he took the occasion to remind diplomats that Morocco had warned of terrorist activities in the Sahel, the region of North Africa encompassing the Sahara desert and stretching across Africa.
"Two thirds of its territory now lies in the hands of terrorist elements whose confidence is ever increasing given the slow response of the international community to dislodge them," he said.
"This state of mind has been reflected by their actions last week, when they broke the ongoing de-facto six months cease-fire, thereby defying the decisions taken by the Security Council by taking over the town of Konna and progressing further southwards," Amrani added.
He voiced Morocco's support for the Malian government's recent call for "outside assistance to combat these terrorist elements and the response that is now being provided by bilateral partners."
Last week, France dispatched troops at the request of Mali to the western African nation to dislodge Islamist rebels from its northern tier.