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Recognizing the threat that terrorism posed to APEC's vision of secure, open and prosperous economies, APEC leaders pledged in 2001 to help secure the region's people and its economic, trade, investment and financial systems from terrorist attack or abuse and trade-based money laundering. Member economies expressed their commitment to undertake individual and joint actions to counter terrorism in two principle statements—the 2001 APEC Leaders Statement on Counter-Terrorism and the 2002 Statement on Fighting Terrorism and Promoting Growth.
Counter-Terrorism Task Force (CTTF)
As a result, an APEC Counter-Terrorism Task Force (CTTF) was established in May 2003 in order to monitor progress and build capacity in counter-terrorism, with a view 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 November 2011, APEC Ministers welcomed the APEC Consolidated Counterterrorism and Secure Trade Strategy, which focused APEC’s work on secure supply chains, secure travel, secure finance and secure infrastructure, and structured work around three fundamental pillars of security, efficiency and resilience.
Recognizing that the threat of terrorism had a long-lasting effect and in light of the CTTF’s valuable and constructive role in helping to protect the economic systems in the region from disruption, APEC Senior Officials upgraded the task force to a working group in July 2013.
Counter-Terrorism Working Group (CTWG)
The Counter-Terrorism Working Group (CTWG) was then established as a SOM Sub-Committee for Economic and Technical Cooperation (ECOTECH) sub-forum in 2013 and its first mandate for 2013-2017 was established in accordance with its strategic plan. The CTWG aimed to assist member economies to build capacity to protect supply chains, travel and financial systems, and infrastructure against terrorist attacks, disruption, and misuse, as well as to respond to, and recover from, such disruptions without compromising the flow of legitimate trade and travel.
The CTWG also sought to align its work with relevant agencies and international organizations, such as the UN and its Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and 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 2018, the SOM Steering Committee on ECOTECH adopted the APEC Counter-Terrorism Working Group Strategic Plan 2018- 2022, which guided the work of the CTWG according to the following focus areas
- Continue to implement, review and assess the APEC Consolidated Counter-Terrorism and Secure Trade Strategy as recognized in successive Leaders Declarations, Ministerial Joint Statements, and Ministers Responsible for Trade Statements;
- Increase cooperation with other APEC sub-fora on cross-cutting, counter-terrorism related issues;
- Increase cooperation among APEC member economies to understand and take appropriate actions to address: (i) the impact of evolving terrorist threats including by ISIL, Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, as well as foreign terrorist fighters; and (ii) the impact of radicalization to violence and violent extremism as and when conducive to terrorism on their economies, including increasing risk to soft targets, in order to promote the security and resilience of businesses and communities;
- Increase member economy capacity to disrupt the flow of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) within the region without interrupting the movement of bona-fide international travelers between economies, and promote exchange of information between special and law enforcement agencies of APEC Economies regarding actions/movements of terrorist organizations and individuals;
- Increase cooperation and technical assistance among APEC member economies in their efforts to implement the Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record (API/PNR) programs to secure and facilitate legitimate travel within the region;
- Improve member economy capacity to prevent and counter terrorist financing, including by ISIL and foreign terrorist fighters, without impacting on the free flow of legitimate trade in accordance with international law and standards;
- Improve member economy capacity to ensure the resilience, and security against misuse, attack, and disruption, of critical infrastructure, which supports and enables economic activity across the APEC region;
- Strengthen counter-terrorism related cooperation with the private sector and with relevant multilateral organizations; and
- Foster whole-of-government approaches within APEC economies, as well as enhance cooperation and coordination among economies and relevant APEC sub-fora.
The CTWG’s term ended in 2021 after many contributions and accomplishments to the APEC region. Relevant APEC fora will undertake the continuation of work in counter-terrorism activity areas. Now, member economies are considering specific aspects of counter-terrorism work in secure supply chains, secure travel, secure finance and secure infrastructure, in line with the APEC Counter-Terrorism Working Group Strategic Plan 2018-2022 and the APEC Consolidated Counter-Terrorism and Secure Trade Strategy.
The CTWG’s implemented capacity building projects to support the Counter-Terrorism and Secure Trade Strategy across member economies, based on the three fundamental pillars: security, efficiency and resilience; particularly in four cross- cutting work streams: secure supply chains; secure travel; secure finance and secure infrastructure. Member economies discussed and shared information on new terrorist challenges in the APEC region, including evolving terrorist threats, cross-border travel of foreign terrorist fighters and growing risk of terrorist financing.
Secure Trade in the APEC Region (STAR) conferences
In Los Cabos, Mexico 2002, APEC Leaders agreed that terrorism represented a severe threat to the region, and decided that a new Secure Trade in the APEC Region (STAR) Initiative would be introduced as a matter of urgency. Since then, XI STAR conferences were held from 2003 to 2020.
Discussions at the STAR Conference focused on policies and procedures to enhance security and efficiency in the APEC region's seaports, airports and other access points, including port and airport security; shipping container security; coastal patrol; capacity building; financial assistance, and private sector initiatives. The STAR initiative also fostered coordination between public and private entities to counteract terrorist threats through the supply chain. All 21 APEC member economies participated in the STAR with participants coming from private sector companies and international organizations.
Counter-Terrorism Action Plans
APEC's Counter Terrorism Action Plans (CTAPs) were developed based on the 2002 APEC Leaders' Statement on Fighting Terrorism and Promoting Growth and incorporated relevant security-related elements of subsequent annual Leaders' and Ministers' statements. Each CTAP provided a checklist of counter-terrorism measures undertaken by an APEC member economy to achieve the key elements of the STAR initiative. These included securing cargo, protecting people in transit, protecting ships engaged in international voyages and international aviation; combating threats to security; measures to halt the financing of terrorism; and, promoting cyber-security. CTAPs provided an opportunity for member economies to take stock of their efforts to respond to Leaders and Ministers' directions and to highlight capacity-building needs to implement these commitments.
Seminar Outcome Report: APEC Seminar Series 2010, December 2010.
APEC Trade Recovery Programme, July 2008.