12/09/01
Press Release
GA/9903



Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Plenary

1st Meeting (PM)


OPENING ITS FIFTY-SIXTH SESSION, GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONDEMNS HEINOUS ACTS

OF TERRORISM PERPETRATED IN HOST CITY AND WASHINGTON


During the first plenary meeting of its fifty-sixth session this afternoon, the General Assembly strongly condemned the heinous acts of terrorism which had caused enormous loss of human life, destruction and damage in New York, host city of the United Nations, in Washington, D.C., and in Pennsylvania.  It issued that condemnation in a draft resolution, adopted without a vote, of “Condemnation of Terrorist Attacks in the United States”.  The Assembly also expressed condolences and solidarity with the people and Government of the United States, and renewed its call for urgent action to enhance international cooperation to prevent and eradicate acts of terrorism.


Before that action, under its newly elected President, Han Seung-soo, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea, the Assembly decided to postpone its special session for follow-up to the World Summit for Children, to a date to be determined during the fifty-sixth session.  The session on children was scheduled to take place from 19 to 21 September.  The Assembly also postponed the two-day high-level dialogue on strengthening international economic cooperation for development through partnership, announced for 17 and   18 September, to 20 and 21 September 2001.


United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Organization’s host country, and its wonderful host city, had just been subjected to a terrorist attack of a kind one hardly dared imagine “even in our worst nightmares”.  The Assembly struggled, he said, to voice the intense admiration and respect it felt for the valiant police officers, firefighters and workers of all kinds who were engaged in the rescue and recovery effort.


The Assembly, he continued, had condemned terrorism on numerous occasions and had called on all States to adopt measures to prevent terrorism and strengthen international cooperation against it.  “We must now go further”, he said.  “All nations of the world must be united in their solidarity with the victims of terrorism, and in their determination to take action -– both against the terrorists themselves and against all those who give them any kind of shelter, assistance or encouragement.”


General Assembly President Han Seung-soo said mere words could not express the outrage and disgust all felt at the heinous acts of terrorism perpetrated yesterday against the Organization’s host country.  He went on to say that this


year’s presidency would continue ongoing initiatives to improve the Assembly’s working methods.  It would also move forward the discussions on Security Council reform.  In addition, the Assembly would emphasize the strengthening of the Organization’s capacity to maintain peace and security. 


Dealing with terrorism was a priority, he said, as were promotion of democracy and strengthening the rule of law, protecting the vulnerable and ensuring that the benefits of globalization devolved to all, especially through steps to bridge the digital divide with information technologies.  Finally, his presidency would emphasize the consideration of ways to bring Africa into the mainstream, through poverty eradication and the generation of sustainable development.


The representatives of South Africa, on behalf of the African Group, Viet Nam, on behalf of the Asian Group, Czech Republic, on behalf of the Eastern European Group, Guyana, on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group, and Greece, on behalf of the Group of Western European and Other States, all congratulated the President on his election.  They expressed their condolences to the people and Government of the United States and the families of the bereaved. They strongly condemned yesterday’s “cruel and barbaric acts” perpetrated against the host country.


The representative of the United States, thanking speakers for their condolences and support, said the Assembly’s decision demonstrated that “we are united and strong in the face of terror.  We have resisted the fear that terrorists have attempted to instil in the hearts of the people of the United States and the peoples of the United Nations.”


After the attack, he said, sides had to be chosen between the values of human rights and democracy, or terrorism and the law of the jungle.  There were those who opposed terrorism and those who used it.  He included in the second category those who harboured terrorists, provided them safe haven or turned a blind eye to their activities.  The attack on the United States was also an attack on the values on which the United Nations was founded, he said, urging united action to defend those values against terrorism.


Azerbaijan’s representative proposed that the United Nations medical service organize a blood drive to contribute to the rescue efforts in the host city.  The proposal was adopted by acclamation.


The Assembly also appointed the nine members of its Credentials Committee: China, Denmark, Jamaica, Lesotho, Russian Federation, Senegal, Singapore, United States and Uruguay.


Today’s meeting, which was planned for yesterday, 11 September, had been postponed because of the situation in the host country.  At its opening, the International Day of Peace was observed, as well as a minute of silent prayer or meditation to commemorate the event.


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The Assembly was informed that Burundi, Central African Republic, Comoros, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Niger, Republic of Moldova, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Somalia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan were in arrears in the payment of their financial contributions to the United Nations within the terms of Article 19 of the Charter.  [Article 19 stipulates that a Member which is in arrears shall have no vote in the Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years.]


The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow to elect its Vice-Presidents.


Background


The fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly met this afternoon for its first two plenary meetings.  It was expected to elect its President for the session, to appoint members of its Credentials Committee and to elect its 21 Vice-Presidents.  After the first plenary session, the Main Committees planned to meet consecutively to elect their Chairmen.  In the second plenary meeting, the Assembly was expected to elect its Vice-Presidents, six from the Group of African States, four from the Group of Asian States, one from the Group of Eastern European States, three from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, two from the Group of Western European and Other States, plus the five permanent members of the Security Council.


[The General Assembly is the main United Nations deliberative organ.  It is composed of Member States, each of which has one vote.  Decisions on important questions, such as peace and security, admission of new Members and budgetary matters, require a two-thirds majority.  Decisions on other questions are adopted by a simple majority.  The Assembly’s regular session usually begins each September.  This year, it was supposed to start yesterday, 11 September, but was postponed because of the situation in the host country.


The Assembly’s Main Committees are:  Disarmament and International Security (First Committee); Economic and Financial (Second Committee); Social, Humanitarian and Cultural (Third Committee); Special Political and Decolonization (Fourth Committee); Administrative and Budgetary (Fifth Committee); and Legal (Sixth Committee).]


The Assembly had before it a draft resolution submitted by the President, on Condemnation of Terrorist Attacks in the United States (document A/56/L.1).  By its terms, the Assembly strongly condemns the heinous acts of terrorism which have caused enormous loss of human life and destruction in the cities of New York, host city of the United Nations, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.  The Assembly also expresses condolences and solidarity with the people and Government of the United States in the present sad and tragic circumstances.


By further terms of the draft, the Assembly urgently calls for international cooperation to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers, and sponsors of yesterday’s outrages.  It also renews its call for urgent action to enhance international cooperation to prevent and eradicate acts of terrorism.


Also before the Assembly was a draft decision, submitted by the President, to postpone the Assembly’s special session for follow-up to the World Summit for Children, originally scheduled to meet from 19 to 21 September.  The new date for the Summit would be decided during the fifty-sixth session of the Assembly.


Opening of Fifty-Sixth Session


Opening the fifty-sixth regular session of the General Assembly, HARRI HOLKERI (Finland), President of the fifty-fifth regular session, expressed the Assembly’s deepest condolences to the people and Government of the United States on yesterday’s attacks.  What happened yesterday exceeded everybody’s imagination and violated the principles the United Nations stood for.  The United Nations must now stand together to stamp out the scourge of terrorism.  Yesterday’s tragedy was bringing together citizens of the city.  It should also bring together the Members of the United Nations, so that what happened yesterday could never happen again.


The General Assembly then appointed the nine members of its Credentials Committee:  China, Denmark, Jamaica, Lesotho, Russian Federation, Senegal, Singapore, United States and Uruguay.


The Assembly then elected, by acclamation, Han Seung-soo, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea, President of the fifty-sixth regular session.


Mr. Holkeri then handed over the presidency to Mr. Han Seung-soo.


Statements


HAN SEUNG-SOO (Republic of Korea), the newly elected President of the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly, said mere words could not express the outrage and disgust all undoubtedly felt at the heinous acts of terrorism perpetrated yesterday against the Organization’s host country.  Recalling his country’s unique relationship with the United Nations, from 1948 through the post-Korean War recovery period and later economic development, he said his country’s presidency of the Assembly during its tenth anniversary as a United Nations Member represented a recognition by fellow Member States of his country’s contribution.


Also recalling that the United Nations had been born amid hopes for a lasting peace in the wake of two devastating world wars, he noted that the United Nations founding fathers had set forth lofty goals in the Charter.  He reviewed the tide of global events in the interim and emphasized the importance of last year’s Millennium Summit and its Declaration.  He said the resolve of leaders to strengthen the United Nations had been an important element of the Declaration, which had reaffirmed the Assembly as the Organization’s chief deliberative, policy-making and representative organ.  This year’s presidency would continue ongoing initiatives to improve the Assembly’s working methods.  It would also move forward the discussions on Security Council reform.


In addition, he said the Assembly under his presidency would emphasize the strengthening of the Organization’s capacity to maintain peace and security.  Dealing with terrorism was another priority, as was promotion of democracy and strengthening the rule of law, protecting the vulnerable and ensuring that the benefits of globalization devolved to all, especially through steps to bridge the digital divide with information technologies.  Finally, his presidency would emphasize the consideration of ways to bring Africa into the mainstream through poverty eradication and the generation of sustainable development.


In summary, he said that was a good point in history to refer back to the original spirit and principles of the United Nations.  Calling on the fifty-sixth session to place the transcendent vision enshrined in the Charter above all else, he called for respecting the sovereign rights and legitimate national interests of all nations while seeking harmony through diversity, peace through dialogue and mutual prosperity through cooperation.


KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General, said the Organization’s host country, and its wonderful host city, had just been subjected to a terrorist attack of a kind one hardly dared imagine “even in our worst nightmares”.  The Assembly was struggling, he said, to voice the intense admiration and respect it felt for the valiant police officers, firefighters and workers of all kinds who were engaged in the rescue and recovery effort.


The Assembly, he said, had condemned terrorism on numerous occasions.  It had said repeatedly that terrorist acts were never justified, no matter what considerations might be invoked.  The Assembly had called on all States to adopt measures to prevent terrorism and strengthen international cooperation against it. “We must now go further”, he said.  Earlier today, the Security Council had expressed its readiness to take all necessary steps to respond to yesterday’s attacks, and to combat all forms of terrorism in accordance with its responsibilities under the Charter.


He said he trusted the Council would indeed take such steps, and that the Assembly would follow suit.  “All nations of the world must be united in their solidarity with the victims of terrorism, and in their determination to take action -– both against the terrorist themselves and against all those who give them any kind of shelter, assistance or encouragement”, he said.  He trusted that that message would go out loud and clear to the whole world from every member of the Assembly.


Action


The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, a draft resolution on Condemnation of Terrorist Attacks in the United States of America, as contained in document A/56/L.1.


DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the African Group, first congratulated the new President of the Assembly on his election.  He then described the tragedy that had befallen the people of the United States as “senseless, horrific and totally beyond belief”.


On behalf of the African Group, he offered heartfelt condolences. Expressing the hope that the perpetrators of those cowardly acts would soon face the full might of the law, he said the tragedies had brought home the unrelenting threat that international terrorism posed to all States.  “Today it is the people of the United States who are in tears.  In truth, it is the whole world that is weeping. The challenge that the United Nations confronts is to intensify our collective efforts to live up to the preamble of the United Nations Charter, which calls upon us to ‘practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security’.”


NGUYEN THANH CHAU (Viet Nam), speaking on behalf of the Asian Group, congratulated the President on his election.  He then said the countries of the Asian Group were profoundly shocked at the acts of barbarism in the United States in which thousands were killed or wounded.  Yesterday’s attack constituted a naked insult to the conscience of humankind.  He expressed deepest condolences and said the Asian Group fully supported the Assembly resolution condemning the terrorist attacks.


VLADIMIR GALUSKA (Czech Republic), speaking on behalf of the Group of Eastern European States, said the Assembly was opening its new session under the shadow of what had happened yesterday in New York. The Group unanimously condemned the attacks, which were not only against the United States but the whole civilized world.  The Group was united in its determination to prevent similar terrorist occurrences through increased international cooperation and through resolutions of the Security Council and the Assembly.  The Eastern European States unanimously supported the resolution before the Assembly.  He congratulated the President on his election and thanked Mr. Holkeri for his work during the last session.


ODEEN ISHMAEL (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group, congratulated the President on his election and conveyed the Group’s appreciation to former Assembly President Harri Holkeri.


He said the Group welcomed resolution A/56/l1 and strongly condemned yesterday’s tragedy, a disastrous series of cruel and barbaric acts, resulting in the loss of many innocent lives.  He extended heartfelt sympathy to the people and Government of the United States and to the families of the people who were killed. The terrorist acts must strengthen the resolve of the international community to condemn in the strongest possible way all forms of terrorism.  Those responsible must be brought to justice, he said.  He gave his full support to this resolution and the resolution adopted this morning by the Security Council.


ELIAS GOUNARIS (Greece), speaking on behalf of the Group of Western European and Other States, congratulated the President on his election.  He condemned the terrorist attacks of yesterday, describing them as a tragedy that challenged all humanity.  He expressed the Group's solidarity with the United States and offered condolences to the families of the victims.  He appealed to all States to cooperate in bringing the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of the attacks to justice.  The United Nations should spare no effort in the fight against terrorism.  The Group fully supported the Assembly resolution.


JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) thanked speakers for their expressions of condolence and sympathy for the victims and their families.  He also conveyed the thanks of President Bush and the American people to all the many world leaders who had shown their support and offered their assistance in this time of grief. Stating that all in the Assembly Hall were New Yorkers at this time of tragedy, he said he was struck by how many delegates had expressed that sentiment to him.  He noted that many non-Americans would be counted among the victims of the attack.


The Assembly’s decision to open the fifty-sixth session today was right, and demonstrated that “we are united and strong in the face of terror”.  The entire international community and the shared values upon which the United Nations was founded were under assault.  The Security Council resolution passed just a few hours ago demonstrated the determination of the international community to confront and triumph over that evil, as would the Assembly resolution which was about to be adopted.


"Yesterday's attack requires that we choose sides between the values of human rights and democracy, held dear by all decent people, or terrorism and the law of the jungle.  There are those who oppose terrorism and those who use it. There should be no doubt:  we will deal with those who support and harbour terrorists as we deal with the terrorists themselves”, he said.

"Because the attack struck at all of us, it is right that we should work towards a coalition to defend our shared values against terrorism.  Working in coalition, we can multiply the effectiveness of our response."  Continuing, he said, "None of us or our children will forget yesterday's horrifying images.  They will become unfortunate but indelible icons of the twenty-first century.  Let this serve as a constant reminder of the need to eliminate this scourge, and of the need for determination and action to so."


Action


The Assembly then adopted draft resolution A/56/L.2, on Condemnation of Terrorist Acts in the United States of America, without a vote.


It also adopted, without a vote, the draft decision contained in document A/56/L.2, concerning postponement of the special session for follow-up to the World Summit for Children.  The session was scheduled for 19-21 September.


The Assembly further decided that the two-day high-level dialogue on strengthening international economic cooperation for development through partnership, announced for 17 and 18 September, would take place on 20 and

21 September.


The Secretary-General pleaded with delegates to keep the concern for children utmost in their minds, even if the special session was postponed.  He said the draft outcome document was close to being finalized, and urged delegates to keep up the work and take up the issue within the next week, despite the postponement.


YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) proposed that the United Nations medical services organize a blood drive for the victims of the attacks.  The proposal was adopted by acclamation.


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