SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY AMBASSADOR DEVINDA
AT THE INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR TERRORISM STUDIES AT THE POTOMAC
INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES
07 JANUARY 2004
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN COMBATING TERRORISM:
AN AGENDA FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
Terrorism as we are aware, violates the most elementary values
of human co-existence and the rules and norms of the national
and international order. It has an extremely significant foreign-policy
dimension too. By operating worldwide, the terrorists have accessed
new ideas, resources, and fresh opportunities. In addition to
accumulating political influence and economic resources, they
have acquired specialized and dual technologies, and learnt tactics
and techniques from both the East and West. Over a period of time
many rag-tag groups have evolved into sophisticated organizations.
As a global problem, the consensus is, that terrorism must be
met with an international response.
Sri Lanka is just emerging from a brutal 20 year conflict in
which more than 65,000 people, both combatants as well as civilians
perished. During this time the country experienced the full spectrum
of terrorism in all its manifestations. Now, fortunately, there
is a cease fire in place for the last two years and there is much
hope and expectations for the future, amidst a few temporary pitfalls.
Being a small nation, Sri Lanka nevertheless, participated actively
in the Global War on Terrorism. The country is staunchly supportive
of the necessity to protect all democratic values and the requirement
to actively participate in global markets and related economic
GLOBALIZATION OF TERROR
The forces of globalization have facilitated the rise, growth,
mobility and acquisition of special weapons/dual technologies
by terrorist groups. For instance, the Internet is widely used
not only to reach out to existing and potential support bases,
but also to shorten the planning and preparation phases of terrorist
(attacks against civilians) and guerrilla (attacks against combatants)
operations. Moreover, using inexpensive travel and widespread
communication, terrorist groups have successfully and in unprecedented
ways influenced their existing and potential support bases amidst
them and far away from the theatres of conflict.
Terrorism as we know, is not a new threat. The nations of the
world, bar a few, are becoming truly united in the face of this
historic challenge, rising to a new level of cooperation against
the groups and individuals who threaten our way of life and the
networks and powers behind them. The United States, the European
Union, Russia and-very significantly--an impressive number of
the Islamic States are turning from initial shock and condemnation
towards constructive engagement in the expected long struggle
against the evil of terrorism.
It is significant to emphasize the importance of the contribution
of the Islamic world in this struggle. We have heard of the "clash
of civilizations" and the much taunted "holy war"
between Islam and the rest of the world.
A strong condemnation of these terrorist acts from many predominantly
Islamic countries demonstrates both the unity of the international
community and its ability to isolate, punish and defeat terrorist
groups and networks, regardless of their regional or religious
backgrounds. It must not be a clash of civilizations, but a struggle--within
each of our societies, between those inspired and guided by a
vision of betterment and those representing ideologies based on
WAR AGAINST TERRORISM
Considered a mere nuisance and a law and order problem during
the Cold War, terrorism has become the most pressing domestic,
regional and international security issue for governments today.
In the twenty first century, mankind is facing its first great
challenge. which has been labelled in the media as "the war
against terrorism". But this is an entirely new kind of war,
because we face a new kind of enemy: it is not a single entity,
not even a single State, but a well established network that functions
in many countries, using advantages of modern technology and globalization.
Over the last decade, gradually losing much of its sponsorship,
international terrorism has developed a huge and well-concealed
infrastructure of support.
SHIFT IN THE GRAVITY OF TERRORISM
Without understanding current and future adversaries, it is
not possible to formulate effective policy or practical responses.
The nature and the context in which they emerge, grow, decline
and disappear must be understood. In a globalized world, terrorists
and criminals are highly mobile. The analogy of a balloon or a
shark applies to terrorist groups. Like when a balloon is squeezed,
it bulges out in another place, terrorists rapidly move in search
of new opportunities. Similarly, like a shark rapidly moving underwater
in search of prey, contemporary terrorists move rapidly and survive
on opportunity1. As opportunities for terrorists to
move are many, action against terrorists must be multinational.
THE INITIATIVES OF THE UN
While we all look for new long-term strategies, including, a
new sense of urgency in adopting a comprehensive convention against
terrorism, we need to remember that we have twelve existing United
Nations conventions and protocols dealing with terrorism. The
11 September acts of terror underscores the need to ratify and
implement them. This is one of the most vital steps that needs
to be taken without delay. It is, I believe important to mention
only the most recent two.
Firstly, The International Convention for the Suppression
of the Financing of Terrorism, adopted on 9 December 1999,
states that a person commits an offence if that person "provides
or collects funds with the intention that they should be used
or in the knowledge that they are to be used, in full or in part,
in order to carry out" acts of terrorism, and calls on all
State Parties to "take appropriate measures ... for the identification,
detection and freezing or seizure of any funds used or allocated
for the purpose of committing the offences".
Dear colleagues, fortunately, 132 countries have signed the
convention, and 31 have become parties by ratifying the treaty.
This indeed is good news. However, it is time to issue a strong
appeal for a quick implementation of all existing UN Conventions,
which provide a solid legal framework for global efforts in the
eradication of terrorism. This is imperative.
Secondly, The Convention against Transnational Organized
Crime, signed in December 2000 in Palermo, provides powerful
instruments that, even though not directly aimed at terrorism,
can help in that effort as well. These include: increased cooperation
among the States and their law enforcement agencies; new tools
in tracking down the terrorists' assets and preventing money-laundering
(such as lifting bank secrecy that protects them); easing and
speeding up of extradition procedures; and protection of witnesses.
This is why we must use this opportunity to appeal strongly
for a quick ratification and a full implementation of existing
United Nations conventions, which provide a solid legal framework
for global efforts in the eradication of terrorism.
THE US INITIATIVES
I must also mention the efforts taken by the US which I would
like to term Major Initiatives. These are:
- Creating of smart borders (Canada and Mexico)
- Combating fraudulent travel documents.
- Increasing the security of international shipping containers.
(Container Security Initiative)
- Intensifying international law enforcement cooperation.
- Improving cooperation in response to attacks.
- Proliferation Security Initiative
INTERNATIONAL COUNTER TERRORISM UNIT
There is also a considerable lobby for the establishment of
an International Institution to Fight Terrorism : an International
Counter -Terrorism Unit. This assumes that the international community
has arrived at an accepted definition of terrorism, and the concomitant
establishment of a permanent international mechanism to combat
One of the first benefits of such a step would be that democracies
with less experience in combating terrorism would no longer be
as powerless when confronted by the threat of terrorism. This
is food for thought.
Finally, It is important to analyze at this juncture, how other
important players view the threat. I shall take two examples.
Firstly China. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman recently stated
that the Chinese side opposes terrorist activities in any form
and supports attacks on terrorism as long as the attacks are based
on conclusive evidence and with clear targets and a guarantee
of the safety of innocent civilians.
He also stated that The United Nations Charter should be respected
and the role of the UN and its Security Council should be strengthened,
adding China will discuss with the UN Security Council all proposals
that are conducive to cracking down on terrorism. This is extremely
Richard Nixon had once remarked that had Singapore's Lee Kuan
Yew lived in a different country in a different time, he would
have achieved the status of a major historical figure-a Churchill,
Disraeli or Gladstone. Lee recently turned 80, having for 45 years
carefully observed international trends and maneuvered to keep
his city-state secure and prosperous. While in Singapore a few
weeks ago, the NEWSWEEK magazine interviewed him. When questioned
on the American-European divide, Mr Lee had stated that The Europeans
underestimate the problem of Al Qaeda-style terrorism. "They
think that the United States is exaggerating the threat. They
compare it to their own many experiences with terror-the IRA,
the Red Brigade, the Baader-Meinhof, ETA. But they are wrong."
Lee was critical of both sides of the Atlantic alliance on Iraq.
"When America and Europe are divided, when Japan is hesitant,
the extremists are emboldened and think they can win against a
divided group. The terrorists' tactics for the time being are
to hit only Americans, Israelis and America's strong supporters,
the British, the Italians, the Turks, warning the Japanese but
leaving others alone. They intend to divide and conquer."
As post-modern terrorist groups are multidimensional, they operate
militarily, politically, financially and ideologically. As such,
the efforts against terrorism must be multi-pronged or on all
its fronts. As terrorists have greater patience and commitment,
efforts against terrorism must be sustained and far-reaching.
Otherwise, counter terrorism initiatives against an adversary
with greater staying power are bound to fail. A brief look at
the regional and functional developments in the history of terrorism
demonstrates that terrorist groups have moved across geographic
boundaries and regions to survive. Furthermore, to adapt to the
changing environment, the phenomenon of terrorism itself has undergone
From a Sri Lankan perspective, being a tiny island nation, all
efforts are made by us to support the Global war on terror and
its manifestations. We know that we are not alone in the accomplishment
of this needy endeavour but much more needs to be achieved.
Sri Lanka has begun its own journey towards resolving the longstanding
conflict with the support of the international community. It is
pertinent to mention the vital role being played by Norway as
the facilitator and US, Japan, EU as underwriters of the reconstruction
program and the active support of India.
Ladies and Gentlemen, these are difficult times and it is opportune
for us to reflect on all these matters and map out a fool-proof
strategy, globally, together, to eradicate, if not control
1 Bruce Hoffman, a pre-eminent specialist on terrorism,
equaled terrorist behavior to that of sharks. Hoffman, personal
communication, September 2001. To understand terrorist behavior,
see, Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (Columbia University Press,
New York, 1998)