9 September 2008

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York




Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at a press conference with victims of terrorism in New York, 9 September:

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and I am grateful to all our distinguished friends and colleagues for joining us this afternoon.  Thank you for joining me at this press briefing on the Symposium on Supporting Victims of Terrorism. 

We are honoured to have with us today four victims of terrorism, whom I will introduce later.  They illustrate the fact that terrorism affects people everywhere -– irrespective of their religion, nationality, sex, age or their region of origin in the world.  They illustrate that terrorism has many faces and cannot be distilled into one image or person. 

It takes great bravery to speak out against the most brutal and senseless acts of violence.  Our guests today have demonstrated that courage many times.  I had a good exchange of views with them, all participants, yesterday and this morning.

Almost exactly two years ago, the General Assembly took a historic step forward in adopting the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  For the first time, Member States came together and took a common stand on the issue of terrorism.  And they acknowledged that terrorism cannot be defeated without the help of those who suffer most, the victims and their families.  And they acknowledged that victims require our support.

While considerable progress has been made in this area, it is clear that the international community needs to further strengthen its resolve.  Still too often, there are gaps in addressing the needs of survivors and their families.  Still too often, victims are registered only as numbers and not as human beings that bear witness to stories of immense injustice.  Still too often, we pay more attention to the voices of terrorists than those of their victims.

The Symposium today is a historic moment as it is the first time that the United Nations is bringing together Governments, civil society and victims of terrorism to discuss practical and concrete solutions needed to strengthen support for victims and their families.  Indeed, it is long overdue that we open the doors of the United Nations to victims of terrorism, and that we focus on their needs.

We hope that this Symposium, which is now going on, will help achieve several important outcomes.  First, we want to put a human face to the tragic consequences of the scourge of terrorism, thus addressing one of the major conditions conducive to terrorism:  the de-humanization of victims.  Second, we want to provide an opportunity for Member States, victims and civil society to share with one another their experiences in supporting victims and to gather best practices.  And third, we want to start a dialogue among victims and experts on victims’ needs and optimal ways of addressing them.

I would now like to introduce you to the four victims sitting alongside me who will each say a few words before we take your questions: 

Ingrid Betancourt, whom you already know too well, and I may not need to introduce, is a Colombian-French politician, former senator and activist, who was held in captivity for 2,321 days by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC.  She was freed by Colombian security forces in July of this year.  I met her for the first time in June when I visited Paris.  I was very much moved and, when I extended my invitation to her, she immediately accepted, and thank you very much for your participation in this Symposium;

Laura Dolci, whose husband Jean-Selim Kanaan, one of our best and brightest United Nations staff members, was brutally murdered in the 2003 bombings of United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.  She works for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva; I also met her again last week when I was in Geneva to honour the fifth anniversary of the terrorist bombing victims in Baghdad;

Ashraf Al-Khaled, who on the day that should have been the happiest of his life, his wedding day –- tragically lost 27 friends and loved ones, including his father as well as father- and mother-in-law.  He has become an outspoken advocate for victims; and

Chris Cramer, whom you may know very well, he was the President of CNN International, who was in the Iranian Embassy in London when it was taken over by Iranian separatists.  He is President of the International News Safety Institute, a global organization devoted to the ethical treatment and safety of journalists.

After my guests’ remarks, I invite you to ask questions either to me or to the other four participants here.

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For information media • not an official record