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United Nations adopts plan to attack Islamic State's funding

By Yoshita Singh
December 18, 2015 13:08 IST
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UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution to cut off all sources of funding to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda with finance ministers from the member nations vowing to ramp up sanctions against the terror groups.

In the resolution adopted on Thursday at the first-ever meeting of finance ministers, the 15-member body called for enhanced actions, from closing financial system loopholes to stopping the abuse of charitable causes, as well as updating the existing IS and Al Qaeda sanctions list.

At the session presided over by American Treasury Secretary Jack Lew under US’ monthly presidency, the Council stressed that already existing resolutions mandating nations to ensure that financial assets are not transferred to terrorists by persons within their territory “shall also apply to the payment of ransoms to individuals, groups, undertakings or entities on the IS and Al Qaeda Sanctions List regardless of how or by whom the ransom is paid.”

The resolution called for increased international cooperation in sharing information and closer collaboration with the private sector to identify suspect transactions.

The Council also called on member states to promote enhanced vigilance by persons within their jurisdiction to detect any diversion of explosives and raw materials and components that can be used to manufacture improvised explosive devices or unconventional weapons, including chemical components, detonators, detonating cord, or poisons.

Lew told the Council that IS is a challenging financial target.

“Unlike other terror groups, IS derives a relatively small share of its funding from donors abroad. Instead, IS generates wealth from economic activity and resources within territory under its control.

“IS’ financing has evolved from seizing territory and looting bank vaults to leveraging more renewable revenue streams: so far, IS has reaped an estimated $500 million (Rs 3,320 crore) from black market oil and millions more from people it brutalises and extorts,” Lew said.

He stressed that while the resolution is a critical step, the real test will be determined by the actions nations take individually after its adoption.

“We need meaningful implementation, coordination, and enforcement from each country represented here, and many others. As we have all learned -- with our work to counter Al Qaeda, IS, and other groups to date -- the successful use of these counter-terror financing tools requires robust domestic implementation, deep collaboration with private partners, and intense multilateral coordination and information-sharing,” he said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Council at the start of the debate that terrorists have been far too successful in attaining resources for their heinous acts.

“As Da’esh (IS) and other terrorist groups disseminate their hateful propaganda and ratchet up murderous attacks, we must join forces to prevent them from acquiring and deploying resources to do further harm,” he stressed.

“We know the challenge before us. Terrorists take advantage of weaknesses in financial and regulatory regimes to raise funds. They circumvent formal channels to avoid detection, and exploit new technologies and tools to transfer resources.

They have forged destructive and very profitable links with drug and criminal syndicates -- among others. And they abuse charitable causes to trick individuals to contribute,” the UN chief said.

He noted that progress has been made over the years in identifying and limiting various methods of terrorist financing, with member states ratifying the International Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and adopting legislation to criminalise terrorist financing and strengthen regulatory systems.

“Still, more needs to be done,” Ban said.

“Terrorists continue to adapt their tactics and diversify their funding sources. Today, Da’esh runs a multi-million dollar economy in territories under its control.

Da’esh terrorists raise money through the oil trade, extortion, undetected cash couriers, kidnapping for ransom, trafficking of humans and arms and racketeering,” he said.

“They loot and sell precious cultural property, shamelessly profiting from the destruction of humanity’s common heritage. Social media outreach is exploited by Da’esh, not just for radicalisation and recruiting, but also for fundraising. Other terrorist organisations around the world -- from Boko Haram to Al-Shabaab to the Taliban -- are following suit.”

With terrorists increasingly employing elusive tricks to raise and transfer funds, covering their tracks and leaving little evidence to identify tainted resources, the international community must stay ahead of the curve to combat their ploys, he said, noting that many states have yet to set up the necessary legal regimes and institutions to identify and freeze terrorist assets.

Ban called for increased international cooperation in sharing information and expertise, especially in stopping the illegal trade of cultural artefacts, and closer cooperation with the private and charitable sectors to identify suspected transactions. 

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