- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2006

One of the most difficult challenges faced by U.S. policy-makers is how to get the United Nations to play a constructive role in choking off funds to terrorist organizations — most prominently al Qaeda.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, Washington’s efforts to involve the United Nations in opposing state-supported terrorism made little progress. But that began to change following the August 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. When Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers defied U.N. Security Council demands to shut down al Qaeda terrorist training camps and extradite Osama bin Laden, sanctions were imposed against the regime and against al Qaeda.

Following the September 11 attacks, the Security Council passed additional resolutions requiring all countries to make terrorism a criminal offense and to freeze funds of those involved in terrorist actions. It also voted to set up a list of designated persons and institutions that are affiliated with al Qaeda and, therefore, subject to sanctions barring them from crossing national borders and obtaining weapons and funding.

Unfortunately, the entity charged with enforcing the sanctions — the Al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee — is plagued by many problems. One is that poor countries may lack the financial resources to vigorously carry out their responsibilities under the resolution.

Another problem is that, because of political reasons, countries are often reluctant to forward the names of their own nationals to the sanctions committee, and the committee itself lacks the authority to recommend names for consideration. In many instances, countries fail to respond for requests for assistance or issue pro forma responses that yield little useful information.

As a result, many persons and organizations that collaborate with al Qaeda are omitted from the U.N. list — a point acknowledged by the sanctions committee in January, when it issued its 2005 report. There were 204 individuals on the list, but the committee conceded that number should be much higher. The effectiveness of the sanctions, it said, depends in large part on “ensuring that all individuals and entities who should be on the list are in fact on it.”

Indeed, the United Nations must do much more to aid U.S.-led efforts to cut off the flow of funds to the terrorist networks. One way to achieve this would be to strengthen the oversight of the sanctions committee’s work. The Monitoring Group was dismissed in January 2004 after issuing several reports criticizing the failure of certain countries to cut off the flow of money to al Qaeda. The Analytical and Monitoring body that replaced it lacks independence and is weakened by rules requiring it to divulge its sources and information to every country that it wants to discuss in its reports.

A better approach would be to create a body of senior statesmen with independent oversight authority, and perhaps most importantly, with clear authority to “name and shame” those nations and persons who fail to cooperate in a meaningful way.

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