HE. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

President Of the Republic of the Philippines

at the 56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

New York, 16 November 2001


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Mr. President,

Mr. Secretary-General,

Let me begin by congratulating Your Excellency Han Seung Soo on your election as President of this Assembly. I am especially gratified to be addressing this Assembly when a distinguished Asian is again at its helm.

I congratulate as well Your Excellency Kofi Annan for the Nobel Prize you have received together with the United Nations. It is the international community's recognition of the indispensable role and the necessary work done by the UN under your watch towards peace and justice in the world.

At the most elemental level, we feel most deeply the sad and tragic impact of those inhuman acts of terrorism-the lives lost, the orphaned children, the widowed spouses, the parents struck with the unimaginable grief of outliving their children. Worse yet, of watching them die.

As we watched the horror unfold, we felt as though it was happening to us-as indeed it was, for these United Nations are in a sense one family. But the blow that was struck at this international city was felt as directly by the rest of the world.

As people the world over stopped to watch in horror as the twin towers came down, the world's economies ground to a virtual halt.

Business activity stopped, investments withdrew, markets shrank, tourism dried up-and jobs were further lost, living standards dropped even further, destitution spread, the very conditions that favor terrorism spread and deepened. Our misgivings about a world slowing deepened into the certainty of a recession that will be felt most deeply by those least able to endure it. Not just classes but whole countries. The average G.D.P. growth rate of developing countries could fall from last year's 5.5% to 2.9%. For most poor countries that will translate to sub-zero growth.

Mr. President, the face of terrorism that this city saw over a month ago is a familiar one to Asians. It has taken a terrible toll in the lives of our people and in the economies of the region. It has destroyed our credit and deterred investments. It has caused Asian Governments profound embarrassment at being caught flat-footed and unable to offer
 their citizens the most basic security. In the southwestern part of the Philippines, it has taxed our resources and our patience to the limit. For terrorism is the argument of those who are not really interested in reasoning but only in getting whatever they want, on their terms alone.

We know terrorism. We are fighting it in southwestern Philippines. The perpetrators of the first attack on the World Trade Center were apprehended by our police.

Short of dismembering our country and dispossessing our people of their homes, we have been negotiating with secessionist groups.

But we have thrown the full weight of the law, including the use of force, at those who have resorted to terrorism.

We know the enemy and we know that these are not people you talk to; these are people you fight. As the Secretary-General has pointed out, "there are those who will hate and who will kill even if every injustice is ended."

You must fight them in the field, when they take to the field, and hunt them in cities when they hide inside.

It was in the light of this experience in southwestern Philippines that we immediately condemned the terrorist attacks on the United States, for we recognized them immediately as the desperate and despicable act of that violent minority which seeks to enslave the world with fear. And indeed they have given the world good reason to be afraid. The attack on the World Trade Center which aimed to take the lives of the 50,000 people who worked inside it shows us an enemy without pity, without compunction, prepared to use any means to achieve the greatest destruction.

The Philippines did not need to join the war on terrorism; it was in that war already, in the southwestern part of our islands. The Philippines could 4 not have done otherwise than renew her commitment to fight terrorism in a wider field, in the wake of September 11. We know that this is an enemy that must be fought everywhere so that it cannot strike at will anywhere it pleases again.

This is a fight between tolerance and bigotry, between reason and fanaticism, between law and anarchy, between justice and murder pretending to be just. In that fight, there is no other side to choose but the one where the civilized nations of the world-long-time allies and former enemies-have chosen to stand united, not least here in this plenary hall.

The Secretary-General has declared that the September 11 attacks "struck at everything our organization stands for: peace, freedom, tolerance, human rights, and the very idea of a united human family."

I don't know if the future belongs to our side, but I am convinced that there will be no future if our side does not prevail in this fight-at least no future that any of us will care to live in. In fact, it will not be a future in which most of us will be allowed to live. It is a future where happiness is suspect, delight is blasphemy, beauty is a cause for shame, and independent thought a capital crime.

But while terrorism cannot be placated, and no terrorist should not be appeased, there is no doubt in our minds either that we must address the concerns that they pretend are the inspiration of their terrible deeds.

"If the world can show that it will carry on, that it will persevere in creating a stronger, more just, more benevolent and more genuine international community across all lines of religion and race, then terrorism will have failed."

No, terrorism will not stop but will have failed. To stop terrorism, the terrorists themselves will have to be stopped.

What we can do however is to strip them of their moral pretensions and take upon ourselves the causes that they have perverted.

No nation will indefinitely endure the yawning gap between rich and poor-a gap that is only growing bigger not just within but across the countries of the world. It is this growing disparity between the ever fewer richer and ever more poor that has given terrorism the freedom of movement and impunity from accountability that it has enjoyed.

Poverty can be reduced partly by national economic growth. But societies have to adopt deliberate policies to ensure that the income levels of the poor rise faster than those of the rich.

Recent developments in the global economy have displayed the perils of over--dependence on external markets. We must expand domestic demand and increase the purchasing power of the masses of our people.

This is largely the responsibility of each nation. We in the Philippines are addressing the affront of mass poverty through housing, education, lower medical costs, more efficient power, transportation and communications, infrastructure in the countryside, credit to small farmers and micro-industries, productivity, protection of the environment, and developing the areas farthest from our center of political power and economic activity.

The international community also has a responsibility for the elimination of poverty. The commitments to devote a certain percentage of G.D.P. to official development assistance have a place. But the most effective and least costly anti-poverty measure on a global scale is for developed countries to open their markets wider to the products of the developing countries, including particularly those products turned out by the poor people in the poor countries-agricultural commodities, textiles, clothing, and footwear, as well as electrical and electronic appliances and components.

The global trading system cannot allow developed countries to subsidize heavily their agricultural exports while the developing countries are without the means to help their own farmers.

The recent ministerial meeting of the world trade organization decided to launch a new round of multilateral trade negotiations. To ensure that the W.T.O. does not lose credibility at this crucial time, our top priority is to ensure that the Doha round is truly a development round.

The effort to conquer poverty must embrace all cultures, all ethnic groups, and all religious communities. The nation must allow all to preserve their own cultures.

We must make political autonomy accessible to regions that want it. At the same time, no one must be allowed to resort to terrorism to further their political aims.

Respect for culture and religion, resources for development, openness to political autonomy within the sovereignty of the nation, and rejection of terrorism are the foundations of the Philippine approach to our ethnic diversity and the uplifting of our Muslim and tribal minorities.

The vision of nations where poverty is rapidly reduced cannot be attained in places where women and girls are mistreated and their rights trampled upon. As the woman Head of State, woman Head of Government and woman Commander-in-Chief of the world's 14th largest nation, I say: we cannot conquer poverty without liberating women and girls where they are oppressed. The gender gap is a part of the development gap and must be addressed with equal vigor.

The fight against terrorism, the struggle to eliminate poverty, the work on behalf of social and international justice, the strengthening of the rule of law, the promotion of tolerance and mutual respect, the practice of humanitarian compassion, the liberation of women, the never-ending toil for peace-these have long been on the UN agenda. We have been doing these in cooperation with our neighbors, in our region.

The heightened virulence of terrorism, the renewed sense of insecurity among the world's people, and the alarming slowdown in the global economy have intensified the urgency and importance of our work. Together, let us get on with the job. It is serious. It is essential. It is urgent.

Thank you, Mr. President.