Italy aligns itself with the statement delivered by the European Union and wishes to add the following remarks in a national capacity.
I thank the Secretary-General for his briefing and China for organizing this timely debate on an issue that requires a comprehensive global response and that cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group. The SG Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism provides us with a blueprint for both global and national actions.
Italy’s contribution to this joint effort is multidimensional. It advocates that our response has to be holistic – political, cultural and diplomatic. It focuses on training local security forces and countering financial flows to extremist groups.
Let me share with you the features of our approach.
First and foremost comes prevention. Italy appreciates the focus in the SG’s plan of action on preventing rather than countering violent extremism. Long- term solutions should be based on an understanding of the forces that alienate individuals, and young people in particular, and lead them to join extremist groups. To tackle the root causes of the phenomenon, we need to address its underlying conditions: inter alia, the lack of socio-economic opportunities; marginalization and discrimination; poor governance and violations of human rights and the rule of law; prolonged and unresolved conflicts; and radicalization in prisons and marginalized communities. The implementation of Agenda 2030 will play a pivotal role as will women’s empowerment and engagement with youth.
Second, full implementation of the relevant UN resolutions. Over the years we have put together a tool box for international efforts to crack down on terrorist groups such as ISIL and Al Qaida. Resolutions have been adopted to cut off the financial sources of terrorism, stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, prevent terrorists from using the Internet and social media to commit terrorist acts, and prevent incitement. Resolution 2250 underscores the importance of positively engaging youth. These texts need to be implemented fully. In this context, Italy looks forward to the upcoming review of the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy as a defining moment to assess the new developments of terrorist activities and the effectiveness of the instruments at our disposal.
Third, balancing national ownership and international cooperation. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The responsibility for preventing violent extremist acts lies with member States, with the support of the UN system. To be effective, national ownership requires an “whole-government” and “whole-society” engagement, requiring involvement from religious and community leaders, women and youth associations, the private sector and the media. At the same time, given the borderless nature of the threat and the scope of the challenge, international cooperation remains essential to achieve significant results.
My fourth point is financing. It is imperative to cut off the financial sources of terrorism, by fully implementing resolutions 2199 and 2253. Together with the United States and Saudi Arabia, Italy co-chairs the Counter-ISIL Finance Group, which met in Rome last week with the participation of China for the first time. The Group adopted an Action Plan aimed at preventing ISIL’s use of the international financial system, including unregulated money remitters; countering ISIL’s extortion and exploitation of economic assets and resources that transit, enter, or are derived from areas in which ISIL operates; denying ISIL funding from abroad; and preventing ISIL from providing financial or material support to foreign affiliates in an effort to expand its global ambitions. We are seeing significant results of our joint efforts as ISIL’s financial capacity declines.
In the framework of the Group, Italy is also the Coordinator of the project group on cultural heritage, whose purpose is to counter the looting and illicit trafficking of cultural goods, which are one of the main sources of terrorist group financing.
My final point is culture and education, which are at the core of our action to prevent rather than counter violent extremism.
Terrorists seek to divide us by race, ethnicity, nationality, and values. Investing in education and protecting our cultural heritage should be key components of our joint effort. No society can flourish without culture and education, and no relationship can be established without mutual respect for people’s history and soul.
Let me give you two examples. A few days ago, we commemorated the anniversary of the horrific attack on the Garissa campus in Kenya, in which over 100 students were killed. Visiting Kenya immediately after the attack, the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs offered assistance in security training and scholarships to the students on campus, in our conviction that security and education should go hand in hand.
My second example is the safeguarding of cultural heritage. Building on numerous previous activities, on February 16, Italy and UNESCO signed a landmark agreement to establish a Task Force to protect ancient cultural artifacts in crisis areas. The “Blue Helmets of Culture” are a tangible sign of Italy’s commitment to the Unite For Heritage Campaign and to the protection of our common cultural heritage also from terrorist and extremist groups.
I thank you, Mr. President, and I take this opportunity to express our condolences and sympathy to the victims and families of past and recent terrorist acts.