President seeks global coalition against terrorism funding
International conference on combating the financing of Daesh and al-Qaeda – Speech by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic
Paris, 26 April 2018
Thank you very much, Secretary-General, for your remarks, and thanks once again to the OECD for its welcome.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Secretary-General, you have just recalled the framework of this conference and, more broadly, what I would call this mobilization for the initiative we want to promote – that of multilateralism.
Our countries are defined by some contemporary realities which sometimes shape our fears and our everyday lives, and unfortunately terrorism is one of them. For several years, our countries and all the countries represented here, whatever their position on the globe, have had to suffer the agony of terrorist attacks. Barely a few weeks ago, once again, our country experienced this kind of attack.
We cannot comprehend the world order without embarking on an effective, concerted, coherent battle against this very terrorism, in all its forms. We, states and international organizations to which our citizens have entrusted the greatest responsibility – their security – have reacted to this threat, and we must carry through our necessary response.
Indeed, what underpins the legitimacy of states and therefore, subsequently, the coalitions they may form and the international organizations they may decide to support is that they protect. The fight against terrorism constitutes this primary and fundamental mission.
So over the months and years, we have concentrated our work on al-Qaeda and Daesh [so-called ISIL], because it has emerged that they are the two main players in global terrorism. Other organizations are deployed at regional level. But the major branches and deep structure of international terrorism always go back to those two roots. I shall therefore devote the bulk of my remarks to them, without forgetting that other movements act and strike in countries we also support and help.
These terrorist movements obviously strike in the Levant region, on our continents, both in Europe and on the other side of the Atlantic and more or less throughout Africa. Today they are developing in South-East Asia and the Pacific. So what may have seemed like a very regional situation only a few years ago has become a global reality and a risk that affects all our countries.
We have fought every battle against al-Qaeda and Daesh on the ground, and this unique enemy – characteristic of our era and a challenge to our generation – is receding, but not disappearing: it is adapting.
I believe we must share this clear-sighted observation here; we are fighting battles today in the Levant and the Sahel, and I want to pay tribute to our soldiers in the various international coalitions, who are risking their lives every day and on whom these battles have sometimes taken a heavy toll. But our enemies are mobile and inventive. They are forever changing tactics, forever changing their operational theatres, they are using all current technologies, they are present on the Internet, they are manipulating our public opinion, infiltrating the heart of our societies, replicating themselves within our societies through what we now call more home-grown terrorism, and they are using every current form of funding and transformation.
We must therefore show absolute determination and methodical stringency to combat this terrorism. So this is a new step we must take in the fight against Daesh and al-Qaeda, consisting not only in continuing to fight Islamist terrorism on every front, in every territory where it has metastasized, but also in finding new room for manoeuvre, new ways of neutralizing it.
That is the whole purpose of this conference – a conference which must lead to a genuine action plan against terrorism funding.
First of all we must continue challenging the terrorists in every area and every place. Every aspect of this is, first and foremost, a territorial battle, and we must fight it to the end. And here I want to focus on three places in that battle where we must continue stepping up our action.
The first area is cyberspace – an intangible, totally contemporary space but one which has been over-exploited by Daesh and al-Qaeda. Indeed, terrorism uses every freedom granted, every opportunity provided to combat the very societies promoting them. Terrorists fully understand how cyberspace is organized. They fully understand the public’s sensitivity and have very methodically developed ways and means of destabilizing our public opinon by creating the maximum intimidation.
Whether it be the use of the worldwide web to spread terrorist propaganda, proselytism fuelled by exclusion and hatred, or the terrorists’ use of the net to talk, recruit and claim responsibility, cyberspace is a key battleground.
We have all become aware of the central role of the Internet and social media. More than ever, this must give rise to a responsibility, a responsibility which each player concerned must now shoulder publicly. Those who make no effort to cooperate with law enforcement must now know they run the risk of being passively complicit through negligence. It is no longer a question of imposing authority on the pretext of combating terrorism, but rather of cracking down on confirmed offences of incitement to hatred, expressions of support for attacks already committed or imminent threats, and allowing the services combating them to have all the necessary resources.
Progress has been made on this; the dialogue between states and the businesses concerned, in particular American businesses, has developed, among other things since the initiative I took with Theresa May last year following the London attacks, in close coordination with Germany, and in the framework of the European Internet Forum. But here too, we must recognize that the discussions are not moving fast enough, the commitments do not go far enough, the identification of violent and radical Internet users is still, too often, insufficient and terrorist content takes too long to be removed.
I say this here very clearly: progress has been made, but who will have to explain to their fellow citizens that it took a day or two days to remove hate-filled content and incitements to terrorist acts? Not those who explain to you that it is not possible and that they are the great defenders of freedom, but leaders, leaders elected by their people, who are, above all, responsible for their security! And so we have probably waited too long to address this issue, but believe me, we won’t wait any longer: the Internet players must now implement the recommendations the European Commission addressed to them on 1 March concerning the removal of illegal online content. That means removing it within an hour, as we demanded at the last United Nations General Assembly; it is their responsibility and they must be fully aware that we shall do everything to oblige them to. All the players must also share good practice, especially to help more modest platforms block propaganda from al-Qaeda and Daesh, we must be able to follow the results, and automated detection and removal tools must be used more.
France and other countries are advancing this issue first of all at European level, using Europol’s tipoff tool, in addition to our national tool, and have also designed a matrix for measuring the removal of terrorist content that currently serves as a benchmark for Internet players and states in the European area. When the time comes, we shall have to be able to name those who are playing by the rules and those who are not, and the “naming and shaming” we talk about so much will be of great use in this area, believe me. In this regard, we support the introduction of European legislation before the end of the year, as proposed by the European Commission, because we cannot wait any longer, because it is false to say we can rely on goodwill, and because we cannot compromise our fellow citizens’ security.
For my part, I am in favour of our building the legal framework for Internet platforms’ responsibility, because publishing content, enabling it to be propagated and believing that you have no responsibility and that it is a matter of individual responsibility means wanting to have the best parts of communication without taking responsibility for it! In all our countries, those who publish content or articles are editorially responsible, they are obliged to ensure this material adheres to public order, and if that is not the case, they have a responsibility. Why should it be any different in cyberspace? I am deeply committed to freedom of expression; we are in the country of human rights, where freedom of expression is defended every day, but that is because it has rightly been made compatible with everyone’s security.
I was saying that our security services should be able to benefit from the tools necessary for their missions; in the hyper-connected world we live in, those tools must involve swift access to the login data that are the raw material of investigations. This access must be effective, including when those data are dispersed and scattered by private operators that hold them and use them with fewer constraints than the public authorities. Access to login data for state actors combating terrorism must be guaranteed, provided the procedures demonstrate sufficient safeguards and the purposes are legitimate. Allowing spaces open to propaganda to flourish at the very time when Daesh and al-Qaeda have lost nearly all their physical territories and are in a survival situation means, today, irresponsibly giving them the opportunity to regenerate, reproduce and be replanted in other parts of the world. So we must speed up and intensify this battle in cyberspace today.
The second space where we must step up this battle is within countries themselves. First of all, we must obviously continue to fight extremist ideology wherever it strikes, starting with insidious action by groups and voluntary organizations which – as has again been stressed by a French imams’ collective – hijack the Muslim religion for criminal purposes, distort and twist it, and they must know we shall give them no respite. We also need a perfectly continuous and coordinated chain of intelligence from beyond our borders to within countries themselves.
Next there is the Iraq-Syria theatre, which I mentioned earlier, where France will remain committed as long as necessary alongside the international coalition, Iraqi authorities and Syrian Democratic Forces. I discussed this at length over the past two days with President Trump; this military battle against Daesh will be carried through in every necessary form, to prevent the group from regaining any room for manoeuvre whatsoever. But let us make no mistake: Daesh will do everything in its power to undermine Iraq’s efforts to rebuild a viable state and a pacified society, and these terrorist groupings will do everything, in the long term, to ensure Syria is not a stable state. This is also why we are determined to work diplomatically and politically to build the ways and means to achieve long-term stability in the region, particularly in Syria. This determination is essential in order to eradicate the deep-seated causes of those terrorist movements in the Levant region.
Finally, there is the crisis region extending from the Horn of Africa to Mali via the Lake Chad Basin and southern Libya, where both al-Qaeda and Daesh have spread. They have flourished on abject poverty and climate destabilization, and they have managed to live off a trafficking economy – drug trafficking, arms trafficking, people trafficking – and to profoundly weaken or attempt to destabilize every state in the region. We shall continue to engage in MINUSMA by means of Operation Barkhane and the essential cooperation we have built up, in particular with the G5 Sahel countries, which enables us to take resolute action and support those countries too in their initiatives. The African Union is also playing a decisive role in this battle, and we shall continue to support its initiatives.
We must prevent all attempts to disperse Daesh militants and therefore to rebuild enclaves, the first signs of which we have been able to observe in the region, in the Horn of Africa and in Libya, where our determination to rebuild a stable political framework is an absolute precondition for ensuring terrorism does not flourish again. But in recent months in Afghanistan and South-East Asia, we have also seen some of those terrorist groupings establish or re-establish themselves and try to flourish again. And so we must continue those territorial battles, and France will be fully committed to this, in particular in the Levant and the Sahel, but we must very quickly prepare ourselves for interventions in other regions of the globe as soon as these terrorist groupings reorganize or reappear.
On these issues, I call for cooperation by all the countries present here; we must be perfectly coordinated, we must never think that one state can sometimes be protected at the expense of its neighbours and that we can push the terrorist threat across the border and think we are immune; that is false. We need total cooperation, because too often they exploit, or have exploited, our divisions. And here I want to send a message of solidarity, on France’s behalf, to all the countries represented today which are on the front line of this battle against those two organizations. Your commitment is outstanding, and France will continue to stand alongside you, as it is doing today by holding this conference.
Lastly, there is a third space that affects many of our countries, which is prisons. It is a situation that requires the utmost vigilance and one that we should also continue to work on together: scaling up and pooling best practice to specifically reduce the risks of radicalization and the spread of behaviours that fuel terrorism in our prisons. We urgently need to insist that partners share their experiences with one another; the risk of radicalized individuals contaminating the prison population is real in many countries. France continues to experience an unprecedented amount of contamination and we consider our partners’ experience and best practices to be valuable. We therefore encourage our experts to actively participate in initiatives, training activities and exchanges organized in particular by the European Radicalization Awareness Network, which has published a manual of best practices. France’s Justice Minister, who is very determined in this respect, has made several announcements and efforts to reorganize in recent weeks.
These three struggles on our territory are absolutely decisive and the involvement and complete cooperation of all the states and organizations here today are required. To ultimately win this battle, we must address each of these spaces in our societies, outside of our societies and on the Internet. Yet we must drain our enemies at their source and therefore drain their ability to fund their endeavours. It is one of the sinews of this war; we see that in the Levant just as we do in the Sahel and Sahara. Terrorism has always been fuelled by organized crime, major trafficking and economic movements and we must not address these three phenomena separately, for they have constantly reinforced one another.
I talked about this with regard to the Sahel-Saharan strip; terrorists have sometimes managed to convert major traffickers and to go through the routes that were centuries-old routes, trade or trafficking, of which we are completely aware and with which many people in this room are even more familiar than me. But they have transformed them and corrupted them. They have been fuelled by them. In the Levant, they are fuelled by the trafficking of raw materials, whether it be natural gas or oil. In the Sahel and in the Sahara they have been fuelled by trafficking in human beings, hostage taking and drug trafficking on this route that we know perfectly well from the Gulf of Guinea to Libya today and back to the Gulf of Guinea from Libya, fuelled by arms trafficking. And therefore, there is an underlying economic and financial source that makes it possible to develop this terrorism. And it is important to admit that terrorists have also been fuelled by our divisions. We have too often been naïve. We thought that we could help a particular group to defend our interests or to destabilize another group.
Responsibility is widely shared and I do not want to denounce anyone, because I think that the strength of this meeting is in the fact that we have all come together. However, we must face the truth, including the fact that sometimes in recent years we thought that it was a good idea to finance a particular group to try to offset the influence of a particular power, a particular religious sensitivity or a particular regional power, and we were at times collectively playing God. Regardless of whether it was because of our naivety or our conviction, the outcome was the same. Far too many countries have fuelled directly terrorist or terrorism-related movements thinking that they were defending their own interests in the region or thinking that they were thwarting the interests of a hostile power. That was what was done.
So if we want to be effective in addressing this phenomenon of financing terrorism I believe that the first thing, the first commitment that we must make is that of transparency and cooperation. That is the primary strength of the mobilization today. Today there are countries in this room which do not think the same thing, which do not have the same sensitivities, which have different geopolitical interests, which are often divided, which sometimes financed opposing groups to which I referred earlier. Yet you are here today and I thank you because you have all suffered the direct or indirect consequences of what was done at a given time and we are all aware that things cannot go on as they are.
Therefore, the first and most important commitment that we should make today is this commitment in terms of method. This is the greatest strength of our meeting here. This means forming a coalition of the states and international organizations represented here that agree to join forces, to name this common enemy – even if it is not the sole enemy some of us may have and if our interests may sometimes differ – and to decide to cooperate to drain all the financing that could go to them. We will no longer gamble with financing for Daesh and al-Qaeda or all the groups associated with them. There will no longer be any ambiguity with regard to funds granted to any group linked with them, whatever the interests in terms of the region or influence may be. And we will be fully transparent in the sharing of genuine information and we will share a desire to join forces, because these movements have taken too many innocent lives on every continent and these movements clearly do not defend any interest, country or religion.
I thank you for accepting this mobilization. This conference of mobilization is a conference of action that as such is expected to produce concrete results. However I wanted, as you have understood, the first achievement today to be the building of the Paris Coalition that should never falter in the face of risk or in the face of this common enemy. This Paris Coalition has therefore been established thanks to the work over the past two days, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the ministers and teams who have worked for the past several months on these issues and who in recent days have been able to produce the Paris Agenda with a list of strong commitments. Sharing intelligence, fighting anonymous transactions, identifying the sources of financing, anticipating the diversion of new financial instruments and making a collective commitment, with regard to vulnerable countries but also failing countries on which we should apply more pressure and international sanctions, are all priorities we should pursue and for which we have established a common agenda.
This Paris Coalition will be extended to cover the work done since 2014 in the area of finance and with an international remit, as part of the Global Coalition against Daesh and in the Levant. What we succeeded in doing on the ground from a military point of view, we must do in our efforts to fight the financing of Daesh and al-Qaeda, with the same force, the same determination, the same lucidity and the same solidarity.
With regard to this point, I would just like to address five priorities that France will have and on which it will focus its efforts. The first priority is organizing a legal and operational framework with a view to collecting and sharing information to the greatest extent possible among our services. On this point, France, like many of its partners, has made significant progress in recent years. French financial intelligence is closely connected to the intelligence apparatus in general. Information circulates effectively with the financial sector through reports on suspicions but also recently thanks to a mechanism introducing due diligence measures. Lastly, we have accomplished a great deal in terms of coordination between intelligence action and judicial action. But these efforts only have meaning if they are made collectively. I therefore call on all the states joining the Paris Agenda to make these same efforts to promote the circulation of information over the entire counter-terrorist financing chain. We need to have a structured international cooperation network that is responsive if it is to be completely effective. These international exchanges will provide investigators with the evidence they need to navigate the complex ramifications of terrorist financing networks.
The second priority I would like to emphasize is preventing the diversion of legitimate financial instruments by fighting the anonymization of terrorist financial circuits, including those which take advantage of the public’s generosity. Terrorist groups use all the possibilities that our societies provide them to ensure their survival and to mount their operations. Tackling anonymous financial transactions is a difficult goal but incredibly effective for identifying the players and subjecting them to sanctions but also for fighting their projects early in the game.
Today most of the flows used to finance terrorist groups and to organize attacks mainly come from informal cash transactions. In our societies many terrorist initiatives taken are financed at a very low cost and through informal transactions. It is at times the only means available to support normal commercial transactions in areas with no banking facilities. I am fully aware of the need to remain flexible with regard to the free circulation of currency in places where only cash is available. Yet I would like to call your attention to the importance of introducing controls and ceilings beyond which the circulation of cash is clearly suspicious and exceeds the typical needs of its holders. It is extremely difficult in some regions and is an even bigger challenge in other regions. Yet this organization must be done and this monitoring stepped up; otherwise, this issue fuels – and this we know for sure – all the different types of trafficking and is behind the terrorist actions they generate.
We need to exercise this same vigilance when it comes to the various forms of expression of the general public’s generosity. Your work revealed that private donations could be diverted to support terrorist organizations and that charities could be used as a screen, whether they are conscious or not, for financing terrorist groups or activities and promoting hate speech. This is a reality in our countries; this is a reality in this country. Today there are associations and groups who in the name of a religion or in the name of charitable actions collect private donations that they divert for purposes that are not those initially promised. Through our cooperation we should fight to eliminate these behaviours; a balance must be found with the legitimate wish to allow individual or collective solidarity to play its role in building and revitalizing our societies. Yet we should strengthen legitimate monitoring and prevent these diversions.
Therefore our commitment should be tangible. I know many of you have already made efforts to this end, and I propose that we equip ourselves with the means that could eliminate this diverted financing by 2020. France will take strong measures in the coming months to provide a framework for all these practices and for all these financing options and to structure all of these different ways of organizing. It is crucial for our country and for fighting against these downward spirals. With this in mind, although I know it is still under discussion, France supports the principle of having the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) draft a report on the charity sector by the end of 2018 and to recommend ways to improve international standards. This should be made public, on which basis we could take all the necessary measures to reduce the vulnerabilities observed.
Our third priority is to manage with foresight the use of new technologies such as mobile banking or crowdfunding in financial circuits. Digital identification systems and payment by mobile phone do, indeed, offer new opportunities to better understand financial flows that would otherwise resort to informal channels. These types of financing are developing at a formidable pace including in the regions that are currently among the poorest because of the deep nature of these innovations which correspond to current usage. These new instruments and practices are quickly spreading in both the Levant and Africa.
We therefore need to have the right tools to manage these instruments, as we must for innovations in the field of crypto assets, which are an innovation that we must promote while also anticipating the risks it might bring.
Until recently, currency was a sovereign instrument because it was guaranteed and had sovereign counterparties. I am an ardent defender of innovation but I am never overly enthusiastic about innovations that upset the very foundation of democracies. Who are the last-resort guarantors of these new currency systems? Who ultimately ensures their balances? Who will ensure that there is law and order and that everyone’s interests are respected? I can guarantee you that it’s not those who innovate and offer these currencies; they will be nowhere to be seen should a problem arise, as we have already seen on several occasions. So we must also let reason prevail and preserve the fundamentals of our democracy from this perspective. We must therefore put forward appropriate and balanced international regulations before our adversaries misuse these innovations.
This is why since the beginning of the year in Davos I have been calling for a clear mandate for the IMF on this issue and for it to provide proposals for necessary regulations, so that we can work within the G20 framework with the Financial Stability Board on all balanced regulations and to ensure specialized platforms are created to apply basic checks to facilitate identification of the donors and especially the end beneficiaries of the funds transferred. It is not a question of over-regulating an obviously very dynamic sector but protecting it and protecting ourselves from its misuses.
The risks relating to the use of new financial instruments have already been noted at a European level during the drafting of the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive. The key issue is precisely this relationship between the banking and financial world and the investigators that are now compulsory in Europe under the aforementioned directive. In addition, on 17 April this year, the European Commission proposed allowing investigators direct access with all the necessary guarantees to national centralized files in cases of major organized crime. This should help save precious time, which is often crucial when dealing with terrorism, and I think that it is a good practice that should be rolled out as widely as possible.
In addition to the most innovative financial instruments, creating and using a bank account managed by online services or a network of agencies without any particular formality or based on simple user declarations may also be a source of great vulnerability. This is made all the more complex when there is no database bringing together the bank account holders in a given country. This is why we need to ensure that regardless of the method, an appropriate mechanism is adopted in all countries that do not yet have a system enabling authorities to quickly identify the holders of bank accounts used for terrorist purposes.
This measure is part of the Paris Agenda and will of course need to be accompanied by a requirement to make identification formalities mandatory upon opening an account but also to ensure its correct usage. Document fraud, identity theft and lack of user checks are therefore all related challenges that we must tackle together. Here again, we must be clear-sighted, as incentives alone will probably not be enough and we must be prepared to take the appropriate coercive measures.
The fourth priority is to increase support for vulnerable states while increasing pressure on states that fail to meet standards. We should bolster and better coordinate the technical assistance resources for vulnerable states and in this, President, Managing Director, Commissioners, you have a special responsibility with which we will help support you. We should also enhance the collective commitment of states and international organizations regarding states which are on the FATF grey or black lists. All stakeholders should learn lessons from a country being included on one of these lists.
Equally, states and international organizations must implement frameworks setting out the necessary measures for these countries, and should such frameworks exist already, as they do at the IMF and World Bank, they should be re-examined and updated where necessary. I think that we should in no way be complacent on this issue or allow any weaknesses in our methods. It should also be states’ responsibility to put in place effective law enforcement and sanctions instruments at national level. I have therefore strengthened France’s capability to take asset-freezing measures on a national level and support measures on an international level against natural or legal persons who have contributed to terrorist financing.
Over the last few years we have often imposed general or sectoral financial sanctions on issues which were not always terrorist related. When you look at the facts these are not always the most efficient sanctions, but to fight terrorism we must step up these asset-freezing sanctions by making sure they are better targeted and not easing off. There are 88 asset-freezing measures currently in place in France, a fourfold increase on eight months ago. This shows that when we put our minds to it we can take action and it generally has an impact on the individuals concerned, and this is the objective we aim for. We also need to make faster progress on mutual recognition of asset-freezing decisions in order to increase the speed of our interventions. The European Commission recently proposed this approach at European level and I am behind this.
Lastly, the final priority concerns the international Financial Action Task Force, which, together with the regional bodies responsible for the same mission, is the shared tool that we should expand and advance as we step up our commitment to fighting terrorist financing. This priority should have two main focuses, the first of which should be implementation of existing standards drawn up and promoted by the FATF. The FATF’s 40 recommendations give us high-level and precise standards to fight terrorist financing. These standards currently apply to all states, even those which are not members of the FATF, but the challenge is to ensure that they are not only transposed into national law but effectively implemented.
Secondly, the authority, visibility and resources of the FATF should be reinforced precisely to better monitor the implementation of these standards. The FATF’s links with FATF-Style Regional Bodies should also be stepped up to ensure that the implementation of these standards is coherently and rigorously controlled in all countries. This structure, implementation and continuity of monitoring and surveillance are absolutely indispensable. France intends to be fully involved in giving the FATF the means to carry out its missions and reach its objectives. And I would like to take this opportunity to commit to increasing our annual contribution to the running of this institution and significantly increase the resources allocated to running mutual assessments, which ensure greater effectiveness in fighting terrorist financing in the most vulnerable countries.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, the work carried out over the last two days has been significant and promising. Significant because it shows a modern and clear-sighted approach to the terrorist threat. Promising because it has helped overcome differences, develop new ideas and confirm concrete trends. I would also like to welcome again the commitment shown by your presence at this conference, the commitment of all, from the countries of the Middle East whose commitment is remarkable in every respect to those who are not in agreement on all issues but have agreed to move beyond all differing points of view and commit to this new method. It is essential, it is a world first; we must maintain it, encourage it and make it last.
To ensure that it lasts we have an international technical tool, the FATF, which we must strengthen to ensure it reaches its full capability and enable it to monitor our work. Beyond this, we need to ensure sufficient political monitoring, commitment which will continue to give momentum to this monitoring and drive this Paris Coalition which we now make up. I will be visiting Australia in a few days’ time and they have agreed to take up the mantle from France and organize the next meeting for this coalition, for which I would like to extend my warmest thanks. For the here and now, I propose that our two countries take your agenda as you have established it today to the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September by co-chairing a first monitoring event in a few months’ time, thus bringing together all the countries and international organizations present here today. I also propose that in 2019 Australia organize a new coalition meeting to make concrete progress on this agenda.
Those in this room who know me will know one thing: when I make a commitment I do my utmost to keep it but I also like to methodically and sustainably encourage all those who have made that commitment with me. This, ladies and gentlemen, is far from being a threat but it is a promise, a promise to work with each and every one of you, to honour this commitment because it is essential for all our countries and organizations, and to maintain the momentum behind this political commitment, because the terrorist risk will not go away overnight, because Daesh, al-Qaeda and all the other related groups will continue to attack us, destabilize us and kill innocent people in the years to come and because our determination on this issue must be absolute. I therefore count on your determination and commitment just as you may count on mine.