Terrorism poses a direct threat to APEC's vision of secure, open and prosperous economies.
APEC Leaders have pledged to help secure the region's people and its economic, trade, investment and financial systems from terrorist attacks or abuse and trade-based money laundering. Their commitments to undertake individual and joint actions to counter terrorism are expressed in two principle statements—the 2001 APEC Leaders Statement on Counter-Terrorism and the 2002 Statement on Fighting Terrorism and Promoting Growth—and in every subsequent annual Leaders' Declaration.
Bearing in mind Leaders' instructions to monitor progress and build capacity in counter-terrorism, the APEC Counter-Terrorism Task Force was established in May 2003 to:
- Coordinate the implementation of Leaders' Statements and commitments on fighting terrorism and enhancing human security
- Assist members to identify and assess counter-terrorism needs
- Coordinate capacity building and technical assistance programs
- Cooperate with relevant international and regional organizations
- Facilitate cooperation between APEC fora on counter-terrorism issues.
In July 2013, recognizing that threat of terrorism has a long-lasting nature and the CTTF’s valuable and constructive role in helping to protect the economic systems in the region from disruption; APEC Senior Officials endorsed the proposal to upgrade the task force into a working group. The Counter Terrorism Working Group first mandate is for 2013–2017 in accordance with its strategic plan.
APEC Leaders also emphasize the important role played by the UN and its Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and have stressed the need for implementation, where applicable, of UN counter-terrorism measures and the Financial Action Task Force's (FATF) Special Recommendations on Terrorist Financing.
In February 2018, the Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) Steering Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation (ECOTECH) adopted the APEC Counter-Terrorism Working Group Strategic Plan 2018- 2022, a document that now guides the CTWG’s work.
In 2020, the Counter Terrorism Working Group bases its work on the 2018 APEC Ministerial Chair’s Statement, adopted in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, which reads:
“We welcome the updated APEC Consolidated Counter-Terrorism and Secure Trade Strategy for 2018–2022, and commit to continue implementing the Strategy by taking collective and individual actions to promote the security and resilience of regional supply chains, travel, finance, and critical infrastructure, as well as soft targets from terrorism to achieve secure growth.”
Last page update: June 2020
The CTWG is actively involved in the APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative (TFI) endorsed by the APEC Leaders in 2011 to expedite the movement of travelers across the Asia-Pacific region.
The TFI encompasses six components:
- The Airport Partnership Program (APP)
- The APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC)
- The Trusted Traveller Program (TTP)
- Air passenger security screening
- Advance passenger information (API)
- Checked baggage facilitation
Four other APEC sub-fora are involved in the work of this cross-cutting initiative: the Business Mobility Group (BMG), the Sub-Committee on Customs Procedures (SCCP), the Transportation Working Group (TPTWG) and the Tourism Working Group (TWG).
The 15th APEC Counter-Terrorism Working Group Meeting on 10 February in Putrajaya, Malaysia
The group endorsed the 2020 Work Plan which focus on six areas and align with APEC’s theme for 2020, “Optimizing Human Potential Towards a Future of Shared Prosperity.”
The group discussed the implementation of the Counter-Terrorism and Secure Trade Strategy across member economies.
Members also discussed and shared information on new terrorist challenges in the APEC region, including the evolving terrorist threat, cross-border travel of foreign terrorist fighters and growing risk of terrorist financing.
Representatives from the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Business Mobility Group (BMG) shared their experiences and works on preventing and countering the threat of terrorism.
APEC Workshop on the Protection of Soft Targets in a Counter Terrorism Context
To further implement the APEC Counterterrorism and Secure Trade Strategy and the CTWG Strategic Plan, the United States held a self-funded APEC CTWG Workshop on the Protection of Soft Targets in a Counterterrorism Context in Tokyo, Japan on 24–25 April 2018.
The workshop examined the unique challenge of protecting public spaces, or soft targets, such as hotels, stadiums, and restaurants from terrorist threats. The exercise also served as an opportunity to discuss the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution (2341) on protecting critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks and public spaces, and of the good practices laid out in the non-binding Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), “Protection of Soft Targets in a Counterterrorism Context,” published in September 2017.
Furthermore, the meeting provided targeted capacity building for developing, expanding, and/or implementing approaches to preparedness regarding identifying and protecting potential soft targets. This workshop built upon lessons learned from the 2013 US-sponsored APEC CTWG Dialogue, followed by the 2014 US-sponsored APEC workshop on Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience (CISR).
Halting Terrorist Financing: APEC Workshop on Targeted Financial Sanctions Regime
This three-day workshop was designed in accordance with the APEC Consolidated Counter-Terrorism and Secure Trade Strategy of 2011, and was held from 6 to 8 November 2017 in Santiago, Chile. The event was structured into conferences led by experts from international organizations and member economies, followed by two practical exercises regarding the financing of terrorism typologies and implementation of targeted financial sanctions.
Its main objectives were
- To enhance member economies’ understanding of the nature, scope and components of the targeted financial sanctions regime
- Strengthen member economies’ capacity to implement the targeted financial sanctions and the terrorist financing preventive regime
- Share experiences and best practices in dealing with the freezing of assets within the APEC economies
- Strengthen cooperation and collaboration between APEC economies
APEC Workshop on Strengthening Tourism Business Resilience against the Impact of Terrorism
The tourism industry contributes to job creation, economic growth, sustainable development, and peace in the APEC region.
The APEC Workshop on Strengthening Tourism Business Resilience against the Impact of Terrorist Attack was held in Bali, Indonesia, from 9 May to 10 May 2017. The two-day workshop aimed to raise understanding on the lessons learned and good practices of building tourism business resilience in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Another objective of the workshop is to increase cooperation among APEC member economies to foster stronger partnerships through the sharing of information and the exchange of best practices in countering terrorism that will enhance security, efficiency and resilience of the tourism industry without compromising the flow of legitimate trade and travel.
The outcomes of this project can be found in this document.
Previous Projects and Initiatives
The United States conducted the CTWG Secure Travel Workshop on “Countering Foreign Terrorist Fighters Travel” on 30–31 August 2015 in Cebu. The workshop highlighted the threat that foreign terrorist fighters and their travel poses to the Asia-Pacific region and explained why advance passenger information (API) systems are effective in helping to mitigate that threat.
The workshop also emphasized the need for inter-agency cooperation in implementing API systems; why international cooperation is imperative; and information sharing for API to be effective. It also addressed other airport screening methods that improve security and effective security procedures in land and maritime borders.
- Trusted Traveler and Advance Passenger Information Systems
The CTWG is also working on two joint projects with the Business Mobility Group (BMG) and the Sub-Committee on Customs Procedures (SCCP) to develop trusted traveler characteristics and to develop best practices on implementing advance passenger information systems.
By receiving passenger information in advance of travel, APEC economies could expedite the processing of legitimate travelers through ports of entry and focus on those requiring additional scrutiny. The Trusted Traveller project is aimed at developing consensus on traveler characteristics that should form the basis of trusted traveler programs. The second project is focused on developing a document that lays out lessons learned and challenges in implementing advanced passenger information systems.
The United States conducted the CTWG Secure Finance Workshop on Countering the Financing of Terrorism with New Payment Systems (NPS) that was held on 30–31 January 2015 in Clark, Philippines, which provided to working-level financial crimes policy and operational representatives from APEC economies the opportunity to engage and help develop or reinforce the capacities to promote the legal and transparent use of NPS and to effectively counter the illicit uses of NPS.
The workshop included a description of NPS and methods, how they work, the outsourcing and segmentation of NPS services, global trends in NPS, and briefings on the experiences of APEC economies with NPS. Also, the workshop participants discussed the threat finance and crime nexus, FATF guidelines, developing prosecutorial and law enforcement foundational infrastructures, and how anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) safeguards, financial inclusion, and economic growth are mutually reinforcing goals and objectives.
Secure Supply Chains
The US-funded Trade Recovery Project, a joint initiative with the Transportation Working Group and the Sub-Committee on Customs Procedures, has its background in the 2006 Leader’s Declaration that identified the importance of trade recovery from terrorism or major natural disasters. The goal of trade recovery is to resume supply chain and trade operations as quickly and efficiently as possible after a major incident. The project was being developed in coordination with the World Customs Organization and is focused on establishing an information sharing platform system.
Source: Report on the APEC Trade Recovery Programme Pilot Exercise (2010)
- Major Events Security Framework Workshop (APEC MESF)
The CTWG, led by Canada, is developing a Major Events Security Framework that provides APEC economies with common practices and standards to successfully plan, execute and close out major event security such as high-profile events like the Olympics or the World Cup.
Canadian experts developed the initial content for the framework. They then worked with experts from APEC economies over the course of two workshops, one in Malaysia (June 2013) and one in Chile (October 2013), to review, pilot and finalize the content. Once complete, all APEC economies will have access to the framework via secure link to the web portal. There is a large gap between economies with respect to common practices and standards for major event security: some are very advanced, with domestic protocols in place to address various facets of project planning to close-out, while others had never had the opportunity to develop this expertise domestically.
Prior to the 7th CTWG in Lima, Peru, as part of the APEC MESF capacity building, Major Event and Security Framework Workshop was held on 20–21 February 2016. During the workshop economies had the opportunity to provide information on major event planning, to share lessons learned among economies regarding security planning for major events and to share experiences in conducting threat and risk assessments and development of concepts of operation for major events security.
- Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience
This self-funded project by the United States worked on ensuring the security of critical infrastructure required for an economy to function, such as power, water, transportation and communications. The project reduced risks to critical infrastructure caused by attacks, accidents and natural disasters as well as ensured operations can be resumed quickly.
- A two-day Workshop on Enhancing Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience in the Asia Pacific Region was held on 16–17 October 2014 in Chinese Taipei.
- Secure Finance Workshop on Countering the Financing of Terrorism with New Payment Systems
This self-funded project by the United States addressed the rising concern of new payments systems to finance terrorism, such as mobile phones, internet and electronic value cards. Many of these new payment systems and technologies have yet to be regulated by governments. As a result, these financial transactions fall outside the existing financial regulatory system and can be easily used for terrorist financing.
- A workshop on Secure Finance on Countering the Financing of Terrorism with New Payment System was held on 29–30 January 2015, in Subic Bay, Philippines, in the margins of SOM 1 2015.
APEC Bolstering Terrorism Defenses
APEC Enhances Transportation Security
APEC strengthens its efforts against terrorist financing
Boost for APEC’s battle against terrorist financing
Air travel in APEC region requires low cost safeguards
APEC reducing supply chain vulnerabilities to accelerate growth
Risk-based measures key to mitigating bus terrorism
APEC Economies coordinate efforts to counter terrorist efforts
APEC Economies Bolster Anti-Terrorism Measures
APEC to Conduct Regional Emergency Alert Exercise
Three main goals for the CTWG going forward: to ensure robust capacity building work is carried out in each of the Counter-Terrorism and Secure Trade Strategy’s four cross-cutting activity areas; to continue to improve the CTAP process and summary report to maximize its relevance to the CTTF’s work; and to continue to support a coordination role on APEC secure trade issues across APEC sub-fora and maintain engagement with relevant international organizations.
- Capacity Building Evaluation Form for Activities Implemented by Counter Terrorism Task Force
- Counter Terrorism Action Plans
- APEC Consolidated Counter-Terrorism and Secure Trade Strategy
- Secure Trade in the APEC Region (STAR)
- G8 Counter-Terrorism Cooperation since September 11
- Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism
- UN Counter-Terrorism Committee
Mr Kennedy Mayong Onon
Undersecretary for Multilateral Security Division
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia
Mr Steven MILON Esparza