Speech of the SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR IRAQ in the First International Counter-Terrorism Conference

Baghdad, 12-13 March 2014

Your Excellency Mr Nuri al Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq, 

Your Excellencies, Ministers, Members of Parliament, Ambassadors,

Honorable conference participants,


Let me begin by thanking the Government of Iraq for convening this international conference to tackle a set of challenges that are of primary importance to the people of Iraq, to the countries of the region, and to the international community as a whole. Finding ways to end the scourge of terrorism is a subject that engages all of us deeply. 

Today, sadly, we live in a world in which terrorism is expanding its reach and no country or region can be considered beyond the grasp of extremism. Thirteen years ago New York was hit by perhaps what remains to this day the most spectacular terrorist attack of our time. Yesterday, on March 11th, we commemorated the tenth anniversary of those killed in the Madrid bombings. Next year it will be the tenth anniversary of the London bombings. These three attacks, over the course of the last decade or so, have held the attention of global public opinion and to a large extent shaped the debate on the globalisation of the terrorist threat. 

Today, as the global reach of armed groups and extremists expands, so does international awareness and cooperation in addressing the challenge that terrorism poses. In 2005 the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) was established by the Secretary-General with the goal of enhancing coordination of counter-terrorism efforts of the United Nations. A year later in 2006 the General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution enacting a UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and stating that terrorism "constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security”. 

Today, no country is immune from the threat of terrorism or from its effects. Iraq’s people understand very well what this means. 

Every day, Iraqi men, women, girls and boys suffer death, injuries, disabilities and destruction of livelihoods from violence perpetrated by terrorists who reject the vision of Iraq as a strong, vibrant, and inclusive democracy. 

On behalf of the United Nations in Iraq, allow me to expresses our deepest sympathies to the Iraqi people for the terrible toll that they endure on a daily basis. I would like to honour the brave men and women of the Iraqi Security Forces who risk their lives every day to protect citizens from the threat of terrorism– often at a terrible cost to themselves and their families. 

As we speak, armed groups seek to provoke a vicious cycle of violence reminiscent of the dark days of 2006 to 2008. Against the wishes of ordinary Iraqis, these groups are attempting to impose their will in parts of the country. They target community leaders, journalists, and government officials; they attack religious pilgrims and places of worship; they go after schoolchildren. Their aim is to incite communal conflict; their goal is to make Iraq ungovernable.  

As the international community stands up to crimes against humanity, so we must take a firm stand against all forms of widespread and deliberate targeting of civilians. 

Today’s conference will be a success if it promotes international and regional cooperation against the growing threat of terrorism and extremism; and if it helps this country – Iraq, use the best practices and lessons learned from around the world it bringing home peace and security. 

Your debates today can send an important message to the public, a message of solidarity with a nation that has shown unparalleled resilience and a continuing commitment to build a democratic state.

The experience and knowledge that you bring to Baghdad today can help craft strategies that will address root causes of violence and lay the foundations for inclusive regional cooperation against all forms of extremism and terrorism.  

On behalf of UNAMI and the United Nations in Iraq let me say that we stand ready to work with the Government and the people of Iraq in promoting political dialogue and investing in development. Through the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force we can assist Iraq in promoting her ability to contribute to the international effort to counter terrorism and implement the four pillars of the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy. 

Experience has shown that successfully countering terrorism requires a range of political and developmental interventions that advance social cohesion, democratic accountability and the rule of law. 

Most importantly, however, it requires leaders to work together to reduce political tensions and promote national unity. 

Finding ways to put an end to terrorism will not be easy, some difficult decisions will have to be made – but together the Government and people of Iraq, with the support of the international community, can find ways to do so.

The Government has a duty to protect its citizens. But in addressing the phenomenon of terrorism, an exclusively military response will not be enough. Time and again, bitter experience has shown that States which rely only on such an approach rarely succeed. While terrorism cannot be justified for any reason or for any grievance, there are socio-economic and political conditions that let terrorists gain sympathy, spread extremism and develop a narrative in support for violence. 

Let me focus on some of the lessons learnt and best practices from the international experience. 

Perhaps the first of these lessons is that the concept of human rights is one of our greatest assets in finding sustainable solutions to countering extremism and terrorism. If human rights are disrespected, extremism will thrive. If human rights are protected – governments will have a strong case against terrorists. 

Community involvement is perhaps the second most important lesson. Ensuring an appropriate security response, which involves local communities in decisions relating to their security, is vital for the success of counter-terrorism operations. Important pillars in this respect are the professional, non-partisan and impartial security forces that have integrity as the protectors of the people. 

Investing in police and security forces that have appropriate resources and are appropriately trained is the third most important lesson learnt. Training in intelligence gathering, in forensic investigation techniques remains important to prevent terrorist acts and pursue those responsible while respecting the rule of law and human rights, in particular regarding arrests, detentions and trials. 

Experience has shown that delivering immediate humanitarian support to those affected by violence is vitally important. In this process the United Nations Humanitarian agencies have relevant know-how. Care services, including compensation, access to healthcare and rehabilitation, financial support, etc remain important. 

Any comprehensive approach would be incomplete if it were not matched by broad political dialogue, inclusive economic and social policies and community reconciliation. 

Moving beyond the national level, in today’s integrated world cannot win the battle against terrorism alone. It is only within the framework of constructive regional and international cooperation that countries can succeed. This includes—among other things, synchronising legislation, monitoring financial flows and developing cross-border management systems that regulate the movement of people and goods. It entails all countries respecting the more than 14 international conventions on combatting terrorism.

Finally, let me underline that a good defence against terrorism is a strong sense of a shared national identity—an identity that is inclusive and allows people to celebrate their diversity while upholding their unity.   


These are just some of the lessons learnt that may be helpful not just to Iraq, but to any country that faces a serious threat of terrorism today. 

Most of these messages and lessons will reflect on Iraq and the current situation in Anbar province, where the Government and the people of Iraq are facing a real threat. It is a threat by terrorist groups who disregard national borders and use violence and brutality to achieve their means. Their activities are not just a threat to Iraq but to the region and beyond. This was recognised by the Security Council when on January 10th in a Presidential Statement the Council condemned the attacks by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) “against the people of Iraq in an attempt to destabilize the country and region” and stressed “the critical importance of continued national dialogue and unity, an inclusive political process, the holding of free and fair elections in April 2014, and the right to peaceful protest as guaranteed under the Iraqi Constitution”. 

Since the beginning of January UNAMI and the United Nations in Iraq have worked tirelessly to deliver relief aid to the civilian population. As the UN humanitarian agencies work with the Ministry of Displacement and Migration to deliver assistance to the displaced, many people remain in the areas directly affected by the fighting. 

We look forward to continuing our work with the Government, the security forces and the local authorities in delivering humanitarian aid across Anbar, including Fallujah. 

On behalf of the United Nations in Iraq let me also state that we stand ready to continue our humanitarian engagement, assist in the reconstruction of Anbar province and promote dialogue among all components of Iraqi society. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

I came first to Iraq in 2006 to help set up the functioning of the newly elected Iraqi Parliament. Since then I have followed the tribulations of this country from near and from afar. Today Iraq stands at a crucial cross-road in its journey towards stability and prosperity. It will either succumb to violence, or come together and build a democratic state that protects human rights and is inclusive for all its citizens. Iraq has already been on to the edge of the precipice and has stepped back. The people of this country are tired of violence and division. For three decades they have lived under one of the most brutal dictatorships in history. They have experienced wars, sanctions and violence. I have not met an Iraqi who wants to go back to the past, who wants to return to dictatorship or to the violence of 2006-2008. The best guarantee that this country has for a democratic future are its people. 

In closing let me take the opportunity and urge the political leaders of Iraq to put their differences aside and work together to arrest the terrorist threat that seeks to tear the fabric of Iraqi society. 

Let me also assure the Iraqi people that they are not alone and the United Nations in Iraq will work with them and their elected representatives to support the development of this country and to invest in its biggest resource—its citizens. 

Thank you and allow me to wish this conference every success. 


Last modified on Monday, 01 May 2017 13:57

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