Press Releases

    SG/SM/9651
         17 December 2004

    Secretary-General, Addressing Council on Foreign Relations, Stresses Need to Unite around Common Priorities in Implementing United Nations Reform

    Tomorrow’s World Body Must Enact Anti-Terrorism Convention, Prevent Nuclear Proliferation, Promote Development, He Says

    NEW YORK, 16 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, today, 16 December 2004:

    At the outset, let me deal with something I am sure is on your minds: the disturbing allegations over the Oil-for-Food Programme. We must get to the bottom of these allegations.

    Paul Volcker is heading an independent inquiry –- the most far reaching in the history of the United Nations.

    All UN staff have been instructed to cooperate fully with the inquiry, or face disciplinary measures, including dismissal. The Volcker report will be made public once I receive it. And I will act on its findings.

    The Volcker inquiry, and those being conducted here in Washington, should not be seen as competitors. Let’s all work constructively to bring out the truth.

    But let us also agree that the debate over the United Nations goes far beyond these matters. It goes to the very purpose of the Organization in the twenty-first century.

    Today, I want to speak about my vision of a safer world and a better United Nations.

    The attacks of 11 September were a wake-up call. We are living in a dangerous world.

    We face multiple threats that did not exist when the United Nations was founded. Threats at the hands of non-State actors. Threats that cross borders in an instant.

    These threats affect us all, and no State acting alone can fully meet them.

    Yet in responding to these threats, we are deeply divided. On what approach is best to take. And on what our most urgent priorities should be.

    That is why I have said that the international community stands at a fork in the road.

    If States fight among themselves, and do not unite to fight the common enemies of humanity, they will be doing a great disservice to the peoples of the world.

    The global threats of our age include terror, deadly weapons, genocide, infectious disease, poverty, environmental degradation and organized crime. They will not wait for States to sort out their differences.

    That is why I say to you today: we must act now to strengthen our collective defences. We must unite to master today’s threats, and not allow them to divide and master us.

    And I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, that the only universal instrument that can bring States together in such a global effort is the United Nations.

    I am the first to acknowledge that the United Nations is not perfect. At times, it shows its age.

    But our world will not easily find a better instrument for forging a sustained, global response to today’s threats.

    We must use it to unite around common priorities -- and act on them.

    And we must agree on a plan to reform the United Nations -- and get on with the job of implementing it.

    This message lies at the heart of the recent report: “A more secure world: our shared responsibility”. It is the work of the Panel of 16 men and women from around the world I appointed last year.

    I am delighted that Brent Scowcroft, one of America’s outstanding public servants, was one of the panellists. Thank you, General Scowcroft, for your service.

    The report contains a powerful vision of collective security. Whether the threat is terrorism or AIDS, a threat to one is a threat to all. Our defences are only as strong as their weakest link. We will be safest if we work together.

    And the report puts forward a vision of a radically reformed United Nations. I share that vision. But what, exactly, would the United Nations of tomorrow look like?

    Tomorrow’s United Nations would unite States in preventing terrorism.

    The Security Council has already done a lot to curb the flow of arms, funds, and technology to terrorist cells. But we must go further.

    The Panel has proposed a definition of terrorism. It makes clear that no cause whatsoever justifies the targeting of civilians and non-combatants.

    Member States should use it to enact a full anti-terrorism convention. The United Nations must make clear that it has zero tolerance of terrorism -- of any kind, for any reason.

    We must also take strong multilateral action to keep deadly weapons out of dangerous hands.

    Tomorrow’s United Nations would provide a more muscular framework to prevent a cascade of nuclear proliferation.

    We need tighter rules for inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

    We need incentives for States to forego domestic uranium enrichment and reprocessing facilities.

    And we need a verifiable fissile material cut-off treaty.

    Tomorrow’s United Nations would be an Organization through which all States get much more serious about promoting development.

    All States must boost their support for achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

    This will save lives in poor countries.

    It will reduce violent conflict and the appeal of radicalism.

    It will help secure good governance and democracy.

    And it will help build capable States that can deal with threats in their own borders before they harm their own citizens and others.

    Biological security also needs more attention.

    We must fight AIDS with far greater determination -- and I thank President Bush for his leadership on AIDS.

    We need a major initiative to build public health capacities in poor nations.

    And the Security Council and the World Health Organization should work more closely to prepare for any disease outbreaks, and improve our defences against bio-terrorism.

    Tomorrow’s United Nations would also provide a framework for the use of force in which all States should have confidence.

    Under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, every State has the inherent right of self-defence. This includes the right to take pre-emptive action, if it faces an imminent threat.

    Beyond that, the report suggests a number of guidelines to make Security Council decisions on the use of force more consistent and more effective.

    The Security Council must be proactive to prevent nightmare scenarios, such as a nuclear terrorist attack, from unfolding. The Council must stand ready to authorize the preventive use of force in appropriate circumstances.

    The report also recognizes something I have long advocated: State sovereignty is not a license for mass murder. Governments must assume their responsibility to protect their citizens.

    Where they do not, the Security Council must assume its responsibility to protect. The Council may sometimes have to authorize the use of force to stop mass atrocities inside sovereign States. States must be prepared to back up the Council’s decisions -- not just with talk, but with troops.

    Force should never be used lightly. It should always be a last resort. And if we act early, we are less likely to need it. Otherwise, we can find ourselves facing appalling situations.

    We face such a situation today in Darfur. The international community must support the African Union’s efforts to deploy troops and achieve a political solution. We must work to finalize the North-South negotiations -- on which Ambassador Danforth has worked so hard. And we must build on that momentum, to secure peace throughout Sudan.

    One of the most important contributions the United Nations makes to global security is its work in rebuilding war-torn countries.

    Our record in Namibia, Mozambique, Tajikistan, Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Timor-Leste speaks for itself.

    And our work continues today in Haiti, Kosovo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and elsewhere -- including Afghanistan and Iraq.

    In Afghanistan, we have worked very closely with the United States. And the entire transition has taken place within a United Nations framework.

    The United Nations-mediated Bonn Process put together the interim government.

    The United Nations-convened Loya Jirga set the basis for an Afghan constitution.

    In the recent United Nations-run elections, Afghans freely elected their President for the very first time.

    The job is not over. But the United Nations is proud to have been the midwife at the birth of a new nation.

    The United Nations is equally committed to the birth of a new Iraq.

    I have long made clear that the international community must put the deep divisions over the war behind us. We must unite to build a new, free, democratic Iraq.

    After the war, I sent a handpicked team to Iraq. They were led by our best peacebuilder, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

    He was brutally murdered by terrorists as he carried out his mission under the blue flag of the United Nations. So were 21 other people whose names should be better known -- Nadia Younes, Rick Hooper, and other brave servants of peace.

    Later, the United Nations was asked by the Iraqis and the Coalition Provisional Authority to help end the occupation and secure the transfer of sovereignty.

    In response, I sent to Iraq one of our most seasoned diplomats, Lakhdar Brahimi. He oversaw the selection of the Interim Iraqi Government this year. He helped forge an Iraqi consensus on the timing and framework for elections.

    Since then, my Special Representative, Ashraf Qazi, and his team have been in Baghdad. They are working to ensure that the political process is as inclusive, participatory and transparent as possible.

    Often for security reasons, our role in Iraq receives little publicity. We operate without fanfare, based on the mandate given to us by the Security Council.

    The United Nations’ election experts have been at work -- both in Iraq and outside -- to help establish the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq.

    The Commission has the responsibility to organize the forthcoming election. The United Nations is advising and assisting the Commission.

    The United Nations has helped to train 6,000 election workers and open 450 registration centres. We are helping to recruit and train up to 130,000 poll workers.

    The technical preparations for the election on 30 January are on track.

    And we stand ready, if asked, to support Iraqi efforts to draw up a constitution.

    The United Nations achieves important results in peace-building around the world. But our efforts must be more strategic and better resourced. Tomorrow’s United Nations must have the capacity to move fast, and see every job through.

    I warmly welcome the Panel’s call for a Peace-building Commission, supported by greater Secretariat capacity.

    And I also firmly believe that tomorrow’s United Nations must have reformed and revitalized institutions:

    -- A Security Council that reflects the twenty-first century world, not that of 1945;

    -- An overhauled Human Rights Commission and a strengthened High Commissioner for Human Rights; and

     -- A Secretariat that is more open, more accountable, and better able to recruit and promote the best people.

    That is the vision of the United Nations that I believe in. That is the vision I am working to achieve.

    Next September, world leaders come together in New York to review progress since the Millennium Declaration.

    When they do, they must reach consensus on basic principles and clear priorities.

    And they must take decisions to build tomorrow’s United Nations.

    I established the Panel to open some windows and let in fresh air and new ideas. The period ahead will determine whether the winds of change will blow through the corridors of the United Nations.

    Many of the important recommendations are directed at Member States. They will have to decide.

    But I have no doubt that the United Nations must change.

    I will move quickly to implement recommendations that fall within my purview. I will work with Member States to help them to decide and to act.

    And I hope the United States will play a vigorous role in the process of renewal and change.

    After all, American vision and values helped give birth to the United Nations.

    America’s support and leadership has always been crucial to a strong and successful United Nations.

    America and the United Nations are working hand in hand today around the world -- on peacekeeping, conflict resolution, humanitarian assistance, human rights, good governance and development.

    And today, America, no less than any other State, needs global cooperation to be secure.

    I therefore look forward to working with the Government and people of the United States to make sure that we build a United Nations fit for the twenty-first century, and a safer world.

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