Skip to content

Illustration by Security Management, iStock

Opportunistic Terrorists Continue to Adapt, UN Security Council Warns

The threat of terrorism has increased, the United Nations Security Council warned earlier this month. In addition, new technologies have enabled terrorism to reach further into different corners of the globe.

The Security Council’s presidential statement—which is one step below a resolution—was approved by all 15 council members, and it strongly condemned the flow of weapons, military equipment, drones, and explosives to Islamic State and al Qaeda extremists and affiliates, The Washington Post reported. Despite leadership losses in these terrorist organizations, they continue to exploit instability, fragility, and conflict—especially in West Africa and the Sahel, as well as areas in the Middle East.

Terror financing avenues have also diversified, now including the abuse of legitimate businesses and nonprofit groups, kidnapping for ransom, human trafficking, the theft and sale of cultural property, drugs, and weapons. Vladimir Voronkov, head of the UN Office on Counter Terrorism, told the council that terrorists are “adapting opportunistically,” including around both attack vectors and financing sources, which makes it difficult to produce a coordinated international response. The council urged UN member states to prioritize countering terrorism financing.

The statement added that “strengthening cooperation in countering the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes” is needed—referencing the increased use of the Internet, social media, virtual assets, and increasing global misuse of drones for terrorism, the Post reported.

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told the Security Council that “last year, the world faced more than 8,000 terrorist incidents, across 65 countries, killing more than 23,000 people.” The UN estimates that racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism has increased more than 320 percent in recent years.

A report issued in July by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime noted that, in some member states, the phenomenon of xenophobic or racially motivated terrorism “now represents the most serious threat to national security, necessitating increasing attention from law enforcement, intelligence, and counter-terrorism policing agencies.”

“Terrorist attacks on the basis of xenophobia, racism, and other forms of intolerance, or in the name of religion or belief vary in the ideology they draw from, but are often linked by hatred and racism towards minorities, xenophobia, Islamophobia, or antisemitism,” the report said. “As explained in this manual, individuals and groups espousing such ideologies do not constitute coherent or easily defined movements but rather a shifting, complex, and overlapping milieu of individuals, groups, and movements (online and offline) espousing different but related ideologies.”

The UN Security Council also warned about the misrepresentation and misinterpretation of religion and symbols for propaganda, recruitment, and manipulation of followers, and to justify violence. The council called for counternarratives to promote tolerance and coexistence to address this challenge.

It is not just religious symbols that get hijacked for extremist purposes—corporate images and reputations can be co-opted as well. According to Sheelagh Brady, 2023 vice chair of the ASIS Extremism and Political Instability Community, “No organization has a monopoly on symbols, despite being able to trademark elements or designs. Thus, rogue groups often use an aspect of another’s symbol or logo, which can expose that organization to similar reputational risk.”

Brady continued in her Security Management article “Hatejacked: How to Monitor for Co-Opted Messaging:” “The ability of an individual or organization to stop a group from appropriating a brand is limited. That does not mean nothing should be done, both by well-established brands and new brands, but greater understanding of these risks is needed so more proactive actions can be taken. There is a role for security managers in this. They should take more of an interest in—and awareness of—branding design, resonance, and engagement to ensure proactive monitoring of the brand, its use, and the potential for misuse.”