Saturday, November 26, 2022

‘No Money for Terror’ Conference to Build on Delhi Declaration

Washington, DC – India is hosting No Money for Terror – the third Ministerial Conference on Countering Financing of Terrorism in New Delhi on November 18 and 19. The conference comes on the heels of a two-day meeting of the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee in India. The meeting culminated with the adoption of the Delhi Declaration committing the Member States to prevent and combat digital forms of terror, notably using drones, social media, and online terrorist financing.

This conference emphasizes the commitment of the Indian Government to countering international terrorism, advancing discussions on combating the financing of terrorism, and building consensus and cooperation among countries on this issue.

India’s home ministry stated that India has suffered from terrorism for more than three decades, and “In order to display solidarity with peace-loving nations and to help create a bridge for sustained cooperation on countering terrorist financing, India was host to two global events in October – the annual General Assembly of the Interpol in Delhi and a special session of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee in Mumbai and Delhi. The forthcoming NMFT Conference will further efforts to build understanding and cooperation amongst nations.” 

In October, the UN Security Council members, including the 15 present and five incoming, leading experts from the UN’s operational partners and specialized agencies, came together to discuss threats posed by the use of technologies for terrorist purposes. The Government of India and the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee hosted the meeting. It was also attended by various civil society and private sector partners. This meeting was the first time since 2015 that the Security Council counter-terrorism Committee convened outside UN Headquarters in New York. 

The Special Meeting opened with a Plenary Session that saw remarks by FMs of Gabon, Ghana, India & UK, deputy FMs of Albania and UAE, and senior UN officials. This was followed by thematic briefings on the misuse of three focus technologies: 

  • Information and Communication Technologies
  • New payment technologies and fundraising methods
  • Unmanned aircraft systems, including drones

Discussions at the Special Meeting looked at how stakeholders could coordinate global efforts to counter these threats and deny technology to terror.

The two-day meeting of the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee concluded with the adoption of a document committing Member States to prevent and combat digital forms of terror, notably using drones, social media, and online terrorist financing. The non-binding document, known as The Delhi Declaration on countering the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes, was adopted in the Indian capital following a series of discussions among Member States representatives, UN officials, civil society entities, the private sector, and researchers. 

“The Delhi declaration lays out the foundation for the way ahead,” said David Scharia from the Counter-Terrorism Executive Committee. “It speaks about the importance of human rights, public-private partnership, civil society engagement, and how we are going to work together on this challenge. It also invites the CTED [the Secretariat for the Committee] to develop a set of guiding principles, which will result from intensive thinking with all the partners.”

There was an emphasis on respect for human rights in the document and during the debates. In a video message, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, reiterated that there must be “concrete measures to reduce these vulnerabilities while committing to protect all human rights in the digital sphere.” Mr. Guterres further said that human rights could only be achieved through effective multilateralism and international cooperation, with responses anchored in the values and obligations of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Representing the Human Rights Office, Scott Campbell, who leads the digital technology team, echoed the Secretary-General, explaining that “respecting rights when countering terrorism is fundamental to ensuring sustainable and effective efforts to protect our security.”

“Approaches that cross these important lines not only violate the law, but they also undermine efforts to combat terrorism by eroding the trust, networks, and community that is essential to successful prevention and response,” he said.

Mr. Campbell argued that international law and human rights present many answers to the issue, recalling that the Member States have a duty to protect the security of their population and to ensure that their conduct does not violate the rights of any person.

He also stressed that companies and States should be cautious when filtering and blocking social media content, as it can “affect minorities and journalists in disproportionate ways.”

To overcome the issue, Mr. Campbell suggested that restrictions should be based on specific and narrowly tailored laws and should not incentivize the censoring of legitimate expression. He argued that they should have transparent processes, genuinely independent and impartial oversight bodies, and that civil society and experts should be involved in developing, evaluating, and implementing regulations.

During the closing session of the meeting, the Committee chairperson, Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj of India, stated that the outcome document takes note of the challenges and proposes “practical, operational, and tactical possibilities of addressing the opportunities and the threats posed by the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes.”

She added that the global policymaking community “must be agile, forward-thinking, and collaborative” to meet the changing needs of States facing new challenges from digital terror.

Delhi Declaration Highlights

  • In the Delhi Declaration, Member States agree that guidelines and implemented actions should be based on international law and human rights.
  • Members of the Committee will draft recommendations to counter the terrorist exploitation of Information and Communications Technology, payment technologies, fundraising methods, and unmanned aerial systems (UAS or drones).
  • The body will assist Member States in implementing all relevant Security Council resolutions to counter the use of technologies for terrorist purposes while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
  • A new set of non-binding guiding principles to assist Member States in countering the digital terrorism threat will be issued, with a compilation of good practices on the opportunities offered by the same set of technologies to tackle threats.
  • The relevant offices will commit to deepening engagement and cooperation with civil society, including women and women’s organizations, relevant private-sector entities, and other stakeholders, and build partnerships.

At the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) meetings in September, efforts by the US to categorize ‘Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremism’ (REMVE) as international terrorist activities were opposed by several Asian countries. Asian nations feared that attempting to superimpose this essentially western phenomenon would dilute the international fight against terrorism. The Delhi Declaration and the upcoming NMFT conference are critical to keeping a sustained focus on countering global terrorism.

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