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Statement at the UNSC Open Debate on Counter-terrorism in Africa

Thank you, Mr. President, for your presence here today and your leadership, and thank you to the Ghanaian Presidency for organising this important briefing.  


Like others, I also want to thank Deputy Secretary General Mohammed, His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahama, Ms. von Seherr-Thoss and Ms. Ero for your briefings.


Mr. President,

Less than two weeks ago, Al-Shabaab detonated two car bombs in Mogadishu, killing over one hundred people and injuring many more.


Lives in Africa are once again being shattered by the blight of terrorism. But this terrorist attack was not an isolated one.


Regrettably, these attacks are an all too common occurrence across the African continent - particularly in the Sahel and Western Africa, where violence is now expanding into coastal states.  Other regions have also been blighted by terrorism, including the Horn of Africa, the Lake Chad Basin, and Mozambique.


Last year, Africa accounted for nearly half of all global terrorism-related deaths, with groups such as the JNIM, Boko Haram, and the Islamic State-West Africa Province leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake.


Mr. President,


This Council’s response to acts of terror takes a familiar approach. We issue words of condemnation, of condolences, of solidarity and words matter. But words are not enough.


The key to tackling the terrorist threat in Africa is addressing the underlying drivers of terrorism and violent extremism. We know that communities affected by conflict, poverty, inequality, poor governance, and human rights violations and abuses are more vulnerable to radicalisation and recruitment.


Pressures on local communities are compounded by the global food security crisis. We also know that the climate crisis is an exacerbating factor in armed conflict. Terrorist organisations are exploiting those in vulnerable conditions for recruitment purposes.


Ireland’s view is that overly militarised counter-terrorism efforts can be ineffective or even counter-productive in the long term. Comprehensive responses look beyond security measures alone.


Council efforts must therefore address the drivers of terrorism and violent extremism in a more holistic manner as part of a ‘One UN’ approach. We must work closely with the African Union, African sub-regional organisations, and African Member States.


In this regard, Ireland welcomes the work of the High-Level Independent Panel on Security, Governance and Development in the Sahel. We hope that the Panel’s findings and recommendations can pave the way for long awaited progress on strengthening international coordination to address the crisis in this region.


We also recognise the need for predictable and sustainable financing for UN-authorised, AU-led peace support operations. We anticipate that the Secretary General’s upcoming report on this issue will prompt an open and frank discussion as well as provide a window of opportunity to make real, concrete progress.


Mr. President,


For Ireland, human rights must remain at the core of counter-terrorism responses. Human rights violations committed in the context of counter-terrorism operations drive radicalisation and feed terrorist narratives.


Counter terrorism measures must always comply with international law, in particular international human rights law.


Effective counter-terrorism responses also demand whole-of-society, gender-responsive approaches. This requires the full, equal and meaningful participation of women, and inclusion of youth, as well as engagement with civil society.


Mr. President,


Terrorism not only contributes to the creation of humanitarian crises, but also undermines humanitarian activity and endangers humanitarian actors.


Council-mandated measures to counter terrorism, including sanctions, are therefore crucial to deter and address terrorist threats. However, these tools can have unintended negative humanitarian impacts.


To address this issue, Ireland, together with our US colleagues, has introduced a draft resolution providing for a humanitarian exemption across all sanctions regimes. We urge all Council members to support this initiative, thereby allowing aid to reach populations at risk.


To conclude, Mr. President,


This Council must do more to prevent and counter the terrorist threat in Africa. Failure to do so would risk eroding many of the hard won development gains achieved over the last three decades in the region. Failure is simply not an option.


Thank you.


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