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Statement By Mr. Reaz Rahman, State Minister For Foreign Affairs At Bilia Seminar On Fighting Terrorism In A Globalized World 9 September 2002.


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Mr. Chairman (Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed)
Mr. Director (Waliur Rahman)
Distinguished Guests of Honour and Respondents
Excellencies
Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am privileged to participate in this important Round Table discussion on "Fighting Terrorism in a Globalized World". I thank the keynote speaker, Mr. Mozammel Huq, General Manager Grameen Bank and Mr. M. Amir-ul-Islam, Honorary Secretary, BILIA for their important presentations.

We meet today, on the eve of a shocking human tragedy that has, as never before, spotlighted the issue of international terrorism. The catastrophe of 11 September 2001 has scarred us all deeply. It's innocent victims span the globe including many Bangladeshis. It has brought irrevocable change and inevitable hardship. Yet it has also honed and hardened a common resolve to confront and condemn all such despicable acts.

Two issues are at the forefront of today's Roundtable discussion - Terrorism and Globalisation. There is need to understand what they mean - what they encompass.

It is a truism that terrorism is but one aspect of many negative forces that shape the substance of what we call globalisation. These include drugs, organized crime, illicit transfer of small arms, money-laundering, environmental degradation, new diseases etc that have invaded all societies. All have intrinsic linkages. None respect borders. They all call, for collective approaches and concerted global action.

But Globalisation entails more than the negative factors. It has been impelled by two crucial forces-mass consciousness of individual rights and the impact of science and technology. The first has seen the push for fundamental rights, elevation of humanitarian concerns and the worldwide sweep of democracy. The second, (advances in science and technology) has seen the closing of the information and communication gap. They along with economic forces and markets and especially the mobility of capital, labour and business have effaced national frontiers. Together, these forces have changed the nature of our world, challenged the context and meaning of sovereignty and infused the need for new and dynamic approaches. Of key importance in this context are issues of growth, equity and poverty in particular. The States role as the sole or key actor is being confronted by multilateral financial institutions such as the Bretton Woods organizations, by civil society - transnational/multinational corporations, NGO's, human rights activists etc. Good governance, transparency, accountability are gauges that measure political and economic stability.

Into this is juxtaposed the issue of terrorism. This itself has undergone a significant metamorphosis in our understanding and consciousness. Terrorism is not a new phenomenon. It has always been with us as a form of low-intensity conflict. What is new today, is that it has assumed new and diabolical ways to kill and injure people and destabilize governments through spectacular damage. Uptil now, there was an ambivalent attitude regarding terrorism. It was someone else's problem, whether the fight was taken up against oppressive governments or alien rule. It is only now, after 11 September, that the need has grown for a universal fight against terrorism. Today, it is being recognized as a heinous crime against humanity as a whole and one that has affected the entire globalized world. It has shattered collective confidence. The fall out has been a chain reaction of suspicion.

Today, terrorism has a sort of nebulous elasticity in our minds. We think of hijacking imperiling air - travel; of the use of sarin gas and poisoning of drinking water. It encompasses chemical and biological weapons, and weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons being sold to unscrupulous agents. We have extended the scope to state-sponsored terrorism. There is the whole issue of cross-border terrorism. We think in terms of cyber terrorism. The dire danger of preventive or pre-emptive attacks against terrorists has been highlighted by the keynote speaker. Today, the source can be anywhere, as countries become more integrated, more multi-ethnic, multi-racial and multi-religious.

It follows from the above, that there is considerable uncertainty over what acts constitute terrorism? Who can or should be described as a terrorist? One definition was to define terrorist acts as mindless acts of violence with no defined political agenda or gain that seek to coerce, intimidate and lash out indiscriminately and with blind hatred against governments and societies. However, this was considered to restrictive. Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia at a recent special Foreign Ministers Conference of the OIC on Terrorism held at Kuala Lumpur (1-3 April,, 2002) stated that " Armed attacks or other forms of attacks against civilians must be regarded as acts of terror and the perpetrators regarded as terrorists. Whether the attackers are acting on their own or on the orders of their government, whether they are regulars or irregulars, if the attack is against civilians, then they must be considered as terrorist". Indeed, whatever the definitions have been advanced, none so far, have received universal acceptance. Currently, the international community is working towards the early conclusion of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

We are accordingly aware, that terrorism has no consistent profile, that it has many variables reflecting the increasing complexity of human society. Perhaps the best way of approaching it is to underline what Terrorism is not. First and foremost, we must emphasise that terrorism has no connection to any one religion or any particular region of the world. Preventive action to combat terrorism should not result in ethnic or religious profiling or targeting of a particular community. In other words, combating terrorism should not assume the form of any generalized action against any nation or people on the basis of a misperception/misinterpretation of their religious beliefs, convictions and practices. We must, as Prime Minister Khaleda Zia said " reject stereo-typing the association of any religion with terrorism". Second, we must underline as a key exception, the principled position in international law and the UN Charter of the legitimacy of resistance to foreign aggression and the struggle of people under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for national liberation and self-determination.

A factor of key importance that has sometimes been ignored is to dispassionately identify and address the root causes of terrorism rather than only the symptoms of this phenomenon - poverty, injustice, exclusion are some of the key elements.

Today, around the world there is a collective resolve to combat terrorism and to respond to developments affecting all of us, especially Muslim and Islamic countries, in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks. Bangladesh along with other Muslim countries has unequivocally condemned acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including state terrorism, irrespective of motives, perpetrators and victims, as terrorism poses a serious threat to international peace and security and is a great violation of human rights.

In this connection, I would like to flag that the OIC indeed, has taken a series of measures to combat international terrorism including adoption of a Code of Conduct and a Specific Convention on combating international terrorism and a far reaching declaration and plan of action at the Kuala Lumpur Conference in April 2002.

Among key measures the following suggestions may be highlighted:

1. Efforts must be based on a sound strategy to combat international terrorism. This must be a multi-pronged approach and should not rely on military options alone. Continued use of arms in the long run would be self-defeating.

2. We must address deep-routed political and economic problems that lie at the heart of terrorism.

3. The fight against terrorism will be more active if we work to promote dialogue, understanding and harmony among different nations and peoples with different beliefs and creeds, cultures and civilizations. As Prime Minister Khaleda Zia underlined "self-defeating prejudices will not help us.

4. We must work towards the early conclusion of a comprehensive convention on International Terrorism.

5. We must work towards an internationally agreed definition of terrorism and terrorist acts. This must be differentiated from the legitimate struggle and resistance of peoples under colonial rule, alien domination or foreign occupation for national liberation and self-determination.

6. We must work towards the early convening of an International Conference under UN auspices to formulate a joint organized response to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Combat against terrorism should be carried forward through contact and consultations on actions needed and consensus on modalities and options available at their disposal.

7. We support all efforts undertaken under auspices of UN in conformity with the UN Charter and international law including implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions particularly UNSC 1373 as well as expediting access to or ratification of relevant International Conventions and Protocols relating to international terrorism. Make every effort to support a collective security regime (N.B. Bangladesh is already a member of the International Coalition Against Terrorism).

8. At the national level we must continue to pursue policies and strategies aimed at fostering the well-being and prosperity of our peoples through good governance and Rule of Law and address and resolve domestic factors that contribute to terrorism.

9. Participation and awareness of people in general, NGO's and civil society is crucial.

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