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On September 11, We Remember the Victims of Terrorism

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We also renew our commitment to win the war on terrorism.

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The biggest remaining loophole in the international structure to combat terrorism is the fact that there is still no agreed definition of what constitutes terrorism. And, beyond the UN's relatively short (and outdated) consolidated list of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders there is still no real international consensus as to who are terrorists. It is still left up to each country to make that determination for itself. The result is an unending flow of funds to groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, or even to the Taliban, which reportedly received some $105 million last year from contributors in South Asia and the Gulf Countries.

Last June the UN General Assembly General Assembly renewed its commitment to strengthening its 2006 Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy against terrorism and terrorism financing. Yet efforts to conclude a Comprehensive Convention Against International Terrorism, which was to be one of the centerpieces of this strategy, have been all but abandoned. That Convention was supposed to provide a usable definition of terrorism that would be binding for all countries. But negotiations on this Convention have been shelved largely because the Organization of the Islamic Conference (or OIC) continues to insist on an exemption for those organizations that claim to be struggling for "liberation and self determination."

Many pundits have written off the possibility of coming up with a universal definition of terrorism that can capture all its elements and/or satisfy all those charged with its application. But such precision is not really necessary for international counter-terrorism purposes. However, it is critical that the counter-terrorism norms provided to the international community by the United Nations contain sufficient criteria describing the elements of terrorism to provide some standard by which to hold all countries equally accountable.

Victor Comras is the Author of Flawed Diplomacy: The United Nations and the War on Terrorism (Potomac Books).
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