Remarks at the Global Counterterrorism Forum Ministerial

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
New York City
September 27, 2013

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning. Thank you all very, very much for joining us here at this counterterrorism forum. We’re very grateful to all of you for taking time. I’m delighted to welcome you to New York for the Fourth Ministerial Meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. And before we begin, I just want to say a couple of words about the recent attacks in Nairobi and Peshawar.

There’s no way to describe these other than as acts of hatred, cowardly acts that take innocent lives, and they really ought to reinvigorate all of us with respect to the challenges that we face and that we’re discussing here today. In Nairobi, we know that at least 68 innocent men, women, and children are dead, many more injured, including some Americans, and probably many of you sitting here, I know, have citizens of your own countries. In Peshawar, there was a heinous attack on the All Saints Church, long a bastion of interfaith harmony and cooperation, and at least 85 people were killed and another 100 injured.

Now tragically, there is nothing that can erase the bitter feeling that these attacks leave in their wake. The haunting images are going to forever be seared in our minds, and they unfortunately meld with haunting images from too many countries and too many places where people resort to these completely empty, nihilistic acts.

I think the images out of Peshawar of lifeless bodies strewn across a church, and in Nairobi, likewise, people up and down the mall lying lifeless, parents hugging their children for safety, people running in fear. At the same time, we have images of the heroism of rescuers and the collective cry of the Kenyan and the Pakistani people, who say loudly: “This was an attack on our families and our communities.”

The United States stands firmly with the people of Kenya and Pakistan, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who mourn the loss of their loved ones and those who wait for the wounds of loved ones to heal.

It is fair to say that unspeakable evil still exists in our world, and dealing with that is the cause that brings all of us here today. We have to remain vigilant, but we have to do more than be vigilant. We have to find a way to prevent, to preempt, to act ahead of these kinds of obscenities. And cowardly attacks like these cannot be allowed to change who we are or shake our resolve to promote peace and justice for all. So I think that these acts call on us to reaffirm our determination to counter violent extremism and promote tolerance everywhere. And that’s what brings us here today.

The more I witness these acts over the course of these years, the more I am struck by their emptiness – people who attack in masks, disappear, kill people, and you wonder what the statement is that they leave behind. Are they offering a school? Are they offering a health clinic? Are they offering education, an opportunity for a better life? It seems there’s an emptiness in these actions, and I think everybody here feels it. So it calls on us to reaffirm our determination to counter violent extremism and to promote tolerance everywhere.

I am especially pleased to be joined here today by my good friend and collaborator on so many different initiatives, and the co-chair of the Forum, Foreign Minister Davutoglu of Turkey. On the day that I was sworn in as Secretary of State, a suicide bomber in Ankara took the life of a Turkish guard at the U.S. Embassy. His name was Mustafa Akarsu. So we know this is a shared struggle, and Turkey has been and will continue to be a very valued partner in this effort.

I also want to recognize all of our colleagues around the table, and I express my appreciation for the continued commitment to the GCTF. This Forum is an essential forum because it focuses as much on preventing tomorrow’s terrorists as it does on countering today’s.

From Kenya to Pakistan, from Mali to Yemen, the threat that we face is more diffuse, decentralized, and geographically dispersed than ever before, and addressing this threat will require every tool in our arsenal: political, economic, diplomatic, military, and perhaps most importantly, the power of our ideas. In short, it will require a long-term, strategic and comprehensive approach, guided by our respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Getting this right isn’t just about taking terrorists off the street. It’s about providing more economic opportunities for marginalized youth at risk of recruitment. In country after country, you look at the demographics – Egypt, the West Bank – 60 percent of the young people either under the age of 30 or under the age of 25, 50 percent under the age of 21, 40 percent under the age of 18 – all of them wanting jobs, opportunity, education, and a future.

So this is about building institutions that provide security and liberty for citizens, and it’s about challenging the narrative of violence that is used to justify the slaughtering of innocent people. To make progress in advancing this agenda, we came together two years ago to launch the Global Counterterrorism Forum. And this is our go-to international venue for civilian-led counterterrorism cooperation. And in recent years, we actually have made important strides.

Together, we’ve developed practical guides for our counterterrorism officials on critical issues, from rehabilitating and reintegrating convicted terrorists to developing the first-ever set of international good practices for cracking down on kidnapping for ransom as a terrorist fundraising tactic. We’ve mobilized more than $200 million to support training and other capacity-building initiatives in countering violent extremism and in strengthening the rule of law.

And today, I’m pleased to announce that the United States plans to commit an additional $30 million to address these priorities. We’ve also set in motion two training centers: the world’s first International Center for Excellence in Countering Violent Extremism in Abu Dhabi, and the International Institute of Justice and the Rule of Law, which will be launched in Malta next year.

I am genuinely excited about these prospects, these initiatives. And I look forward to our meeting later today where we’re going to adopt three new practical guides and make a very special announcement, and that is that work will soon begin to develop the first ever global fund to support grassroots efforts at countering violent extremism in all of its forms.

So, my friends, we face a common threat in terrorism, whether it’s in a church in Peshawar or at a mall in Nairobi, and our charge is clear: We need to prove to the world that what we build together, and the power of our ideas, is far more powerful than what the terrorists seek to destroy. One of the victims from the attacks in Nairobi was Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor. In a moment of despair, he once wrote, “I have no kin and no brother. Death has made war upon our house.”

In the attacks of the past week, death has made war upon our collective house, but the victims and their families are not alone. They’re not without kith and kin. They have the steadfast support of the United States and its partners and the allies who are around this table here today. And that is why this forum is so important. And that is why the United States will remain committed to working with all of you as we build a future of hope together.

It’s my privilege now to introduce Foreign Minister Davutoglu. The floor is yours.

FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Thank you, John. Distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I also would like to reiterate our strong condemnation of the terrorist attacks occurred in Kenya, Pakistan, Yemen, and Iraq. In Nairobi, among others, Turkey was also affected. A Turkish citizen, Elif Yavuz, who was working there for a humanitarian purpose, was murdered. This was a cowardly attack. Likewise, I would like to pay tribute to the Canadian diplomat who was killed there as well.

Needless to say, all these attacks in these friendly nations we condemn, and we show full solidarity with all these friendly nations and peaceful countries. I would like to express my sincere thanks, John, to you as well for your expression of condolences for the death of the Turkish guard, Mustafa Akarsu, who lost his life during the attack to the American Embassy in Ankara last February. In these similar challenges, necessitates closer cooperation against ever-growing scourge of trans-border boundary terrorism.

At the inaugural meeting of Global Counterterrorism Forum, which was held two years ago in New York, we declared that this forum was established to act as a platform to share unique experiences and channel nation contributions into joint civilian-led counterterrorism efforts in close coordination with the United Nations. I believe we can state that today, thanks to our collective endeavors, we have covered significant ground, particularly in identifying areas and gaps that require enhanced cooperation and priority focus as well as addressing some of these.

These joint efforts which have built up within the five working groups of the GCTF began to yield concrete and visible results. First and foremost, we are pleased to observe that the multi-agency dialogue among experts that are involved in counterterrorism intensified and deepened. In that regard, we are pleased to note that capacity of GCTF to serve as a network of networks of counterterrorism experts and practitioners grow.

Secondly, we note with satisfaction that our cooperation through GCTF enables us to address a wide range of aspects of counterterrorism that have been endorsed by the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. These include, among others, countering violent extremism and radicalization, enhancing investigations of terrorist crimes, empowering victims of terrorism, capacity building for counterterrorism finance, as well as strengthening rule of law in the fight against terrorism.

I would like to thank the UN officials present today for their engagement in the Forum’s activities and once more underline the importance we attach to sustaining the synergy between the UN and the Forum. The GCTF facilitated, amplified discussions in countless workshops and seminars that were held by UN counterterrorism organs, regional and national bodies in different parts of the world, such as Bogota, Addis Ababa, Brussels, Rabat, Manila, Oran, Nairobi, Riyadh, and Geneva. This geographic threat, combined with the single focus on counterterrorism and the flexible approach which we encourage has given the GCTF a cutting edge. The good practices documents, which we endorsed in our previous meetings in Istanbul and Abu Dhabi, and the ones that are before us today, are tangible results of these multifaceted discussions. We can state that these documents reveal our collective wisdom and capacity. Further, with these documents, we testify to our sincerity for sharing our experience.

In my capacity as the co-chair with my dear colleague John Kerry, I thank all contributors who enabled this frank exchange. I would also like to acknowledge here the contributions of the Hedayah Center since its foundation last year as the first international center for countering violent extremism in Abu Dhabi. We believe it is now well positioned to complement national and international efforts to explain and prevent the phenomenon of violent extremism. We call all GCTF members to make use of this center.

While we welcome all these achievements of the GCTF that are complementary to our efforts in other fora, we also – to acknowledge that the global threat from terrorism is constantly and unpredictably evolves. Unfortunately, it does not seem to diminish. Some statistical data indicates that terrorist incidents around the globe quadrupled in the decade since 9/11. The developments in the past year revealed that the threat from terrorism disseminates geographically. Furthermore, the groups involved in terrorism benefit from the violent and turbulent conflicts for recruitment and disseminating their sick narratives. New trends such as the threat from self-radicalized individuals, growing exchange among locally active terrorist groups, and the increasing the number of attacks on economically or otherwise sensitive infrastructure requires dexterity in our responses.

These facts compel us not to only enhance coherence, complementarity, and agility of our existing counterterrorism measures, but also to develop new approaches and tools. While new approaches do not necessarily mean ignoring the lessons we had learned, they require political will, structural capacity, and most importantly, support of our people who trust us, the governments to provide for their security. I am confident that our cooperation in the GCTF could harness this support. In that regard, we believe the initiative of our U.S. co-chair regarding the establishment of a Global Fund for Community Engagement and Resilience is an exemplary effort. I believe our cooperation within the GCTF brings us closer in taking concrete action against the scourge of terrorism and remaining true to our common values while pursuing our national and international interest.

I take this opportunity to once again underline Turkey’s full commitment to the GCTF. In our capacity as the co-chair, we are dedicated to strengthen the international cooperation for countering terrorism in all its form and manifestation. To this end, we shall continue our efforts to encouraging initiatives by all of our GCTF partners, and facilitating a flexible, open-minded dialogue. We look forward to sustain our efforts for another term as co-chair with your valuable support, and thank you very much.

Now I have the pleasure to give the floor again back to Secretary Kerry for his remarks on the establishment of the Global Fund on Community Engagement and Resilience. The floor is yours, John.

SECRETARY KERRY: Ahmet, thank you very much. I’m going to be very brief because we want to get to the discussion as rapidly as we can. But I couldn’t help but be sort of thinking, as I listened to Ahmet talking and as we were contemplating sort of why we’re here, there’s a real irony today which is that if you think of the past centuries, many, many, many more people were killed in major wars, and that’s transitioned. There obviously is less proclivity for big nations and people to engage in those kinds of wars, but it’s been replaced by the scourge of terrorism which rips at the capacity of governance and creates more states on the edge of perhaps failing.

So it’s a different kind of challenge, and it’s why we believe we need to intensify our efforts to try to address the underlying factors that lead vulnerable individuals down the path towards violence, random violence. And I think everybody here would agree that the radicalization that leads to that is often fueled by conditions at the local level. So for our efforts to be effective, they’ve got to be driven by local knowledge, they’ve got to be responsive to concerns of local communities, and we know from experience that these efforts are most likely to be sustainable when they are owned and implemented by local civil society and government partners.

Obviously, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and as the attacks in Kenya and Pakistan remind us, local communities are on the front lines of this challenge. Therefore, we believe they would welcome the opportunity to be on the front lines of a solution. So we need to be prepared to respond to each situation differently, to tailor each program in response to the conditions that empower terrorism, and I think what we’re trying to do here in this initiative can do that.

We all recognize the importance of increasing financial support for this kind of essential work. It’s labor intensive. Here’s the challenge: We lack an international vehicle to identify credible local organizations to develop, monitor, and evaluate programs, and then channel funds to local projects that are competent that target vulnerable groups and individuals. So by harnessing our efforts around the global fund – a global fund – we think we can solve that problem, or at least address it, and empower local actors to be able to define a path forward. We’ve already seen the impact that global funds can have in tackling some of the toughest challenges we face. The fight against AIDS is an example. That’s why I am very pleased to announce today that we will begin work on a new Global Fund on Community Engagement and Resilience. And the mission, I think, is as clear as it is compelling: to leverage public and private funding to support local community-driven efforts to counter violent extremism.

I think we’re here because of one word: community. Resilient communities, effective communities, sustainable communities – that’s what the fund is going to try to offer. And it will put local communities who are most at risk in the driver’s seat and give them the tools that they need to do something about it. We’ll talk about grants that provide life skills, vocational training, at youth risk – to youth who are at the risk of recruitment.

And there are models of this, incidentally. Different countries have engaged in different efforts to retrieve people from terror cells. There’s certain kinds of education and family reunification initiatives that have been attempted by certain countries. So we’re talking about delivering even new school curricula that teach tolerance, problem solving, civic activism. We’re talking about working with local leaders, religious figures, social workers, and women on community engagement and techniques by creating social networks that educate youth about the dangers of extremist ideologies.

I want to emphasize there are many different initiatives individually. I know that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is engaged in an interfaith initiative which is an important component of this kind of thing. It can be a sort of support structure for this kind of effort. But nothing brings all of these efforts together and focuses our energies the way that we ought to. The United States will remain committed to this kind of initiative, and it – but we need to provide strategic direction and additional support so that we can actually bring these efforts to the scale that the problem demands.

We look forward to working to develop it, and I’m very pleased that here with us today, Tony Blair and his – and the Blair Faith Foundation, which have been engaged in this kind of initiative. And I’m pleased that Tony has been able to be here today and share some thoughts with us. He’s been a great friend to our country, to many of you here, and more personally, he’s somebody that I’ve been able to spend some time with as we’ve been working on the Mideast peace process and I value his friendship enormously.

So Tony, the floor is yours and then we’ll turn it back to Ahmet Davutoglu who will lead us in a discussion regarding this kind of initiative.

PRN: 2013/1207