Delivered by: Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation
Thank you, Madame Chair.
At the outset, the UAE would like to begin by thanking India in her capacity as the current Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, and Minister Jaishankar for organizing and hosting us for this very special meeting. We deeply value your leadership on counter-terrorism at the UN Security Council and beyond, and as the next chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee in 2023, the UAE looks forward to building on your achievements.
I’d also like to begin by paying tribute to all the victims and the survivors of terrorism. Yesterday’s memorial ceremony in Mumbai was an important and very potent reminder of the utter injustice of all the lives that have been cut short or forever altered by the scourge of terrorism. We owe it to all those victims to galvanize our efforts and improve international responses and end this global threat.
Terrorism knows no borders, and through different parts of the world may become fertile breeding ground, that threat can still transcend anywhere, at any time, as we have seen earlier this year in my country, but as is also evident in many of the countries and communities represented here today.
New technologies can bolster efforts in areas ranging from the countering of terrorism, to the development of early warning systems and predictive analysis, and the strengthening of surveillance capabilities. New technologies are also involved in the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and as we’ve heard earlier, sometimes, positive intent can actually be manipulated. How to stay ahead of these threats requires us to embrace innovation but also be very open to new and different approaches and perspectives.
And so let me take you on an imaginary journey into the near future. It’s 2027, five years from now, and in a very heavily populated area, people are going about their daily lives, buying groceries at an open-air market, until they hear the buzzing noises and look up, and there’s a swarm of fifty small drones appearing in the sky. Several explosions and more than 60 people killed in a matter of minutes. Among these victims are government officials who were meeting leaders of the local community, and the drones were equipped with cameras and facial recognition technology. These explosions not only killed those targets but also indiscriminately killed many bystanders, men, women, and children alike. The terrorists weaponized the drone swarm with improvised explosive devices and were directing it from somewhere abroad using a smartphone. Everything that you needed for this attack was commercially available online.
This scenario may seem like it’s far-fetched, but it’s actually alarmingly close to becoming a reality. Ongoing advancements in digital technologies are multiplying the possibilities of what devices like drones are able to do.
One thing is clear: our existing regulatory systems and our policy discussions are not advancing at the same pace or at the same ambition as the threats that we all face. Technology is becoming a force multiplier of terrorism on our watch. Let me briefly touch on three issues that will be addressed during the special meeting and that are very pertinent on the minds of the United Arab Emirates’ leadership.
First, terrorist groups are exploiting advances in commercial drone technology to carry out deadlier and stealthier attacks. Drones can now fly faster, travel further, carry larger payloads, and leverage artificial intelligence and other tools to operate without manual control. Advanced drone technology enhances the capacity of terrorists to conduct reconnaissance and target civilians with devastating attacks, including across state borders, while the projection of sophisticated capabilities is exploited for propaganda, very sophisticated propaganda, and recruitment purposes. This is a cross-regional challenge, from Al-Shabaab in East Africa to Da’esh and the Houthi terrorist group in the Middle East. It is urgent that we catch up to the reality of their deployment, including on transnational threats, and address these issues head-on.
Second, the Internet must not be a terror enabler. We’ve been having this discussion for years. Aren’t you tired of these discussions? Despite the efforts of technology companies in developing detection tools based on artificial intelligence and human moderation, these are simply not enough. Extremist content remains on the Internet, with algorithms that promote the search for new audiences, making terror activity so appealing. Hate speech, terrorist narratives, extremist language, disinformation, misinformation campaigns continue to undermine and break down our social fabric. We must find ways to fast-track efforts and strengthen regulatory and legislative frameworks to protect users, our communities, and our children.
Third, curbing terrorism financing requires adjusting to the emergence of new financial instruments. Whether cryptocurrency or prepaid cards, a diversified set of payment options continues to fuel terrorist activities worldwide, and organised crime groups and their actors continue to find loopholes. With the rapid development of financial technology, staying ahead of the curve and properly addressing these risks becomes ever more difficult but ever more necessary. The UAE is fully committed to implementing AML/CFT regulations and has advanced the entire architecture of that framework to close the gaps in our system.
And finally, it remains absolutely imperative for all of us to continue to keep our efforts united, and to work diligently together to tackle the root causes of all forms of extremism in order to ensure the transnational malign phenomena ceases to metastasise.
I believe we all agree on the urgency to tackle this challenge and political will remains present, but it is now important to prioritize action. Thank you so much for your time and attention.