Table of Contents

Research Handbook on International Law and Terrorism

Research Handbook on International Law and Terrorism

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Ben Saul

This Handbook brings together leading scholars and practitioners to examine the prolific body of international laws governing terrorism. It exhaustively covers the global response to terrorism in transnational criminal law, the international law on the use of force, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, the law of State responsibility, the United Nations Security Council, General Assembly, UN specialised bodies, and regional organisations. It also addresses special legal issues in dealing with terrorism such as gender, religion, victims of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and customary law.

Chapter 38: Challenges in United Nations counterterrorism coordination

James Cockayne

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, public international law, terrorism and security law, politics and public policy, human rights, terrorism and security


For the last 65 years, United Nations personnel have offered high-profile, relatively soft terrorist targets. In September 1948, the Swedish diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte, sent to the Middle East as a UN peace envoy, was assassinated by an Israeli terrorist group. In the 1990s, Al-Qaeda plotted to blow up UN headquarters in New York. In 2003, an Al-Qaeda offshoot blew up UN facilities in Baghdad killing another UN envoy to the Middle East, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 20 other UN staff. The decade since has seen terrorist attacks on UN targets in Afghanistan, Algeria, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia. The UN’s response to this rising operational threat has involved strengthening its internal security management capacities and hardening its otherwise soft targets. In taking these steps, the UN Organization encounters a series of interlocking coordination problems. First, there is a problem of operational coordination: how to ensure that the myriad UN departments, funds and agencies working in the field effectively coordinate their security activities – both with each other, and with states and other bodies? If, in the process, UN actors adopt a defensive security posture that draws them closer in the eyes of the communities among which they work to foreign states that terrorist groups target, is there not a danger that they may actually suffer from increased risk of terrorist attack? Next comes a related problem of coordination in programming.

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