Security Council Open Debate "The Protection of Critical Infrastructure Against Terrorist Attacks"

Statement by H.E. Karel J.G. van Oosterom,
Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
to the United Nations,
New York, 13 February 2017

Diakuyu pane Prezydente,

Please imagine: it’s 9:37 in the morning and there is a disruption in one of the main power stations in a country, causing a power failure in the capital region. People get stuck in elevators. Trains stop running. The national airport halts all incoming flights. And hospitals can perform only life-saving surgery. When at 15:08 the power is fully back on again, a total of one million homes have had no electricity for hours.  

Unfortunately, this sequence of events is no fiction. It’s the story of one of the biggest power outages that my country experienced on March 27th, 2015. The disruption in the power station near Amsterdam was not caused by a terrorist attack, but the experience shows how dependent we are on our critical infrastructures. And how great the consequences can be if they are disrupted.

Mr. President,

Thank you for organizing today’s important open debate on the protection of critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks.

The Netherlands aligns itself with the statement made by the European Union and supports the statement made by His Excellency Mr. Vincenzo Amendola of Italy.

In my national capacity I would like to add a few remarks on our national approach to protect our critical infrastructure, three good practices derived from it and on international cooperation.

National approach

We live in an increasingly uncertain world. It’s important to have a comprehensive framework to determine the threats that pose a danger to our national security, including its critical infrastructure. And ways to address those threats.

In the Netherlands, the protection of our critical infrastructure is part of our National Security Strategy. It is based on the answers to three questions:

1.      What threatens us and how bad is it?

2.      What are we already doing to address the threats and what can and must we do more?

3.      How do we implement necessary policies and strengthen capacities?

Of course, the answer to the last question is key…and complicated. 80% of the critical processes that make up the critical infrastructure in the Netherlands are owned by private actors. Engaging them is not a choice, but a necessity. But many other actors, like semi-government bodies, play an important role as well.

In our approach these ‘critical providers’are themselves prime responsible for the continuity and resilience of the critical processes they own. As a national government we provide legal and policy frameworks and oversight.   

Good practices

Mr. President,

Allow me to share three practices that work well in our national context.

First of all, we have chosen for a general approach to the protection of our critical infrastructure. Thisincludes, but is not limited to the threat of terrorist attacks. By assessing the risks of different types threats in the same way, the risks become comparable. This makes it easier to prioritize.

Secondly, with the help of public and private actors we have compiled one complete list of critical infrastructure containing two categories of vital processes, A and B. Disruption of A processes has greater consequences than the disruption of B processes. Having one list and two categories allows for a more effective and efficient allocation of means.

Thirdly, we work with a counter-terrorism alert system. If our intelligence services detect a serious terrorist threat to a particular vital process, providers and other stakeholders are  informed. Pre-determined, heightened security plans will be triggered to reduce the threat and limit the potential effects of a terrorist attack.

International cooperation

Mr. President,

National efforts are important, but a response to terrorist threats against critical infrastructure can never be solely national. Critical infrastructures like airports and energy systems are by their nature international. And our response to the threats against them should be equally international.

In that spirit my government last week approved our first international cyber strategy. It outlines where and how to cooperate with international partners to ensure a free and open cyber domaine, safe from terrorists. For, in the words of our Minister Koenders: ‘By cooperating in coalitions with other countries, we can better counter the threats we face.’

Security Council resolution 2341, which The Netherlands co-sponsored, was drafted in the same spirit. Mr. President, I commend you for getting the resolution adopted unanimously today.

A first important step towards an international response is greater sharing of information and know-how. This Council rightly encourages this in its resolution. We have to be creative and think out of the box to get the right people around the table.

As co-chair of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), together with Morocco, the Netherlands is therefore very supportive of the initiative launched within the GCTF by the US and Turkey on Protecting Soft Targets.

The initiative’s focus is broader than only critical infrastructure. However, the set of non-binding good practices that will be produced, will be relevant for the UN and its Member States in their future work on today’s topic.


Mr President,

Allow me to conclude by coming back to the events of March 27th, 2015. The Dutch electricity network is one of the most reliable in the world. It has a security of supply of 99,995%. The power outage of 2015 made very clear though that 100% security of supply does not exist. And that we must be prepared for that 0,005%. The same goes for security as a whole.

We can therefore never sit back and relax.

We must learn from our experiences to prevent terrorist attacks against critical infrastructure as much as possible.

And we must be well prepared in case an unfortunate incident does occur.

And, most importantly, we must do all this together.

Terrorism knows no boundaries. Neither should our cooperation to fight it.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands stands ready to continue its cooperation with the UN and its Member States in protecting our way of life and the functioning of our open societies against terrorists.

Thank you Mr. President.