Press Releases

    GA/9914
    25 September 2001

    ATTACK ON UNITED STATES AIMED AT SHARED VALUES
    UNITED NATIONS STANDS FOR, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL, INTRODUCING ANNUAL REPORT TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY

    NEW YORK, 24 September (UN Headquarters) -- Introducing his annual report to the General Assembly on the work of the United Nations this morning, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the 11 September attack on the United States was not a blow against one city or country, but rather aimed at the shared values the United Nations itself stood for, including the ideal of creating a world that was a united human family.

    The response, therefore, must be one that strengthened international peace and security by cementing ties among nations, rather than subjecting them to new strains, he continued. The United Nations was the natural forum for building the universal coalition, giving global legitimacy to the long-term struggle against terrorism. At the same time, there was also a new urgency to the humanitarian task of relieving the suffering of victims of conflict and starvation, especially of those displaced from their homes in Afghanistan.

    Furthermore, he said, the vicious attack and the tragic events of two weeks ago made the Organization’s broader mission more urgent. Economic uncertainty must be averted by strengthening the international trading system and making benefits available to all. International cooperation was more important than ever to manage the world economy, as was the fulfillment of pledges given a year ago by Heads of State and Government in the Millennium Declaration regarding poverty eradication, halting HIV/AIDS, ensuring universal education and preserving the planet for future generations. Those aims could not be achieved by violence.

    Opening the discussion on the Secretary-General’s report, Igor Ivanov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation, said the Assembly’s work had begun under tragic circumstances. A joint action strategy was urgently needed that could make use of globalization for a just and fair resolution of mankind’s key problems. The role of the United Nations, as an indispensable instrument for that purpose, must be enhanced. International law and order must be strengthened in the era of globalization. A State’s prestige among the nations should be measured not by its military of economic might, but rather by its ability to responsibly fulfil its international obligations.

    The representative of the United States said the attack on his country had been truly global in scope and he was aware that dozens of countries had been affected by the events. He offered sympathies to all those other countries that had lost lives and who were grieving for their own. In response to the global attack, the United Nations must play a crucial role in the global response. It was a critical moment for the United Nations. The discussion on measures to eliminate international terrorism could help promote unity of purpose and help promote the strong steps the United Nations could take to combat terror.

    The representative of Algeria called for rapid conclusion of the draft global convention on terrorism and updating the existing legal arsenal of anti-terrorist measures. Further, in light of the Organization’s primary role in supplying emergency assistance to the neediest, it was deplorable that instead of the universally enshrined words "humanitarian assistance", the term "humanitarian intervention" was used more and more, raising political and legal questions, in particular when used in reference to internally displaced persons.

    The representatives of Kuwait, Costa Rica, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Nepal, Malaysia, Croatia, Sweden and Morocco also spoke.

    The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. to continue its consideration of the Secretary-General’s report.

    Background

    The Fifty-sixth regular session of the General Assembly met this morning to take up consideration of the Secretary-General's report on the work of the Organization (document A/56/1), issued in accordance with Article 98 of the Charter of the United Nations. (The report has been summarized in Press Release SG/2071 – GA/9911 of 20 September).

    The Secretary-General has also issued an addendum to the report (document A/56/1/Add.1), which reads as follows: "On 11 September, less than 24 hours after my annual report was issued, our host city was subjected to a cold-blooded and vicious terrorist attack. I wish to express my profound sympathy to the victims, to their loved ones and to the people and government of the United States of America. Terrorist acts are never justified. I condemn these deliberate acts of terrorism and those who planned and carried them out in the strongest possible terms."

    Statements

    KOFI ANNAN, the Secretary-General, introduced his report on the work of the Organization for the past year. He recalled that two weeks ago all had looked forward to the start of the general debate today, expecting to be represented by their head of State or foreign minister. He himself had looked forward to outlining the Organization’s priorities for the next five years. That, however, was before the beloved host country and city had been struck by a blow so deliberate, heartless, malicious and destructive that all were still struggling to grasp its enormity.

    It was not a blow against one city or country, he emphasized. Sixty countries, including his own, had been struck. Even more strikingly, the attack had been aimed at the shared values the United Nations itself stood for, including the ideal of creating a world that was a united human family. The attack had struck at all efforts to create a true international society based on the rule of law.

    Therefore, he said, the response must be one that strengthened international peace and security by cementing ties among nations, rather than subjecting them to new strains. The United Nations was the natural forum for building a universal coalition, giving global legitimacy to the long-term struggle against terrorism. By deciding to address the scourge of terrorism in greater detail next week, the Assembly had created the opportunity to ratify and implement existing conventions on international terrorism and to consider new instruments to combat the heinous crime.

    A vigorous response to terrorism was required to defeat it, along with a sustained, comprehensive strategy he, continued. Yet, there was also a new urgency to the humanitarian task of relieving the suffering of victims of conflict and starvation, especially of those displaced from their homes in Afghanistan. It was also important to reassert the values and principles that had been attacked, including the freedom to travel and to exchange goods and services, everything a true World Trade Center stood for. In the spirit of this being the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, the Assembly should reaffirm people’s freedom to mingle across all faiths and cultures. The rule of law and the will to spare no effort in bringing the perpetrators of such violence to justice, in a clear and transparent process all could accept, must also be affirmed.

    Furthermore, he said, the vicious attack and the tragic events of two weeks ago made the Organization’s broader mission more urgent. Economic uncertainty must be averted by strengthening the international trading system and making benefits available to all. International cooperation was more important than ever to manage the world economy, as was the fulfillment of pledges given a year ago by Heads of State and Government in the Millennium Declaration regarding poverty eradication, halting HIV/AIDS, ensuring universal education and preserving the planet for future generations.

    A new global economy must be embedded in a new global society, he said, one based on shared global values of solidarity, social justice and human rights. Those aims could not be achieved by violence. On the contrary, the hope of relieving world ills would diminish if the world were polarized. The only route to a better future for all humanity was to cooperate and form partnerships, with the United Nations at its centre. That was in line with the commitment made a year ago by heads of State and government to make the United Nations more effective as the "indispensable common house" of the human family. The United Nations must provide the framework of shared values and understanding within which free and voluntary efforts interacted and reinforced each other, instead of getting in each other’s way.

    "Let us reject the path of violence, which is the product of nihilism and despair," he said. "Let us prove by our actions that there is no need to despair; that the political and economic problems of our time can be solved peacefully, and that no human life should be sacrificed, because every human being has cause to hope."

    IGOR IVANOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said the Assembly’s work had begun under tragic circumstances. In the modern interrelated and interdependent world of the globalization era, the pain of bereavement is a common feeling, regardless of where a terrorist attack might occur. The danger of global nuclear confrontation had become a thing of the past, while new advances in science and technology and the rapid expansion of world trade created prerequisites for sustainable development of all mankind. On the other hand, the benefits of globalization had turned out to be simply inaccessible for most States. The world had also encountered new threats and challenges, such as aggressive separatism, organized crime and illegal drug trafficking, in addition to international terrorism.

    A joint action strategy was urgently needed that could make use of globalization for a just and fair resolution of mankind’s key problems, he continued. The role of the United Nations as an indispensable instrument for that purpose must be strengthened and enhanced, he said. Collective measures to make the globalization processes manageable and, therefore, secure must be adopted. International law and order must be strengthened in the era of globalization. Developing international law that was sensitive to the changing world called for joint efforts, while any unilateral actions would only erode the rule of law. A State’s prestige among the nations should be measured not by its military or economic might, but rather by its ability to responsibly fulfil its international obligations.

    He said that in the military sphere, strengthening strategic stability was the priority task. His President had called upon the five nuclear powers and permanent members of the Security Council to initiate a consultation process on nuclear disarmament and strategic stability. He reaffirmed the proposal to the United States on a coordinated reduction of strategic offensive weapons, down to 1,500 nuclear warheads for each party by the year 2008. It would, among other things, be a strong incentive to make the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) universal. Further, preventing the deployment of weapons in outer space was an important part of ensuring strategic stability. A moratorium could be declared on the deployment of weapons in outer space pending a relevant international agreement. Practical implementation of such initiatives would require a responsible and delicate handling of the 1972 Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems (ABM Treaty) as well as other multilateral and bilateral treaties and agreements.

    He said the Russian Federation strongly condemned gross violations of human rights. At the same time, the international community should respond to humanitarian crises based on the solid foundation of law and legitimacy, proceeding from the United Nations Charter. In the era of globalization, culture and art were threatened. They could cease to address the true aspirations of the human soul, and be largely reduced to consumerism. A centre was urgently needed to coordinate national, regional and international efforts in globalization. The privilege of being such a centre belonged to the United Nations. "Today, we are charged with an immense responsibility before the succeeding generations: we should strengthen the positive trends of globalization and use them only in such a way that would benefit the entire human race", he said.

    CAMERON HUME (United States) said the attack on his country had been truly global in scope. Dozens of countries had been affected by the events. He offered sympathies to all those other countries that had lost lives and who were grieving for their own.

    In response to the global attack, he said, the United Nations must play a crucial role in the global response. It was a critical moment for the United Nations. The discussion on measures to eliminate international terrorism could help promote unity of purpose and help promote the strong steps the United Nations could take to combat terror.

    He said the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the organization showed the United Nations was up to the great challenges ahead for it. Efforts to reform the Organization had paid off in progress and they must continue. However, one important task was to put sunset provisions in place to ensure that programmes did not go on and on, unless they were reviewed and it was decided to renew them. The Secretary-General had covered that issue in his report. Since it was of vital interest to the world community, the United States would work with all others to enhance the relevance of the United Nations.

    ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said the terrorist attack of 11 September was of such gravity that the United Nations must be the context for all global action. It must act quickly by setting up a coordinated and effective strategy to eliminate the phenomena of international terrorism. "If we could rapidly conclude the draft global convention on terrorism and update the existing legal arsenal of anti-terrorist measures, we would send a strong signal," he said. Turning to the Secretary-General’s report, he said the Secretary-General enjoyed an overall perspective and must identify any weaknesses of his administration and suggest new avenues to explore. At the end of his first five-year mandate, the Secretary-General should take stock of the past years and set out a framework for improvement.

    He said it was important to reflect on how to allow civil society to participate, not in decision-making, but in making a contribution to the general thinking of the international community. All non-governmental organizations wishing to be heard at the United Nations should get the proper accreditation through the NGO Committee, the mandate of which must be enhanced. It was important to make sure there was a balance between non-governmental organizations from the North and the South, as well as, if necessary, financial assistance to non-governmental Organizations from the South. The question of Western Sahara had been covered frivolously in the report. One paragraph was dedicated to the question, covering the invitation to parties for a dialogue, without paying attention to other proposals. The issued corrigendum remedied the situation somewhat, but the Secretary-General received his mandate not only from the Security Council, but also from the Assembly.

    The Organization had a primary part to play in emergency assistance to the neediest persons in the world, he said. It was deplorable that instead of the universally enshrined words "humanitarian assistance", the term "humanitarian intervention" was used more and more, raising political and legal questions. That drift in the language was unacceptable, in particular when used in reference to internally displaced persons. He also questioned the practice by the United Nations of resorting increasingly to groups of eminent experts. Competencies within the Organization here were not being sufficiently relied upon.

    MOHAMMAD ABULHASAN (Kuwait) said he condemned the attack on the host country and offered his condolences. All religions and cultures universally condemned violence. His views on the issue of terrorism would be made known next week, but a culture of prevention deserved mention. The terrible acts suffered in recent days by the host country were an echo of those his country had suffered for many years. With regard to such obnoxious acts, it must be emphasized that terrorism must not be linked to any culture or nationality.

    He agreed with the Secretary-General’s report on the challenges facing the United Nations, he said. The report was also a good summary of the complexity of tasks before the Organization. It also emphasized the global cooperation required to resolve them. The Millennium Summit had been a plan of action for the Organization. A follow-up should follow the Secretary-General’s detailed recommendation for review, but it should not be formalized in the sense of setting up committees and such for the review.

    Further in regard to the report, he said that in his summary of escalating violence, the Secretary-General should have taken into more consideration the actions of Israelis. Also, the Secretary-General’s expressions of regret concerning the situation in Iraq were notable, but it must not be forgotten that Iraq was the party refusing to cooperate. Iraq should heed reason and comply with United Nations resolutions. The peacekeeping force between his country and Iraq was appreciated. The sanctions in that country were appropriately directed at the right leaders and protected the people from their impact. Other notable aspects of the report included the sections on providing assistance to African countries, preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and protecting the environment in conflict situations.

    BERND NIEHAUS (Costa Rica) said that, unfortunately, the United Nations had not always been able to confront properly the scourge of war. Frequently, the Security Council merely responded to acute political military crises with weak declarations. Many times, its actions had been precluded by the irresponsible use of the veto or by the imposition of petty national interests. Many peacekeeping operations had failed due to the lack of essential resources or because their mandates were ill conceived.

    The Organization's peacekeeping activities must be reinforced and the Security Council must be revitalized in order to increase its legitimacy and capacity for action, he continued. For that, the Council needed resources and political support. Sanctions regimes that harmed innocent populations should not be imposed and peacekeeping missions lacking essential resources or given unattainable mandates should not be created. Security Council reform was a key to the United Nations' future. Effective reform would give mankind an effective, democratic, impartial and just mechanism for the maintenance of international peace and security.

    He added that it was also indispensable to strengthen the Organization's efforts against terrorism. The fight against terrorism required courage -- the courage to overcome fear and hate and choose the best instrument against the criminals. The world must avoid the temptation of an act that would transform the terrorists into martyrs and feed intolerance and hatred. When facing the scourge of terrorism, nations must resort to the rule of law, justice and due process. It was necessary to tackle valiantly the structural, political and economic causes that fostered terrorism.

    VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said that the United Nations needed to establish a proper institutional framework to complement and coordinate the individual efforts of Member States in combating international terrorism and also ensure that its legal instruments were implemented effectively. That should contribute to the prevention and suppression of acts of international terrorism and ensure the widest possible mutual assistance between all Member States.

    He welcomed ongoing reform in peacekeeping and conflict prevention, as well as efforts aimed at developing a more effective relationship between the Security Council, troop-contributing countries and the Secretariat. He also welcomed increased efforts by the Council to minimize the risk of adverse effects of sanctions on innocent populations and third States. Sanctions should remain a necessary policy in the hands of the Security Council, but this body must have a clear methodology for imposing, applying and lifting such measures. Nuclear nonproliferation, arms control and disarmament were critical elements of the United Nations strategy for peace and security in the coming century. The United Nations should continue to play a leading role in combating illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, as well as restraining the proliferation of those weapons.

    The safe future of humankind depended on the ability of the international community to make long-term investments in developing democracy and protecting human rights, he said. General principles, as well as international treaties adopted in the field, were the most valuable heritage of humankind in this century. Strengthening and improving the international monitoring of human rights violations was particularly imperative today. However, the use of force could not be considered an adequate means of ensuring respect for human rights.

    SHAMEEM AHSAN (Bangladesh) said that global peace and security could not be ensured in an environment in which the views of the major nuclear-weapon States confirmed to diverge. The worst manifestation of that had been the stalemate prevailing in the Conference on Disarmament. The CTBT was not yet in a position to enter into force, global military expenditures continued to rise and small arms and light weapons were proliferating at an alarming rate, sustaining conflicts and criminalizing societies. More committed efforts and innovative strategies were needed to meet the goals of the Millennium Declaration.

    He said that the demands that Member States placed on the United Nations, and the rapidly evolving environment in which the Organization had to operate, had left it no choice but to opt for serious administrative and management reform. Continued support from Members States in priority areas of reform was heartening and Bangladesh welcomed that. The tight financial situation had induced reform in respect to budgeting, programming, planning, procurement and human resource management. However, that efficiency should not mean ignoring justified growth in United Nations engagement in the world.

    For the past four biennia, he said, there had been no growth in the United Nations budget. Rather, there had been negative growth restricting United Nations engagement, particularly in the area of social and economic development. When the next biennium budget was drawn, that critical aspect should be considered. He also remained concerned at the non-payment of contributions, which affected the smooth running of the organization. Member States were urged to pay their assessed contributions in time and in full.

    MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal)said the world had not become more peaceful, nor had it prospered equitably. The new political order had lessened the super Power stand-off, but unleashed new threats that rendered the world even more dangerous. Globalization had unleashed opportunities for growth to the rich, and misery to others. The United Nations had not been able to live up to its mandate, let alone to the peoples’ expectations. But he was confident that the collective knowledge, tools and resources were available to help the United Nations do it, provided there was vision and political will.

    On questions of peace and security, he applauded the Secretary-General’s efforts to bring on board regional organizations. There was, however, a need to avoid a conflict of interest. Also, preventive steps would bring greater value for the United Nations’ money. Outer space should remain free of weapons, and nuclear disarmament must be accelerated. The serious mistakes of the past must be internalized and recommendations from the Report of the Panel of United Nations Peace Operations –- the Brahimi Report –- must be used to improve the Organization’s work in peace and security. The most pressing concern in that area had become the scourge of terrorism. His country strongly condemned terrorism in all its manifestations and was willing to do its part to stamp it out. Sanctions had adversely affected innocent people and third countries. The United Nations must find a way to mitigate such effects and compensate the innocent third parties.

    There was a need to implement the Millennium Declaration to trigger sustained growth, reduce poverty, preserve the environment, and tackle the problems of gender imbalance, illiteracy and disease. Official development assistance (ODA) targets must be met and debt relief deepened. The Organization must seek to intensify its cooperation with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade organization and other international and regional bodies. He was worried about the increasingly low priority development was getting in the structure of the United Nations. The vexing issue of humanitarian intervention had lost much impetus. Yet, the imperative to remove the deep-seated hatred and animosities must remain a collective priority. The recent conference on racism in South Africa, though controversial to some extent, was a step forward in that regard.

    HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) on the topic of United Nations sanctions, said that, instead of fighting on the side of the vulnerable and weak, the United Nations stood accused of promoting suffering to an entire population under sanctions. The deplorable humanitarian crisis in Iraq was testimony to that. The continuing dire plight of the Iraqi people, in spite of the United Nations "oil-for-food" humanitarian programme, had prompted some concerned people in the West to describe the policy as "infanticide masquerading as policy." That was a strong indictment of the current international stance on Iraq. A United Nations Children’s Fund study estimated that, since 1991, about 5,000 children per month did not survive beyond the age of five. The world could not be unmoved by the enormity of the problem.

    His country had repeatedly called for a restructuring of the sanctions regime, and to de-link the humanitarian efforts from the military sanctions, leading to an early lifting of the sanctions. At the same time, it had consistently called for Iraqi cooperation for the early resolution of the Kuwaiti issues, namely a full accounting of the 600 missing persons, as well as the return of property taken out of Kuwait. His country also renewed its call to lift the sanctions on Libya and Sudan, as they no longer served their purpose.

    On the topic of HIV/AIDS, he said that, while Africa was currently the continent most profoundly affected by the spread of the disease, nations must devote equal attention to the alarming increase in infections in other parts of the world. The impending epidemic in Asia might surpass anything yet to be seen if the world failed to stem the rapid spread of the virus. He was also concerned at the prohibitive prices of life-saving and life-prolonging drugs, partly due to trade and patent-related issues. It was, therefore, important for the developing countries to secure access to drugs at affordable prices and, at the same time, recognize that further research and development was needed to find a cure.

    IVAN SIMONOVIC (Croatia) said that peace and security represented the greatest and most important task for the United Nations. The postponement of the general debate was not a victory for terrorists, but the beginning of their end. He supported the Brahimi Report and the efforts of the Secretary-General "to move the United Nations from a culture of reaction to one of prevention". It was commendable that peacekeeping mandates had already been extended to previously unthinkable areas, such as assisting local authorities in strengthening national institutions.

    But the Organization still lagged behind "in addressing the root causes of conflicts and their reoccurrence", he said. It needed tighter links between relevant segments, such as development and humanitarian agencies and the Bretton Woods institutions, as well as better coordination between the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). An important task ahead was the reform of the Security Council. "The political environment of the twenty-first century requires adaptations for this highly important body to be the efficient guardian of the world’s peace," he said. The current practice of opening the Council to non-members was certainly welcome, but too slow and too limited in scope to replace its comprehensive reform.

    He commended the response of the United Nations to natural disasters, but noted that prevention was lacking in that field. It was imperative to examine ways of improving humanitarian assistance and also to address the root causes of those disasters, by broadly adopting and strictly implementing international treaties to protect the environment. He praised significant developments in international human rights law, as well as international criminal justice, especially the beginning of the trial against Slobodan Milosevic. The United Nations was the only forum that could address such global challenges and provide mechanisms to act together in a coordinated manner. Therefore, its reform was imperative and he fully supported the Secretary-General in his endeavours. But, he stressed that the debate on reform of the Security Council and revitalization of the work of the General Assembly should be extended to include reform of the ECOSOC, as well.

    PIERRE SCHORI (Sweden) said that the reform of the Security Council called for continuous attention. Another important task ahead would be to pursue the reform of peacekeeping, not least its financial aspects. The recommendations of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations provided a good basis for further progress. The importance of the steps taken last year to improve the financial situation of the United Nations through General Assembly agreement on the scales of assessment was also highlighted. He called upon all Member States to pay their assessed contributions on time, in full and without conditions.

    The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery vehicles remained a threat to mankind, he said. It was imperative to build on the success of last year's Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), on the basis of an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to fully eliminate their nuclear arsenals. Nuclear testing should belong to the past, he said, and the upcoming CTBT conference would give an opportunity for the world to confirm this. Deep cuts in strategic and tactical nuclear arsenals were long overdue. The problems caused by destabilizing accumulations and uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons also warranted serious attention. The easy access and flow of small arms did not only not contribute to the escalation of conflicts, but tended to prolong them.

    MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco) said that the opening of the General Assembly had been unfortunately marred by terrorist action on the United States, which would give special importance to the debate this year on the Secretary-General’s report. He noted the impressive work of the Organization in the field of international peace and security, with special attention to peacekeeping in Africa. The international community must realize that efforts to strengthen regional organizations cannot justify relenting on its commitment to the continent.

    He especially supported suggestions to dispatch interdisciplinary and confidence-building missions to unstable regions. He endorsed the proposal to open a West Africa Office, which would strengthen monitoring, warning and prevention in the subregion. To succeed, however, peacekeeping operations must focus not just on ceasefires, but on political dialogue between the protagonists. Dialogue should occur among all parties in conflict, with the support of the Secretary-General, who should submit adequate proposals. Accompanying measures, such as emergency humanitarian assistance, basic services and assistance to refugees, should also be provided. Actions at the subregional and regional levels were also necessary to combat the illicit arms trade, especially small arms.

    He noted that prevention continues to be at the heart of the Secretary-General’s concerns. A culture of prevention would promote bilateral and subregional mechanisms of cooperation geared towards interdependence, which would lead to common economic and social development. That underlay his country’s quest in revitalizing the Arab Maghreb Union. Unfortunately, the representative of Algeria had again this morning qualified the Secretary-General’s preventive initiative as frivolous. He regretted that language at a time when all parties, including Algeria, should focus on negotiations initiated by the Security Council for a draft framework agreement on the status of Western Sahara.

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