I would like to thank France, and Foreign Minister Le Drian in particular, for convening today’s open debate on a critically important issue. France continues to be a leader in the fight against terrorism financing, and we applaud the new Security Council resolution that was adopted earlier today. The UAE was proud to co-sponsor the resolution, and France can rely on our continued support in this area. But, as the Foreign Minister said, it is a strong political act – not an end in itself – and much work remains to be done.
Terrorism has no religion, race, or nationality. It occurs everywhere, as we saw two weeks ago when 50 Muslims were viciously murdered and another 50 wounded during Friday prayers in Christchurch. The victims included four children—one of them just three years old. Despite the tragedy, the response of New Zealanders is an example for us all in how to remain resilient in the face of such abject horror.
Fighting terrorism requires a multi-pronged strategy. It requires efforts to stem the hate that fuels the spread of extremist ideologies to individuals—such as the terrorist in New Zealand—or to groups, such as Al Qaeda or Da’esh. It requires action to dismantle the terrorist networks and support systems, whether online or offline – increasingly online in the digital space – that allow terrorists to organize.
Crucially, and most relevant to today’s discussion, it requires constant vigilance and monitoring of financial networks to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons, recruiting fighters, or launching attacks.
Member States must tackle the abuse of financial institutions and non-profit organizations for terrorism-financing purposes.
The UAE fully understands this obligation, especially given that our country is a trade and financial services hub in the Gulf. We have taken a number of practical steps to secure our financial system, namely by:
- Strengthening our existing legal frameworks to combat terrorism financing, as we did in 2018 implementing the latest Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations;
- Providing our financial intelligence units with the equipment, resources, and training they need to analyze and investigate suspicious transactions;
- Monitoring financial transactions and charitable activities with private and non-profit actors, which are required by UAE law to continuously identify, evaluate, and document the risk of misuse of their services for criminal and terrorist activity;
- Raising domestic awareness through various media platforms to prevent domestic funding of terrorism; and
- Implementing laws and regulations to freeze terrorists’ funds, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001).
Despite our best efforts, the threat of terrorist financing remains, and there is more work we can do in learning about and collaborating to counter this threat. First, certain Member States continue to support and finance terrorist activity, undermining the Security Council’s efforts to maintain international peace and security. That has forced us and other concerned states to take sovereign measures against state-sponsors of terrorism to maintain stability in our region as the threat of terrorism has grown.
Second, there is a growing link between organized crime and terrorism. For example, Da’esh, Al Qaeda, and other affiliated terrorist groups have looted, smuggled, and sold cultural artifacts to finance their destructive operations.
To combat this threat, the UAE worked with France and UNESCO to establish the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas. Through this organization and other such programs, we are working to rebuild and restore the invaluable cultural heritage of Mosul, Mali, and other places where terrorists have sought to erase the very history of tolerance and inclusion that they so despise.
Terrorism is a transnational threat that requires international and coordinated action. The UAE is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, and we are working diligently to implement the FATF’s recommendations after each evaluation. The UAE’s Anti-Money Laundering and Suspicious Cases Unit is a member of the Egmont Group and has signed more than 45 memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with national and international counterparts. These efforts, however, are just one step. As combatting terrorist financing requires constant vigilance and improvement, the UN system could strengthen its efforts by taking the three following steps:
- First, holding Member States accountable for their financing of terrorism when it occurs, especially when such actions violate relevant Security Council resolutions and their obligations under the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism;
- Second, providing training to Member States when the Security Council adopts resolutions that create new obligations to curb terrorist financing; and
- Third, exploring ways to curb the financing of extremism, particularly media platforms that spread hateful messages and create an environment where terrorist ideologies can thrive.
The UAE reiterates that it is committed to upholding its obligations to combat terrorist financing under international and regional treaties, as well as Security Council resolutions. We are ready to strengthen our global partnerships in this area and we will continue to share our expertise with our partners, as well as learn from their experiences and best practices.
Thank you, Madam President.