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At the level of the Security Council, terrorism is the highest priority even though it is not defined. All three items listed on the Council section of the UN website pertain directly or indirectly to terrorism:
* Counter-terrorism Committee
* Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee
* 1540 Committee [to stop nuclear proliferation]
The Counter-Terrorism Committee was set up to implement Resolution 1373 which was adopted by the Security Council in response to the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center. The Resolution is written in such a way as to associate terrorism with "entities and persons" and to dissociate terrorism from the state, demanding that states "Refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts, including by suppressing recruitment of members of terrorist groups and eliminating the supply of weapons to terrorists." The Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee, which had been established even before the events of 2001, give specific form to the term "entities and persons." State terrorism, which we will discuss further down in this article, is not considered or recognized.
Resolution 1540 to stop nuclear proliferation is not designed to rid the world of existing nuclear arsenals but only to prevent the development and stockpiling of such weapons by additional countries. Since nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest problems in the world today, we will come back to this question.
Clearly the approach of the Security Council reflects its domination by the great powers, the US, UK, France, Russia and China, who are, in fact, the nuclear powers, and who are among the primary targets of terrorist "entities and persons" such as Al-Qaida.
At the level of the General Assembly, where the great powers do not dominate, the approach is quite different. The Summit Outcome document at the United Nations in September 2005 devoted an entire section of 11 paragraphs to the subject of terrorism, and referred to dialogue of civilizations as the preferred method of addressing its root causes. It called for "a strategy to promote comprehensive, coordinated and consistent responses, at the national, regional and international level, to counter terrorism, that also takes into account the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. In this context, we commend the various initiatives to promote dialogue, tolerance and understanding amongst civilizations."
One of the paragraphs concerning terrorism in the Summit Document specifically addresses the question of nuclear weapons: "We support efforts for the early entry into force of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and strongly encourage States to consider becoming parties to it expeditiously and acceding without delay to the twelve other international conventions and protocols against terrorism and implementing them."
There was some controversy on terrorism in the recent UN debate on culture of peace and dialogue among civilizations which took place on October 20, 2005.
Some states took the position that culture of peace and dialogue of civilizations is the appropriate response to terrorism, echoing the Summit Outcome document quoted above. The delegate of the European Union stated: "Who could have imagined at the start of this international decade the challenges to a culture of peace that the world is facing today? As a counter to extremism and terrorism, we must choose to celebrate the values that unite us. In order to undermine those who seek to sow division and chaos we must strive to develop tolerant and inclusive societies. We must celebrate how diversity enriches our societies, improve understanding amongst faiths and cultures, and foster stronger respect between communities." Similarly, the delegate of Iran stated: "Strengthening the culture of dialogue among civilizations will prove to be a most important element in combating the calamities of the day in particular terrorism. For, terrorism seeks to make the diversity between nations the source of conflict, while Dialogue among Civilizations can help make that same diversity the foundation for cooperation and betterment."
On the other hand, there was criticism about the way that terrorism has been linked to religious intolerance and Islamophobia. This was expressed by the delegate from Malaysia who said, "It is disheartening to note that recent tragic events - from the terrorist attack on September 11, the Madrid and London bombings to the latest incident in Bali - have further exacerbated the widening gap between civilizations, and generated negative perspective of Islam particularly among the non-Muslims in the West and elsewhere. There is a dire need to correct the misconception that acts of terrorism are sanctioned by any particular religion or culture. Terrorism must be attributed to the perpetrator and not the religion they profess. It is totally unjustifiable to associate terrorism with any particular race or religion. The root causes of the any act of terrorism must be carefully examined in order to effectively address and combat terrorism." Their remarks were echoed by the delegates from China and Qatar.
The recent report on the culture of peace by UNESCO to the General Assembly (A/60/279) includes in its paragraph 19 the following remark; "A commitment to both the culture of peace and the dialogue among cultures and civilizations is also a commitment to fight terrorism, as terror rests always and everywhere upon prejudices, intolerance, exclusion and, above all, on the rejection of any dialogue."
UNESCO's culture of peace analysis reflects its Constitutional mandate which was written in the aftermath of World War II:
Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed ... ignorance of each other's ways and lives has been a common cause, throughout the history of mankind, of that suspicion and mistrust between the peoples of the world through which there differences have all too often broken into war.