Terrorism is on the rise across Africa, exploiting instability and conflict

The growing threat posed by new and emerging technologies to global security is the focus of a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee, which opens in India on Friday. Ahead of the two-day meeting, the chairperson of the committee, Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj of India, spoke with UN news on how terrorists exploit social media, mobile payment systems, 3D printing and other technological developments.

Highlighting the impact on society, she said, “Their easy accessibility, affordability and near-universal reach have opened up an immense opportunity for humanity, while exposing vulnerable users to actors with nefarious agendas.”

Disseminate terrorist propaganda

Ms. Kamboj explained how the “widespread use of social media for terrorist purposes to spread terrorist propaganda” has been particularly exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Terrorist groups have taken advantage of the youth increased online presence during the crisis “to spread their propaganda and distorted narratives recruit and fundraise for terrorist purposes,” she said.

Beyond the internet and social media, other innovations that benefit society – such as artificial intelligence, robotics and synthetic biology – also raise concerns as they can potentially be used for terrorist purposes.

Attacks involving unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), such as drones, are now being reported in many conflict zones, further complicating their legitimate use.

Two sides of the same coin

Ms. Kamboj expects that during the meeting, UN member states and experts from the private sector, academia and civil society will discuss best practices for “sharing information to detect and prevent acts of terrorism, bring the perpetrators to justice and support the victims”. of terrorism”.

This interview has been edited and condensed for publication.

UN News: What inspired the theme for this special meeting? Are there any numbers showing the increased use of new technologies by certain groups, or have there been any particular incidents that have sounded the alarm about the relevance of these new methods?

Ruchira Kamboj: The use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes is an issue of growing concern. Member States already face a significant and growing threat from the exploitation of the internet and social media platforms to facilitate a wide range of terrorist activities.

Terrorists take advantage of online spaces to network, procure weapons, and obtain logistical and financial support.

Other areas of concern are the use of emerging payment methods – such as prepaid cards and mobile payments, or virtual assets and online funding methods such as crowdfunding platforms – for terrorist purposes. There is also potential for emerging technologies to include unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), artificial intelligence, robotics, synthetic biology, self-driving cars and 3D printing to be used for terrorist purposes.

We must remember, of course, that technology is used for good. Many of the technologies I just mentioned are also incredibly useful communication tools and services used by a large percentage of the world’s population.

The Security Council has focused its attention on new technologies in a number of counterterrorism resolutions focusing on law enforcement and border control, aviation security, and the protection of critical infrastructure and soft targets.

The Council’s most recent counter-terrorism resolution, Resolution 2617 of December 2021, makes specific reference to other emerging technologies, signaling the growing threat posed by their use for terrorist purposes. In this resolution, the Council notes with concern the growing misuse of UAS by terrorists around the world to carry out attacks and recognizes the need to balance the promotion of innovation and the prevention of misuse as its applications are growing.

UN News: What are the main results that the meeting hopes to achieve?

Ruchira Kamboj: The special meeting will be an opportunity to discuss how new technologies are currently being exploited for terrorist purposes, as well as how the terrorist threat arising from this exploitation is likely to evolve and grow as new technologies are developed and adopted by all kinds of users.

Discussions will further focus on ways in which States and other relevant actors can enhance their engagement and cooperation to counter the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes, including the financing of terrorism.

As always, when considering responses to terrorism and counter-terrorism, human rights and gender dimensions are crucial parts of the conversation.

A key outcome is to understand how States respond to these evolving threats in a way that respects their human rights obligations, and to encourage all of our partners to ensure that human rights people are respected as we seek to keep pace with ever-changing technologies.

UN News: What are the main recommendations of the Committee to Member States to assess the issue of new technologies and terrorism?

Ruchira Kamboj: The use of new and emerging technologies to prevent and counter terrorist activities can be a very effective and powerful tool if employed with full respect for international human rights law. The objective of the meeting is to learn from the experience of Member States how to strike the right balance.

UN News: Will the discussions also consider how other sectors, such as financial markets and private companies, can take steps to mitigate the problem?

Ruchira Kamboj: The answer to that is a “yes”. The special meeting will be an opportunity for participants to focus on steps that could be taken to further develop and use public-private partnerships, explore security by designing best practices, and create mechanisms for oversight, transparency and accountability. responsibility.

We are particularly looking to hear from our partners in the private sector, academia and civil society on what initiatives they are working on in this regard.

Private sector actors as well as Member States have also increased the use of digital technologies to identify, prevent and stop terrorist financing through online methods. When used responsibly and in accordance with international law, technology can facilitate the collection, processing and analysis of data, and help actors identify and manage terrorist financing risks more effectively and closer to the real time.

Data pooling and collaborative analytics practices can help financial institutions better understand, assist and mitigate money laundering and terrorist financing risks. There are also a number of positive uses for UAS to counter the movement of terrorists across borders, thwart terrorist operations, and secure public spaces and major events.

A number of technologies are also being deployed to prevent the use of UAS for terrorist purposes.

UN News: Considering the assessments made by the Committee, what are the most harmful impacts on civilians of the use of these new methods, particularly with regard to social media?

Ruchira Kamboj: The easy accessibility, affordability and almost universal diffusion of new and emerging technologies, on the one hand, have opened up immense opportunities for mankind, while also bringing them together in a tightly knit environment, especially exposing users vulnerable to actors. with nefarious agendas.

For example, during the pandemic, the increased presence of young people online has been exploited by terrorist groups to spread their propaganda and distorted narratives to recruit and fundraise for terrorist purposes.

We have seen the widespread use of social media for terrorist purposes to spread terrorist propaganda. Thus, the easy access, availability, affordability and universality of new and emerging technologies have had an impact on all sections of society.

On the other hand, the massive application of anti-terrorism measures has also raised serious concerns.

Experience has shown that the indiscriminate use of technology to counter terrorism can alienate populations and have a negative effect on violent extremism and counter-terrorism efforts. The UN consistently promotes a holistic, comprehensive and whole-of-society approach to addressing the many challenges that arise in countering terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism online. Civil society organizations, universities and private sector entities have an important role to play in this regard.

UN News: Given the current scenario, is the Committee confident that the Security Council will reach a final agreement?

Ruchira Kamboj: Well, there isn’t necessarily a final deal to be made when it comes to preventing the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes.

Given the trajectory of technology development driven by science, curiosity, profit and users, there is no obvious end in sight to what could be created. And that means there’s no predictable final stage for what we’re doing in the evolving terrorist landscape, because any technology can be misused.

Each member of the Security Council and its Counter-Terrorism Committee is committed to an approach to the fight against terrorism that upholds the rule of law in accordance with their obligations under international law.

And to that end, the Committee and the Council remain seized of the matter and will continue to work to fulfill the mandates entrusted to them in the various Security Council resolutions on the fight against terrorism.

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