Countering Terrorism in the Western Hemisphere: A Multilateral Approach

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The seal of the Organization of American States.
The seal of the Organization of American States.

Countering Terrorism in the Western Hemisphere: A Multilateral Approach

No country can effectively fight terrorism alone.  It requires close cooperation and a lot of coordination.  Multilateral settings can provide an ideal forum for progress on counterterrorism issues.      

To this end, representatives from 28 countries in the Western Hemisphere gathered at the 17th Regular Session of the Organization of American States Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE), in Washington, DC on April 6-7, 2017. 

OAS/CICTE, which has 35 member states and 70 observers, was established in 1999 to facilitate and encourage member states’ cooperation to prevent, oppose, and eliminate terrorism.  It seeks to prevent the financing of terrorist activities, strengthen cyber-security efforts, and increase border controls and law enforcement efforts across the hemisphere.  Working closely with its member states, CICTE establishes policies and implements programs to address these issues, and is considered a model for other regional organizations who work to counter the threat of terrorism.  The U.S. government is a strong supporter of CICTE, contributing personnel and assistance since it began.     

Delegations from 28 member states came to the Session to discuss the dual themes of terrorist financing and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.   CICTE delegates approved by consensus the outcome document, a resolution entitled “Strengthening National Financial Systems through International Cooperation and Information Sharing as a Means to Prevent Terrorism and the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.”  

The resolution declared member states’ commitment to the following:

1. to develop and strengthen regulatory frameworks;

2. to implement programs to prevent the financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;

3. to adapt domestic laws and practices to relevant international and regional instruments, especially the Inter-American Convention against Terrorism;

4. and to renew their anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing  commitments adopted at the UN level and through the Financial Action Task Force.

Delegates also approved a joint resolution put forth by the governments of Chile and Colombia to establish a working group of experts to develop cyber confidence-building measures that enhance international peace and security and that increase cooperation, transparency, predictability, and stability among states in the use of cyberspace for OAS member states.     

I was privileged to lead the U.S. delegation of experts from the Departments of State, the Treasury, and Justice.  In my formal remarks, I addressed the benefits of strong domestic laws, regulations, and information-sharing arrangements among administrative, security, and intelligence agencies, together with domestic and international cooperation and coordination.  While at the Session, I also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from Argentina, Canada, CICTE, Chile, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago.  I highlighted strong U.S. support for CICTE and the importance of working together to counter terrorism throughout the hemisphere.   

During the forum, I also highlighted UN Security Council Resolution 1540 as a key instrument in global efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their means of delivery to non-State actors, particularly to terrorists.  I encouraged all OAS member states to endorse the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) Statement of Interdiction Principles, which complements UNSCR 1540 obligations. These principles focus on taking action to interdict and counter proliferation activities based on national legal authorities and international law while strengthening capabilities for interdiction-related actions. 

Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism Marie Richards delivered her remarks as head of the U.S. Delegation at the 17th Regular Session of the Organization of American States Inter-American Committee against Terrorism, in Washington, DC on April 6-7, 2017.

In the afternoon session, Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Jamal El-Hindi provided participants with an overview of U.S. efforts to combat the financing of terrorism . His presentation also emphasized  the importance of collecting, analyzing, and sharing relevant information and leveraging one another’s efforts..  El-Hindi explained that adapting to ever-evolving threats requires the proper legal foundation and processes to ensure law enforcement, regulatory, and intelligence professionals – as well as the private sector and international partners – have the tools they need to fight money laundering and terrorist financing. 

As terrorist threats continue to evolve, we must ensure that states have the necessary authorities and resources to detect, investigate, and take action against terrorist financing activity.  Terrorist organizations use modern information communications technology and global trade and travel to extend their reach far and wide. Through our counterterrorism efforts – including crucial multilateral approaches such as CICTE – we are making our borders more secure, our infrastructure and transportation systems safer, and our information and communications systems better protected.  

About the Author: Marie Richards serves as the Deputy Coordinator for Regional and Multilateral Affairs, Bureau of Counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State.