United Kingdom
Statement to the General Assembly by the
Rt. Hon. Mr. Jack Straw, MP,
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Office Affairs
14 September 2002

Mr. President,
Distinguished Delegates,

1. In an imperfect world, our citizens need the United Nations as they have never needed it before. The United Nations has not resolved all conflicts by peaceful means; nor could it. The UN's authority has to be underpinned by the force of arms. But the remarkable achievement of the United Nations has been to make the fine language of its Charter a force for good beyond the power of words; by this the UN has raised the bar against the illegitimate use of violence, by States and now by terrorists. In doing so, the United Nations has saved lives by the million, and saved millions more from fear, poverty and tyranny. We cannot let the United Nations' unique authority, leading the international community, be undermined by those who have no respect for it.

2. Without the United Nations, there could have been no salvation for the people of East Timor, no prospect of lasting peace in Sierra Leone, no one to help rebuild Afghanistan.

3. Forty years ago, President John F Kennedy predicted a world with 25 nuclear weapon states. But the Non-Proliferation Treaty, supported by international safeguards, has ensured that this nightmare scenario has failed to materialize.

4. All this serves to remind us of the critical role the United Nations has to play in world affairs, under its excellent Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It is the responsibility of all of us here in this assembly to ensure that the legitimacy,
the authority and the capacity of the UN to preserve peace and to build prosperity is strengthened, not undermined.

5. And today, alongside the traditional threats to global peace and security, the UN and the world community face three rising challenges of failing states, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
Failing States

6. The world saw in Afghanistan the graphic dangers of state failure, where order breaks down, law is undermined and anarchy takes over.

7. We in the international community must accept our share of the blame for allowing that country to disintegrate. Al Qaida and their evil creed were only too willing to take advantage.

8. But we are deluding ourselves if we believe the chaos in Afghanistan over much of the last decade is unique. In too many areas of the world, our fellow citizens are forced to live under the rule of gangs without the security and freedoms which we should be able to take for granted.

9. And so, if we are serious about the concept of an international community then, as members of the UN, we must accept our responsibility to help prevent states failing, and to restore order where states have already collapsed.

10. Our ISAF experience in Afghanistan, working with the UN, shows what can be done, but we know that much more needs to be done. We need a more structured and methodical approach to this growing problem of failing states.

11. The tools are there. At Monterrey in March and at Johannesburg earlier this month, the world community has built on the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty among the world's most disadvantaged people. And
between 1997 and 2006 the UK will have doubled its development assistance. We all have to work together to help countries build good government and to deliver basic public services to their citizens. We need better to draw on the expertise of the UN family and the international financial institutions. And we need better to release the skills, energy and resources of civil society, business and individuals.

12. Together with the WTO's Doha Round, we have within our grasp a new era of sustainable economic growth and prosperity, of a stable political future for the developing world and more secure global environment.

13. But people cannot be freed from poverty unless they are also free from fear. Security is not an option, it is a necessity. Two years ago over half of Sierra Leone was under the control of rebels; over half the population was displaced; countless civilians had been murdered, abducted or horribly mutilated; a spiral of sickness and hunger was taking over. Now thanks to UN and British intervention to end that decade-long civil war, people are returning home and rebuilding their shattered lives. But long-term commitment is necessary.

14. And, as we found in Afghanistan, when we deal with failing states we have to tackle the second challenge to international law and justice: global terrorism.Global Terrorism

15. All the nations of the world, and all its people, black, white, Buddhist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh have a common interest in defeating terrorism. There must be no hiding places for terrorism or terrorists; no hiding places for their money and no semantic hiding places either. The distinction some claim between terrorists and freedom-fighters is false and dangerous. The victims enjoy no such distinction. There must be no such distinctions either in international law.

16. Security Council Resolution 1373 created new obligations on all of us. The United Kingdom has been honored to chair the Counter Terrorism Committee. There has been an overwhelmingly positive response. But, as we recall those who lost their lives on September 11, we cannot relax our collective determination.
Weapons of Mass Destruction

17. Alongside the threats from failing sates and from terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction poses the greatest current threat to global security. Nowhere is the case for universal support for enforcement of the
UN's law stronger than in the field of weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. President,

18. The Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention comprise one of the world's most significant bodies of international law. For the past three decades, this corpus law has ensured that - with one infamous exception - no states have resorted to these, the world's worst weapons.

19. The exception is Iraq. For two decades, Saddam Hussein's regime has defied and frustrated every attempt to enforce the international rule of law. Iraq is the only country to be condemned by the United Nations for breaching the Geneva Convention on chemical weapons. Iraq has fought wars of aggression against two neighbors, and launched missile attacks against five countries in the region. Iraq has used poison gas against its own people. Saddam Hussein has persistently mocked the authority of this United Nations.

20. No country has deceived every other country in the world as systematically and cynically as Iraq. And no country presents as fundamental a challenge to the UN as Iraq.

Mr. President,

21. Every society from the smallest village to the global community represented here in the General Assembly must have rules, and every member of that community must accept responsibility for respecting and maintaining those rules. Without it the very concept of community breaks down.

22. So those of us who believe in an active international community cannot stand by and do nothing while Iraq continues to defy the UN. All of us who believe in the United Nations have to make our minds up now about how to deal with Iraq. For the authority of the United Nations itself is at stake.

23. We cannot let Iraq do grave damage to this organization and the international order it represents. We cannot let Iraq go on defying a decade of Security

24. There are times when hard choices have to be made. On Iraq, we have reached such a moment. If we fail to deal with this challenge, the UN will be seriously weakened. And that would make the world a much more dangerous place.

25. We have to be resolute in the face Iraq's defiance and secure the will of the United Nations. We must require Iraq to re-admit inspectors with unfettered access. We have not just an interest but a responsibility to ensure that Iraq complies fully with international law. We have to be clear to Iraq and to ourselves about the consequences, which will flow from a failure by Iraq to meet its obligations.

26. And yes, Mr. President, in dealing with the threat proposed by Iraq we must tackle the other international challenges outlined by Kofi Annan yesterday, particularly in the Middle East.

27. The past year has seen a further deterioration in security in Israel and the Occupied Territories. There has never been a greater need for international involvement in the Middle East Peace Process to secure the outcome we all want to see: two states, Israel and Palestine living side by side within secure and recognized borders, based on Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and 1397.

28. And in Kashmir, we should continue to urge both India and Pakistan to act with restraint, and to seek to resolve this long-running conflict.

Mr. President,

29. At the end of the Cold War we had hoped that future generations would then be able to enjoy a world where co-operation rather than conflict was the hallmark of international affairs. This goal is still within reach, if we are united in
tackling state failure, in the war against terrorism, and in confronting the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

30. The tasks facing the founders of this institution were no less intimidating. Yet their combination of high values and hardheaded realism created the greatest instrument in history for the avoidance of war.

31. Their achievement has been wonderful. But this organization faces new and emerging threats. We have to confront those threats and be ever alive to the challenges, which are out there to peace and justice across the world. All of us who believe in these principles of international law and justice have a duty to ensure that they are both upheld and enforced.