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Deputy Secretary Burns's Remarks at the Global Counterterrorism Forum Plenary, December 2012.

Speaker: William F. Burns
Published December 14, 2012

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns gave these remarks at the Global Counterterrorism Forum Plenary in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on December 14, 2012.

"Thank you, Your Highness, for your continuing support of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. It is a credit to your leadership that we are now able to launch Hedayah, the first international center of excellence for countering violent extremism -- a critical step in giving governments the tools to deny terrorists a foothold in their societies.

Let me also express my appreciation to Foreign Minister Davutoglu and thank Turkey for its close partnership and strong leadership in building this Forum into a vital, innovative platform.

Finally, I thank all our colleagues around the table for your commitment to this Forum and its long-term vision.

Secretary Clinton sends her best regards and her continuing strong support for the essential work of this Forum.

We meet at a pivotal moment in our fight against violent extremism. In a number of places, we have made substantial progress. As a result of international cooperation, Al-Qaeda is finding it more difficult to raise money, train recruits, and plan attacks outside the region. Its leadership has been dealt serious blows. In Yemen, thanks to a combination of international pressure and national leadership, Al-Qaeda affiliates now hold little ground. And in Somalia, al-Shabaab has gone from controlling most of the country's south and central regions and almost all of Mogadishu to scrambling for places to operate.

But serious threats remain. In the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, groups are using terror to advance their agendas. For some time, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has launched attacks and kidnappings from northern Mali into neighboring countries. As violent extremists carve out a larger safe haven, they seek to extend their reach and networks in multiple directions.

Our goal now is to take greater aim at these and other threats; to stay ahead of them as they evolve and to put into place long-term solutions that will yield lasting results. Because we all understand that long-term solutions are essential. We all know that repressive approaches often fuel the very radicalization they seek to fight. And we all realize that we must disrupt the radicalization process by fostering opportunity, promoting tolerance, and amplifying the voices of men and women who have been victims of terrorism. We need to build governments' capacities to take on threats within their societies through approaches grounded in the rule of law and respect for human rights -- by reforming law enforcement and criminal justice systems, engaging with local communities, and empowering civil society.

We also know that no one nation can succeed alone -- we must work together, as equal partners, with a shared commitment to pursuing a world with more opportunity and less violence.

This work is extraordinarily complex. Progress is often measured over years rather than months. But we can't let that deter us from acting now. This Forum is ideally suited to play a central role in our collective effort, alongside our bilateral partnerships and existing cooperation—whether in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, or Southeast Asia. In fact, it already is playing a central role.

For example, the Sahel Working Group has brought together senior policymakers from across the region to focus on border security and develop best practices for criminal justice. And later today we will adopt a Plan of Action on Victims of Terrorism, to help strengthen victims' associations and break new diplomatic ground by offering the first set of international best practices aimed at ending kidnapping for ransom.

The two training centers we've set into motion will make significant contributions to counter global terrorism and the ideologies that fuel it. First, the new facility here in the UAE -- Hedayah -- will train police, educators, religious and community leaders, and policymakers. This time next year, we hope to launch a second facility in Tunis: The International Institute of Justice and the Rule of Law, which will help investigators, prosecutors, and others develop rule of law-based tools to prevent and respond to terrorism. We hope these facilities will educate a new generation of criminal justice officials who will themselves go on to change mindsets within their own institutions.

When our countries and groups came together in January 2011 to discuss the idea for this Forum, we agreed that it should be an action-oriented platform -- not another talk shop, but a place to find and share what works, nimble and strategic enough to address threats as they emerge.

Now we must continue the work we have begun. My country remains strongly committed to the Global Counterterrorism Forum. We consider this to be the central mechanism for innovative, civilian-led counterterrorism cooperation.

We will remain an active partner for the long term. We thank you all for your cooperation, your resolve and everything your countries do to defeat violent extremism and leave behind a safer world. Thank you."