April 28, 2015
The Humpty Dumpty Institute's Higher Education Alliance finished the 2014-2015 academic year when Mr. Mattias Sundholm, Communications Adviser to the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) spoke on UN efforts in the field of counter terrorism at Wilkes University on April 28, 2015. Approximately 50 students and faculty gathered to hear Mr. Sundholm speak. His presentation began by defining terrorism and where we see terrorism today, and then went into the role of the United Nations in fighting it. He concluded with a discussion of ISIS/ISIL and how they can be stopped.
Mr. Sundholm started his presentation by asking the audience for a definition of terrorism. Most defined it as the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims that deprive people from living their everyday way of life. The phrase "one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter", is often used to talk about terrorism but like most clichés is best avoided as there is no internationally agreed definition of terrorism. There is however, a definition of "terrorist acts" and as such there are many international legal instruments that do so and commonly define it thus: The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property in order to coerce or intimidate a government or the civilian population in furtherance of political or social objectives.
He stated that today we see these acts of violence carried out in several regions and countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq and Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and North Africa, Israel and the Occupied Territories, Nigeria and Somalia to name only a few that have recently made headlines. Mr. Sundholm said that the role of the United Nations in countering terrorism began in the early 1990s, but it was the events of September 11, 2001 that spurred it to make a substantial commitment. The Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) was established by Security Council resolution 1373, which was adopted unanimously on 28 September 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The Committee, comprising all 15 Security Council members, was tasked with monitoring implementation of resolution 1373, which requested countries to implement a number of measures intended to enhance their legal and institutional ability to counter terrorist activities at home and around the world. These included: taking steps to criminalize the financing of terrorism; freeze any funds related to persons involved in acts of terrorism; deny any forms of financial support for terrorist groups; suppress the provision of safe haven or support for terrorists; share information with other governments on any groups practicing or planning terrorist acts; cooperate with other governments in the investigation, detection, arrest, extradition and prosecution of those involved in such acts; and criminalize active and passive assistance for terrorism in domestic law and bring violators to justice. Mr. Sundholm said that this resolution provided a unique mandate to uphold international peace and security by the Security Council.
Recent developments in United Nations fight against terrorism were also touched on by Mr. Sundholm including the adoption of Security Council resolution 2178 in September 2014, which called on member states to cooperate on preventing the international flow of terrorist fighters to and from conflict zones. This is of particular note since the declaration of the caliphate in Syria and Iraq by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last July. ISIS/ISIL (also called Da’esh in Arabic, meaning "to trample down") has targeted disillusioned young men around the world via social media outlets such as Twitter to come and join the ranks of their fighters. It is estimated that 25,000 to 30,000 foreign nationals have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS/ISIL in the past 18 months. Mr. Sundholm also stated that ISIS/ISIL’s funding comes from several sources including oil, kidnapping for ransom of Western aid workers and journalists, the slave trade, crowd-funding through social media, and voluntary and involuntary contributions in captured areas. In the Q&A session, questions were asked about how the international community might be able to stop the spread of radicalization of young Muslims. Mr. Sundholm stated that several countries are looking at youth employment programs, better, more tolerant Islamic education, and closer surveillance by security agencies of what is being said on social media and in radical mosques. Another questioner asked how the current flow of fighters could be stopped given the challenges in prosecution of potential fighters. Mr. Sundholm said that the most immediate way was to follow the money and stem its flow at the source to deny ISIS/ISIL material support.
Mattias Sundholm is currently the Communications Adviser to the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), advising the Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of CTED, based in New York. Previous to this, Sundholm helped establish two new UN offices; one under the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and one under the Department of Public Information. In addition to being Communications Adviser to the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Sundholm from 2010 to 2013 served as Special Adviser on Communications and Advocacy to the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
Prior to his position at the United Nations, Sundholm for four years served as Deputy Spokesperson and Deputy Head of Press and Public Diplomacy, the largest operational department of the European Union (EU) Delegation to the United States, based in Washington, DC. In this capacity, he was the face and voice of the EU in the US, charged with promoting the EU’s positions and policies throughout the United States, a central plank in the EU’s public diplomacy strategy for the country. He has a M.Sc. and a B.A. in Political Science and Government from Uppsala University and the Institut d'études politiques (Sciences-Po) in Paris, and an M.A. degree in European Political and Administrative Studies from the College of Europe in Bruges (Belgium).