23 March 2005


Press Release




Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the Summit of the League of Arab States in Algiers, 23 March:

I would like to thank President Bouteflika for his leadership and for hosting this meeting at such a critical time for the Arab world and for the United Nations.

I would also like to express my appreciation to Amr Moussa, for the leadership he continues to show as Secretary-General of the League of Arab States and for his important role as a distinguished member of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which recently submitted a report with important recommendations for us all.

It is an honour to be with you.  Being in Algeria summons up memories of my time as a member of the Organization of African Students.  We were all influenced by Algeria’s liberation struggle.

But today, more than anything else, I am glad to be among you to congratulate you all on the sixtieth anniversary of this organization.  I know that you are using the occasion to discuss the establishment of an Arab parliament and other improvements.

A similar spirit of reform and renewal pervades the United Nations as we, too, mark our sixtieth anniversary this year.  As you know, on Monday, I presented to the General Assembly a report containing proposals for adapting our international system, and the United Nations itself, to the threats and challenges facing humanity today.

Entitled “In Larger Freedom” -- words drawn from the United Nations Charter -- the report is divided into four main sections:  development, security, human rights and global institutions, the latter with a special focus on the United Nations itself.

It sets out the key decisions that I believe should be made by you and your fellow heads of State and government from other parts of the world, when you meet in New York in September this year to review implementation of the Millennium Declaration.

Its main argument is that the great issues of our time are interconnected, and must be pursued together by all, as a matter of enlightened self-interest.

And it stresses that the proposals make up a single package -- a comprehensive strategy that gives equal weight to all the purposes of the Organization, and all the concerns of its membership.

The report calls for concerted action to promote development.  On this, the world has a shared vision, as embodied in the Millennium Development Goals.  Where many Member States have faltered is in implementation.  We say often that humankind will not enjoy security without development and social justice.  But we do not always act on it as if we truly believe this linkage to be true.

When it comes to security, we sometimes seem to lack a consensus even on the most basic aspects.  And particular cases can lead to deep disagreements, as we have seen in recent years, particularly over Iraq.

Today more than ever, when there is a heightened sense of threat and vulnerability, we need a collective security system that addresses the needs of everyone.  Security is not just the first duty placed on any government.  It is also a fundamental prerequisite for development.

So we need to strengthen our work for disarmament and our international regimes for controlling the spread of weapons of mass destruction.  We need to improve our collective capacity for peace-building and peacekeeping.  We need also to strengthen the credibility of the human rights machinery.  We need to make the Security Council more representative, so that its decisions may be accepted universally as enjoying greater legitimacy and authority.

And we must pull together to turn the tide against terrorism.  The need for a united stand on this issue should be especially clear to all of us here in Algeria, a country that has had to confront terrorism and extremism for long years, at the cost of more than 100,000 lives.

For too long, efforts at the United Nations to confront this vicious phenomenon have been weakened by the lack of a comprehensive convention on terrorism, based on a clear and agreed definition.  I am grateful to the High-Level Panel for offering us a way forward.  It concluded that we do not need to argue whether States can be guilty of terrorism, because the deliberate use of force against civilians by States is already clearly prohibited and condemned by international law.  And it stated clearly that the right to resist occupation cannot include a right to deliberately kill and maim civilians.  Legitimate causes cannot be advanced by illegitimate means.

I have urged world leaders to unite behind the Panel’s proposal for a definition of terrorism, and to conclude a comprehensive convention on terrorism before the end of the sixtieth session of the General Assembly.  I urge you to bring your own experience to bear, and to take the lead in this effort.

Of course, where there are genuine grievances that encourage people to support or sympathize with terrorism, then we must find peaceful ways to redress those grievances, and convince the population that terror is not the way to solve them.  Nowhere is that clearer than in the occupied Palestinian territory, which I visited last week.

Yet again, I encountered the daily hardships faced by Palestinians, their concerns at continuing unilateral acts in the shape of Israeli settlement activity and land confiscation, their anger at the separation barrier or wall in the West Bank, their yearning to see all political prisoners released.  But I also sensed a new mood of optimism and hope after a long and bitter period of bloodshed and despair.  I would like to congratulate Egypt and Jordan on their leadership in bringing President Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon together in Sharm el-Sheikh.  Both sides have made positive steps towards implementing the commitments they made at that Summit. The task that faces us now is to transform opportunity into achievement.  As a member of the Quartet, the United Nations will continue to press for full implementation by both sides of their Road Map obligations, and of Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 1397 and 1515, a just, lasting and comprehensive peace on all tracks, including the Syrian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli tracks.

In Lebanon, the vicious assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri was a severe blow.  He was a Lebanese patriot, a formidable statesman and a vital presence in the international community.  Within the next few days, I expect to release the report of the fact-finding I established in the wake of the killing and I believe a comprehensive investigation may well also be necessary.  All parties must now work together to safeguard Lebanon’s stability and national unity.  I am encouraged by the commitment given by President Assad to me and my Special Envoy that he will fully and completely implement Security Council resolution 1559.  I expect the full withdrawal of all Syrian troops, including the intelligence apparatus and military assets, to take place before the Lebanese parliamentary elections.  Those elections must be free and fair, and must take place as scheduled.  The United Nations is willing to help if needed.  My Special Envoy will be back in the region in the first week of April to continue his dialogue, and I stand ready to help the parties to implement the resolution in any way I can.

The United Nations is also committed to helping Iraq in its transition.  Now that elections have taken place, Iraqis expect tangible dividends.  The work of drafting of a national constitution could help improve the security situation, so long as the process is inclusive and transparent.  And as we work to ensure the full restoration of Iraq’s sovereignty and independence, we must also promote the normalization of Iraq’s relations with its neighbours and with the international community.  I thank the Arab League for its valuable help with this task.

We are all encouraged by the long-awaited peace agreement in southern Sudan.  The United Nations has a vital role to play in helping to implement it.  But the appalling situation in Darfur casts a long shadow over what has been achieved at Naivasha.  Valiant efforts have been made on the humanitarian side, and by the African Union on the security side.  But there has been hardly any progress at the political level.  The population continues to suffer.  We need to do more to give them security.  There is also a need for those responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes to be brought to justice, as the commission of inquiry has proposed.  All of us must now urge the parties to negotiate in good faith, not just the government but also the rebels, in a spirit of compromise.  That is the only hope for lasting peace.  We also need substantial new funding for our humanitarian operations in Darfur, in the South and in other parts of the country, or they will have to be discontinued.  The support of Arab States -- including your urgent financial support -- will be crucial if we are to move faster and come up with a response that meets the needs of the situation.

We live in a difficult and unsettled world.  All of us are deeply pained by basic injustice, and by needlessly prolonged suffering.  The wounds they inflict help dictate the public mood.  But even as they remain unresolved, they need not, indeed should not, impede action to meet the deep thirst for change, and particularly for more popular participation, in our societies.  This effort must proceed in parallel.

In recent months, Iraqis, Palestinians and Lebanese have shown a strong appetite for democratic solutions to their problems.  In other places, where the yearning for wider participation is felt just as keenly, political systems are showing increased openness.  Arab men and women are growing more determined to make their diverse voices heard.  In the Arab world, and everywhere else, democracy is not a solution in itself.  But it is the best means we have to solve problems, promote peace, nurture development, and create inclusive, cohesive societies based on the rule of law.  The United Nations, already your close partner in so many ways, will continue working with you to achieve these objectives, too.

In conclusion, I would like to remind you that my report, “In Larger Freedom”, is now before you, along with those of the High-Level Panel and the Millennium Project.  I believe that the September summit offers us a chance to make the current moment of uncertainty turn into a moment of opportunity in our quest for peace, prosperity and human rights.  The Arab region, as much as any part of the world, stands to benefit if this agenda is adopted and implemented.  And therefore, I hope to see all of you at the Summit, where we will have important decisions to take.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.