UN counterterrorism director says threats are not over
Covid-19 and terrorism have something in common.
“Both the coronavirus and terrorism do not respect borders,” said Dr. Jehangir Khan, Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) run by the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) on a visit to Seoul on Monday.
Khan stressed “stronger and deeper international cooperation” is the only way to fight global plagues like Covid-19 and terrorism.
The UN’s efforts to combat terrorism accelerated after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
The UN General Assembly adopted the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in 2006, which condemns terrorism and calls for global cooperation from all member states.
“This is a very significant achievement because until today, different countries do not agree on the definition of terrorism,” said Khan.
Having served in different capacities at the United Nations (UN) for over 30 years, Khan gives credit to the leadership of former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who focused on fighting terrorism and establishing the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) in 2011.
When the 9/11 attacks took place, Ban was Chief of Staff for former Korean Prime Minister Dr. Han Seung-soo, who served as President of the UN General Assembly from 2001 to 2002.
With Ban’s leadership and collaboration with other countries, in particular Saudi Arabia, the UNCCT was established in 2011.
The UNOCT was officially incorporated in 2017 and has run the UNCCT since then.
“Ban made counter-terrorism the highest priority of the UN during his tenure as Secretary General,” said Khan.
The UNCCT currently has offices in nine regions including Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
During Khan’s seven-day visit to Korea to attend the International Symposium on Counter-Terrorism 2022 jointly organized by the Korean National Police University and the Korean Association of Homeland Security, the director of the UNOCT plans to meet with Korean officials and 13 ministries related to counter-terrorism.
Marking his second visit to Seoul in six months, Khan hopes that the UNOCT will “collaborate and form a strategic partnership” with Korea.
Khan stressed the significance of people’s responsibilities as global citizens.
“The world is becoming smaller and borders are not as strong as before," he said. "Therefore, we all have to become good and responsible global citizens.”
To ask about the UN’s latest counter-terrorism efforts and emerging threats of terrorism using advanced technologies, the JoongAng Ilbo sat down with Khan at the Novotel Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun Hotel.
The following are edited excerpts of the interview.
Has the threat of terrorism increased after the Covid-19 pandemic?
In the last two years, the threat of terrorism was reduced because people could not move across borders due to the pandemic. However, we have to remain vigilant because terrorists always plan ahead, and as borders are eased, this would create new opportunities for terrorists
How is Covid-19 becoming a threat to international society like terrorism?
The pandemic is not over yet as different forms of Covid-19 are still active. So we need to remain vigilant about both the virus and terrorism. Covid-19 is a form of terrorism, actually. They are both unpredictable, do not discriminate and attack civilians.
As the pandemic is still ongoing, should countries close their borders or open them?
Korea shows a very good example of managing its borders. The country opened its borders during the pandemic when other countries closed them. It is a very difficult challenge to manage and open borders while dealing with the coronavirus. The UNCCT’s border security and management team, therefore, decided to launch a handbook on how Korea has effectively undertaken border security during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Threats of terrorism using advanced technology are increasing. How is the organization dealing with the rising technological development of terrorism?
UAS (Unmanned Area Systems) is becoming a major concern. The technology is becoming easier and even children can build drones that can be weaponized. It is difficult to create a comprehensive counter-measure to this, but the UNCCT currently has two global programs that deal with drone attacks and protection of critical infrastructure.
BY WI MUN-HEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]