Speech by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism

Speech by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism, New York, 29 September 2015

Mr President, esteemed colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

On 8 January this year I stood among thousands of people on Dam Square in Amsterdam. It was one day after the cowardly attack in Paris on the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo. One day after the cold-blooded murder of twelve innocent people. People around the world were deeply affected by these events. ‘ Je suis Charlie’. We said it in Amsterdam too.

It was an evening I’ll never forget. There we stood, united and resolute.
Men and women from all corners of the earth, young and old, people of every religious background. And our message to terrorists was loud and clear. We are different and yet we are one. We are the majority. And we will not let you divide us. ‘Hands off our freedom’, were my words that night. And I can still feel the emotion of that moment.

Da’esh and violent extremism are not other people’s problems. Not only are countries like Syria and Iraq being completely destabilised, this threat also spreads insecurity and fuels tensions in our own communities. That is why the Netherlands is and will remain so actively involved in the fight against Da’esh and in combating violent extremism. We have an obligation to help foster international peace and stability. And we cannot take our own freedom for granted.

So we stand shoulder to shoulder with many other countries, in the region and beyond, in the coalition against Da’esh. Dutch F-16s are involved in the air campaign against Da’esh targets on a daily basis. We have sent military trainers and equipment to Iraq to train the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga.
We are also providing emergency aid, implementing counter-messaging strategies and working on capacity building. It’s not an easy task, but it is crucial. When people are being beheaded and ancient heritage sites are being destroyed with sledgehammers, we must respond. And we must respond there where it is happening.

A second track the Netherlands is following is prevention. In our own country we’ve developed a broad programme, focusing not only on potential foreign terrorist fighters, but on parents, schools, local government and the local police too. If we can give young – often impressionable – people the prospect of a good future, they will be less drawn to extremist groups.

The idea is that intervening early in their immediate social environment is the best way to stop young people being tempted to go off to fight abroad. Any kind of positive and moderate influence can help. Our approach is inclusive where possible, but repressive where necessary.

Our international efforts include working with partners in the Global Counterterrorism Forum. The Forum is the primary platform where countries can share knowledge and information in order to prevent terrorism. A few days ago the Netherlands became co-chair of the Forum, affirming our long-term commitment. The Forum complements and collaborates with the UN and other organisations.

Over the past year there’s been a big focus on how to prevent potential foreign terrorist fighters from travelling abroad. And how to deal with those who come back.

The fact is that violent extremism and terrorist groups like Da’esh, Al-Qa’ida, Jabhat al Nusra and Boko Haram are constantly evolving. This is not a static threat, and it will not simply disappear. The international community cannot afford to sit back. We must be vigilant and persistent.
We must continue to make it clear that we are not fighting a religion.
We are fighting terrorists who carry out attacks and whose barbarism knows no bounds. For that reason too, it’s good that we’re meeting here today.

The Netherlands remains fully committed to the task ahead. Freedom is our inspiration. Resolve is our weapon. And together we will succeed in pushing back the terrorist threat.

Thank you.