UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during the UN High-level Conference of Heads of Counter-Terrorism Agencies of Member States at UN Headquarters on June 19, 2023 in New York. Image Credit: AFP

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday that countries must tackle the "underlying conditions that can lead to terrorism," such as poverty, to prevent such violence from spreading.

"While we have made some significant gains over the years, terrorism and violent extremism continue to take root and grow," he told a conference on the subject in New York.

Guterres called on nations to "stand as one against this global threat."

"Al-Qaeda and Da'esh affiliates in Africa are rapidly gaining ground in places like the Sahel and probing southward toward the Gulf of Guinea," he said, also citing the "brutal legacy" of the so-called Islamic State group (IS) in Syria and Iraq.

"Neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements are fast-becoming the primary internal security threats in a number of countries," Guterres added.

Stressing that extremism "preys" on the multiple crises impacting the world, from the food and energy crisis to climate change and the spread of hatred online, Guterres said: "We must focus on the most effective approach to ending this menace: prevention."

"Prevention means more than just foiling attacks and disrupting plots. It means addressing the underlying conditions that can lead to terrorism in the first place - such as poverty, discrimination, disaffection, weak infrastructure and institutions and gross violations of human rights."

Guterres also insisted that the fight against terrorism must respect human rights, including the repatriation of foreign jihadists and their families still held in camps following the defeat of IS.

"(I) reiterate my call for all member states to help accelerate the pace of repatriation as an urgent priority. This is a matter of human decency and compassion, and it is also a matter of security," he added.