Minister of Internal Affairs talks tough on counter terrorism at the ONS & UNOCT first in-person West Africa Informal Working Group on API & PNR crime
On Wednesday 11th May, 2022 at the opening event of a two-day session at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown, the Minister of Internal Affairs Mr. David Panda-Noah talks tough on measures intended to combat terrorist activities at the first-in person West Africa Informal Working Group (IWG), on Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR), organized by Office of the National Security (ONS) and the United Nations Office of Counter-terrorism (UNOCT).
According to the National Security Coordinator Mr. Abdulai Caulker, the emerging threats that is continuously undermining the Sierra Leone Airport and Airlines which propelled the meeting, attracted participants across West Africa, – Senior Security officials, eminent personalities including partners from the United Nations Office of Counter-terrorism (UNOCT). He said, it was a collaborative effort and planning engagement by the ONS, in ensuring the implementation of the API and PNR systems in Sierra Leone. He mentioned that there was the need for concerted universal efforts and coordination to curb the security menace, adding that the Security Sector could only be unique due to coordination, cooperation and collaboration they enjoy from one another. He highlighted the important outcomes of their coordinated planning, as the creation of API and PNR pillar leads in ensuring the full implementation of the UNOCT programme. He mentioned that despite significant progress in Counter-terrorism efforts, organized crime and violent extremism continue to undermine international peace and security, interrupt sustainable development and adversely human rights. He reechoed that this complex global challenge requires concerted universal efforts and commitment by all nations. In addition, Mr. Caulker said in order to effectively utilize the API and PNR system through connection analysis of a particular data, Sierra Leone will have a singular opportunity to build the capacity in countering terrorism and organized crime, especially those targeting Airport and Airlines. He however hoped that, the two day discussions would have formed the basis of providing the path way to developing a successful implementation of the API and PNR systems. He therefore, encouraged all delegates and technical persons to fully participate in order to be ready and able to translate the knowledge into practical terms for the security of Sierra Leone and the world at large. He showered praises on UNOCT and partners for relentlessly supporting them in setting the API and the PNR systems in Sierra Leone.
In her statement, Madam Christine Bradley, Chief of the Countering Terrorist Section, UNOCT, said the UNOCT across the globe leads and coordinates an all-of-UN approach to preventing Counter-terrorism and violent extremism. She explained that the International framework for countering terrorist travel using Passengers data is an important starting point that is relevant to the UN Security Council Resolutions, adding that these Resolutions obliged all UN Member states to collect both the API and PNR data for the purposes of countering terrorism and other serious crimes across the globe. She however, pointed out that as a way to address challenges of Counter-terrorism, the UNOCT has mandated its Member states to adopt specific measures as a means to chart their own path on translating their mandates into a national framework. Madam Bradley ended by commending Sierra Leone for the hostage, agreement and support to take in the chair of the IWG, whilst urging participants to be willing and able to push and work with one another to cooperate and tackle the threats that terrorist travel pose to our societies.
The keynote speaker and Minister of Internal Affairs Mr. David Panda-Noah, on behalf of His Excellency the President welcomed experts and delegates to the beautiful land, of Sierra Leone. He said the meeting was geared towards implementing effective measures to countering terrorism, and to demonstrate Sierra Leone’s commitment in monitoring and curtailing the movement of Foreign Terrorist Fighters. In a similar vein, Sierra Leone is committed in establishing the requisite institutional framework and acquiring the appropriate technology to implement the API and PNR program, which experts describe as passenger data collected from within the aviation industry and transmitted to law enforcement authorities for security related operations. He further noted that due to the troubling dynamics relating to the threats of terrorism in the world, his government remain committed to the efforts of the international community to develop appropriate strategies and platforms to address the threats posed by the movement of Foreign Terrorist Fighters across the globe.
He opined that the meeting was an opportunity to coordinate and raise awareness about the spread of terrorism through the movement of terrorists fighters and to enhance collaboration among key players in the West African sub-region, in support of global counter terrorism regimes and consolidation of the respective national securities, adding that the strides to combat the threats requires security and other state institutions. He however pointed out that Sierra Leone had so far adopted and made significant progress in the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution at all levels as well as being in consultation with relevant UN Agencies to implement UN Security Council Resolution which is specifically designed to deter terrorist from acquiring Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW). Most importantly, Panda-Noah expressed sentiments to key stakeholders for the bold step in choosen Sierra Leone to chair and host the First in-person West Africa IWG meeting, which has set the pace for subsequent meetings across the globe. Thus, the special recognition is a testament of their commitment in the Implementation of the UN Countering Terrorist Travel Program and other regional and global efforts to ensure a terrorism free World.
On behalf of government, Panda-Noah, concluded by thanking the ONS for the coordination of the Security Sector, the Central Intelligence and Security Unit (CISU), the various UN agencies and the UN Country Office, for providing the technical and logistical support in ensuring the success of the meeting, and for the ongoing partnership to consolidate Sierra Leone’s post conflict gains. He further concluded by urging representatives of Member states to ensure that the work of the West African Informal Working Group on API and PNR compliments existing regional counter terrorism initiatives to build on Member states. Other representatives and dignitaries at the meeting expressed similar thoughts in strengthening the existing global partnership to fight the persistent counter terrorism across the globe.