Terrorism is not a phenomenon of the 21th century; it has long been a method of violent action by individuals and organizations alike attempting to achieve their political goals. Since the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers however, terrorism has inherently changed into a new form which involves different actors, underlying motivations and actions. The death of Osama Bin Laden diminished the power of Al Qaeda, raising hopes that the war on terror was nearing its end. Nevertheless, the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other terrorist groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Shabaab in Somalia has further undermined stability in the Middle East and Africa. Their extremist ideology, brutal acts and crimes against humanity pose a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security. The problem of defining what constitutes terrorism is one of the most disputed terms in international law. There is neither an academic nor an accurate legal consensus regarding the definition of terrorism. The various definitions available tend to reflect the political world-view of the definer. An act of barbarism can be classified differently, depending on the identity of the perpetrator.
The world has recently witnessed a number of cruel terrorist acts, such as in Paris, Beirut, Mali, Tunisia, Turkey, and Syria. On the evening of 13 November 2015, 130 people were killed in Paris by gunmen and suicide-bombers. A day earlier, suicide- bombers killed 43 people in Lebanon. A few weeks before that, 224 passengers died when a bomb destroyed a Russian aircraft flying over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula6.
Combating terrorism is integral to the mandate of the United Nations. The UN Charter sets out the purpose of the organization, which includes the maintenance of international peace and security, to take collective measures to prevent threats to peace and suppress aggression, and to promote human rights and economic development. In 2001, the UN Security Council established a Counter Terrorism Committee under Resolution 1373. This document obliges Member States to take a number of measures to prevent terrorist activities and to criminalize various forms of terrorist actions, as well as to take measures that assist and promote cooperation among countries including adherence to international counter-terrorism instruments. The Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted on 8 September 2006 further develops and strengthens those steps and brings them into a focused concrete plan of action. Member States are to take measures to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, to combat and prevent terrorism, to build national capacities to counter terrorism and to respect the principles of human rights and the rule of while countering terrorism.
The United Nations must focus on strengthening the implementation of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, discovering linkages between development and security, and exploring existing coordination mechanisms at the multinational and regional levels and strengthening those.