SECRETARY-GENERAL, ADDRESSING ASSEMBLY ON TERRORISM, CALLS FOR `IMMEDIATE, FAR-REACHING CHANGES’ IN UN RESPONSE TO TERROR

1 October 2001
SG/SM/7977-GA/9920

SECRETARY-GENERAL, ADDRESSING ASSEMBLY ON TERRORISM, CALLS FOR `IMMEDIATE, FAR-REACHING CHANGES’ IN UN RESPONSE TO TERROR

01/10/2001
Press ReleaseSG/SM/7977 GA/9920

SECRETARY-GENERAL, ADDRESSING ASSEMBLY ON TERRORISM, CALLS FOR `IMMEDIATE,

FAR-REACHING CHANGES’ IN UN RESPONSE TO TERROR

      Following is the text of the address of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the General Assembly on 1 October:

On Friday night, the Security Council adopted unanimously a broad resolution aimed at targeting terrorists and those who harbour, aid or support them.  That resolution requires Member States to cooperate in a wide range of areas -– from suppressing the financing of terrorism to providing early warning, cooperating in criminal investigations, and exchanging information on possible terrorist acts.  I applaud the Council for acting so swiftly to enshrine in law the first steps needed to carry this fight forward with new vigour and determination. 

Now all Member States must make greater efforts to exchange information about practices that have proved effective, and lessons that have been learned, in the fight against terrorism -- so that a global standard of excellence can be set.  The implementation of this resolution will require technical expertise at the national level.  I encourage States that can offer assistance in this regard to do so generously and without delay.

Thus far, the international community has been able to act with unprecedented speed and unity.  On 12 September, both the General Assembly and the Security Council adopted strong resolutions condemning the attacks and calling on all States to cooperate in bringing the perpetrators to justice.  Now, a second and more detailed resolution has been adopted by the Security Council, building swiftly on the first.  Today, this august Assembly meets to deliberate its own response to the events of 11 September.

The reason for this response and unprecedented unity is clear.  The terrorist attacks against the United States -– resulting in the deaths of some 6,000 people from 80 countries -- were acts of terrible evil which shocked the conscience of the entire world.

But out of evil can come good.  Paradoxically, these vicious assaults on our common humanity have had the effect of reaffirming our common humanity.  The very heartlessness and callous indifference to the suffering and grief caused to thousands of innocent families has brought a heartfelt response from millions of ordinary people all over the world, in many different societies.

The task now is to build on that wave of human solidarity -– to ensure that the momentum is not lost, to develop a broad, comprehensive and above all sustained strategy to combat terrorism and eradicate it from our world.

This important meeting of the General Assembly has a critical role to play in this.  It must not be merely symbolic.  It must signal the beginning of immediate, practical and far-reaching changes in the way this Organization and its Member States act against terrorism.

Today, the shock of this crime has united the world.  But, my dear friends, if we are to prevent such crimes from being committed again, we must stay united as we seek to eliminate terrorism.  In this struggle, there is simply no alternative to international cooperation.  Terrorism will be defeated if the international community summons the will to unite in a broad coalition, or it will not be defeated at all.  The United Nations is uniquely positioned to serve as the forum for this coalition, and for the development of those steps governments must now take -– separately and together -– to fight terrorism on a global scale.

The global reaction to the attacks should give us courage and hope that we can succeed in this fight.  The sight of people gathering in cities in every part of the world from every religion to mourn -- and to express solidarity with the people of the United States -- proves more eloquently than any words that terrorism is not an issue that divides humanity, but one that unites it.  We are in a moral struggle to fight an evil that is anathema to all faiths.  Every State and every people has a part to play.  This was an attack on humanity, and humanity must respond to it as one.

The urgent business of the United Nations must now be to develop a long-term strategy, in order to ensure global legitimacy for the struggle ahead.  The legitimacy that the United Nations conveys can ensure that the greatest number of States are able and willing to take the necessary and difficult steps -– diplomatic, legal and political -– that are needed to defeat terrorism.

The Member States that you represent have a clear agenda before them.  It begins with ensuring that the 12 conventions and protocols on international terrorism already drafted and adopted under United Nations auspices are signed, ratified and implemented without delay by all States. 

Two of these conventions, in particular, can strengthen the fight against terrorism.  First, the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, which entered into force on 23 May this year; and second, the 1999 Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, which so far has

44 signatories and four ratifications.  It requires 18 additional ratifications to enter into force, and I hope it will now be seen as a point of honour for Member States to sign and ratify this vital convention as soon possible.

While no one imagines that these conventions -– even when implemented -- will end terrorism on their own, they are part of the legal framework needed for this effort.  I wish to propose to all Member States that they make it their first

order of business during the general debate to sign all the conventions on terrorism, and pledge to work for their ratification and implementation without delay.

It will also be important to obtain agreement on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.  In the post-11 September era, no one can dispute the nature of the terrorist threat, nor the need to meet it with a global response.  I understand that there are outstanding issues, which until now have prevented agreement on this convention.  Some of the most difficult issues relate to the definition of terrorism.  I understand and accept the need for legal precision.  But let me say frankly that there is also a need for moral clarity.  There can be no acceptance of those who would seek to justify the deliberate taking of innocent civilian life, regardless of cause or grievance.  If there is one universal principle that all peoples can agree on, surely it is this.

Even in situations of armed conflict, the targeting of innocent civilians is illegal, as well as morally unacceptable.  And yet, as I have stated in my two reports on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, civilian populations are more and more often deliberately targeted.  Indeed, civilians have become the principal victims of conflict, accounting for an estimated 75 per cent of all casualties. 

This demands from all of us an increased attention to the civilian costs of conflict.  It requires Member States to live up to their responsibilities under international law.  They must deal firmly with the reality of armed groups and other non-State actors who refuse to respect common principles of human dignity.

It is hard to imagine how the tragedy of 11 September could have been worse.  Yet, the truth is that a single attack involving a nuclear or biological weapon could have killed millions.  While the world was unable to prevent the

11 September attacks, there is much we can do to help prevent future terrorist acts carried out with weapons of mass destruction.  The greatest danger arises from a non-State group -- or even an individual -- acquiring and using a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon.  Such a weapon could be delivered without the need for any missile or any other sophisticated delivery system.

      In addition to measures taken by individual Member States, we must now strengthen the global norm against the use or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  This means, among other actions:

-- Redoubling efforts to ensure the universality, verification and full implementation of key treaties relating to weapons of mass destruction, including those outlawing chemical and biological weapons and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty;

-- Promoting cooperation among international organizations dealing with these weapons;

-- Tightening national legislation over exports of goods and technologies needed to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery; and

-- Developing new efforts to criminalize the acquisition or use of weapons of mass destruction by non-State groups.

In addition, we need to strengthen controls over other types of weapons that pose grave dangers through terrorist use.  This means doing more to ensure a ban on the sale of small arms to non-State groups; making progress in eliminating landmines; improving the physical protection of sensitive industrial facilities, including nuclear and chemical plants; and increased vigilance against cyberterrorist threats.

As we summon the will and the resources to succeed in the struggle against terrorism, we must also care for all the victims of terrorism, whether they are the direct targets or other populations who will be affected by our common effort.  That is why I have launched an alert to donors about the potential need for much more generous humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan. 

This appeal is only the most urgent part of our determination to continue to care for those suffering from poverty, disease and conflict around the world.  The work of the United Nations in promoting development, resolving long-standing disputes, and fighting ignorance and prejudice are even more important today than they were before 11 September.

The victims of the attacks on 11 September were, first and foremost, the innocent civilians who lost their lives, and their families who now grieve for them.  But peace, tolerance, mutual respect, human rights, the rule of law and the global economy are all among the casualties of the terrorists’ acts.

In conclusion, let me say that repairing the damage done to the fabric of the international community -– restoring trust among peoples and cultures -– will not be easy.  But just as a concerted international response can make the work of terrorists much harder to accomplish, so should the unity born out of this tragedy bring all nations together in defence of the most basic right -– the right of all peoples to live in peace and security.  This is the challenge before us as we seek to eliminate the evil of terrorism.

Thank you very much.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.