1 November 2001


Press Release


                                                            5 November 2001




*     Reissued to reflect translated text, originally delivered in French.

(Received from United Nations Information Service, Geneva)

      The Secretary-General: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.  As you know, this is the first time I have been across the Atlantic since the terrible events of 11 September.  I believe those events have put a great strain on all of us in New York, and in different ways on people working for the United Nations here in Geneva and around the world.  As never before it has been made clear that terrorism is a global scourge.  The United Nations, I believe, is a natural forum where the States can come together and try and cooperate to fight and provide a global response.  And I believe the United Nations has responded well with two resolutions by the Security Council.  One resolution that is unprecedented in the sense that it cuts across and touches every Member State.  Normally Security Council resolutions are focused on individual countries.  Yet they have come up with a resolution requiring governments to take action not to shelter terrorists, not to allow them to use their financial systems, and to ensure that they do not have logistical support.  In addition to that, the Security Council has created a committee that will monitor compliance with that resolution.

And then we have the General Assembly which has already passed

12 Conventions and Protocols, and is working on another one, a comprehensive one against terrorism which I hope they will be able to finalize this year.  If they do that, not only is the Council action making specific demands on Member States, but the General Assembly's action will provide a common legal framework for our struggle against terrorism.  And of course as we move on, the United Nations has major responsibilities in Afghanistan.  For the time being it is in the humanitarian area where we are trying to do the best we can to ensure that the internally displaced Afghans and the Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries are looked after and have their sustenance as we approach the winter.

In addition to the humanitarian responsibility, it is quite likely that the Security Council may give us an expanded mandate in the sense of requiring me and the Secretariat to use our good offices and encourage Afghans to form a broad-based Government.  And depending upon what happens and how things evolve, we may also become engaged in the rehabilitation of the country.  There has also been a question of what sort of security environment would any activities take place in after the military action and who would provide or ensure security.  Would it be United Nations Blue Helmets, would it be a multinational force, or would it be an all-Afghan force?  All these are on the basis of contingency planning and nothing specific or solid.

But let me say that on the humanitarian front -- I know it is of great interest to those of you here in Geneva because most of the humanitarian agencies on the front lines in Afghanistan are based in Geneva -- Ruud Lubbers is currently in the region and he is coming back tomorrow and I expect him to give me a full brief on his understanding of the situation on the ground.

But let me hasten to add that whilst we are all engaged in the struggle against terrorism, the broader agenda of the United Nations continues.  We may have new problems, but the old ones are still with us.  And here I am talking about poverty, AIDS, conflict, climate change and so forth.  These problems are even more important today and I think we should make greater efforts to try and deal with them.  We have to try and keep the world's attention focused on these problems as well as terrorism, because these are in some cases the root causes that we will have to tackle.  I believe it is important to make sure that people in developing countries have the chance to improve their lives through trade, and that is why I am looking forward very much to what happens in Doha very shortly.  I hope very much that it will start a new round of trade negotiations in which, for the first time, the developing countries will be able to insist that their interests are given priority.

I think I will pause here and take your questions.  That is why you are here.  The floor is open.

Question:  On behalf of the Association of journalists accredited to the United Nations, I wish to welcome you to Geneva, to thank you for having found the time to meet with us on this occasion, and again to congratulate you and your Organization on receiving the Nobel Prize.  Thank you.

Question:  I associate myself with my colleague, Sir, in congratulating you and the United Nations on the award of the Nobel Peace Prize this year, which demonstrates that there are people who still believe that the United Nations has a vital role to play in maintaining peace in the world.  What is embarrassing, however, is that the award comes even though the United Nations allowed itself to be sidelined in this role during the Gulf war by a coalition of States, during the Kosovo war by a military alliance and now in Afghanistan by a State with a mandate which is ill-defined in its geographical and temporal limits and even in the definition of the enemy to be fought, because there is not as yet, to my knowledge, a United Nations definition of terrorism.  My question, Sir, is do you not think that the time has come to raise again the matter of the resources made available to the United Nations for peacekeeping missions, with a view to averting an even more dangerous situation in the future:  the sidelining of the United Nations affecting the sector in which the Organization is still proving itself effective, that of humanitarian aid, given that the belligerents are attempting to provide it today.  Thank you.

The Secretary-General:  That was a long question.  But let me say that indeed we are struggling against terrorism and the struggle against terrorism can only be won if there is broad and sustained international cooperation.  The struggle against terrorism has to be on a broad front.  Countries have to cooperate as the Security Council has indicated in refusing shelter for terrorists, in denying them the use of financial resources, and making sure there is no logistic support.  And I believe the actions that the Security Council and the General Assembly have taken provide a solid basis for international action and international cooperation around the globe.  And if we do cooperate, I think we will make good progress in the struggle.  The military action on which we are focused for the moment in Afghanistan is quite frankly a very small part of the fight against global terrorism.  The Council in its resolution indicated that the perpetrators must be brought to justice.  And the Council also indicated that all means must be used to prevent attacks of that kind.  So when we talk of the fight against terrorism, I would disagree with you that the United Nations is sidelined. In fact, on the key issues, the initiatives and the foundation are being laid by the United Nations.

Focusing specifically on your comments on Afghanistan, it is correct that this operation is being run by the United States and the United Kingdom.  It is not a United Nations operation as such, but I think that as we look at the struggle, we have to look at it in all its ramifications.  And I think one cannot say that the United Nations is sidelined if one looks at it in that respect.  When it comes to peacekeeping operations and the United Nations capacity, you are right that we do not have the capacity; we can be as strong as the Member States would want us to be.  Past experiences tell us that we do not always get the sustained political will, or the resources required to undertake these operations.  And where they are made available, I think we can make a difference as we have seen in places like East Timor, Cambodia and others.

Question:  Two brief questions this time, Sir.  Do you not think that the bombing of Afghanistan is counterproductive?  And do you, personally, favour the idea of a post-Taliban United Nations administration in Afghanistan?

The Secretary-General:  Obviously for those of us who are involved in humanitarian activities and others, we would want to be able to operate in a much calmer environment.  From our point of view the least interruption we have with our operations the better.  We do have disruptions from the ground, from the Taliban, where in some cases they have looted our warehouses and interfered with our humanitarian workers.  But the air operation is also an impediment.  Although

we are able to get in some food, I think this is due to the courage of our staff and the truck drivers who are prepared to take the risks.  We are going to try and get as much food in as we can.  We are not meeting our target. We need about 50,000 to 60,000 tonnes a month and we are doing about half of that.  So obviously it will be in our interest to see air action end as soon as possible so that we can step up our deliveries to ensure that we are prepared for the winter.

On your second question, I think the question of a government or administration of Afghanistan is first and foremost a problem for the Afghan people.  They will have to be in the lead and determine what sort of government they want.  The United Nations has been working with them over a long period of several years, trying to get them to form a broad-based government; a broad-based government in which all the main ethnic groups will have a say.  We believed a

long time ago that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict.  The solution has to be political and [based on] a power-sharing and broad-based government.  We do not know how the situation will evolve.  But if a new Afghan Government were to emerge, we are prepared to assist them and work with them and promote a broad-based government.  The United Nations will be prepared to assist and give them technical assistance.  But at this stage I do not see the United Nations going in to run Afghanistan as a protectorate.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, do you personally prefer the American bombings to be stopped during the month of Ramadan?  And also you have mentioned three possibilities about the possibility for security arrangements, Blue Helmets, a multilateral force or an Afghan force.  Have you heard from the Member States any indication that they will be willing to participate in peacekeeping operations?

The Secretary-General:  I think on the question of the air operation, the bombing, I have indicated quite clearly that from our point of view, the sooner it is concluded and we can get on with our humanitarian work, the better.  On the question of volunteers for a possible military operation or a security force in Afghanistan, I personally have not received any direct offers from governments.  I have heard names of governments mentioned.  Whether these governments have offered to send troops or others are volunteering them, at this stage I am not sure.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, you have said that the resolutions in New York have expressed the readiness of the United Nations for security, peace-keeping operations, humanitarian aid and so on.  Do you have in your mind an idea when all these will take place?  And second, in your personal view, are human rights being violated in Afghanistan -– human rights of individuals, the right to development, etc.?

The Secretary-General:  On your first question, the Council has not really got to the stage where they have passed resolutions on the kind of operation that will be necessary in Afghanistan.  But there has been some discussion and exchange of ideas on what will be required depending on the evolution of the developments in Afghanistan.  On the question of human rights, in situations of this kind and given the history of Afghanistan and our own experience on the ground, yes, there have been human rights violations, but I would hope that that is also something that one can focus on and tackle once the military operations are over and we are able to work with them on the ground.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, if as you have told the world the two resolutions of September 12 and September 28 do form the legal basis -- also for the current military operations even though they do not contain the specific mandate of military measures -- do we have to expect that in the future every State which claims self-defence under Article 51 of the Charter can take military measures even without getting a specific mandate by the Security Council?  And secondly, what is your understanding, your interpretation of what the goal of the

current military actions are?  Is it to catch Mr. Bin Laden, to bring him to whatever court?  Is it the goal to get him killed?  Is it the goal to topple the Taliban Government?  What is the goal of this military action?

The Secretary-General:  I think on the first part of your question, we have to be clear here that the comments or questions I have answered have related specifically to Afghanistan.  And there I have indicated that the Security Council, in its resolutions, stated that all necessary means should be used to fight terrorism.  It also indicated that the perpetrators of the 11 September attack must be brought to justice.  And it reaffirmed the right of collective and individual self-defence under Article 51.  And the countries that are now engaging in the military action in Afghanistan have set their actions in this context.  Not only that, the British Government gave a report to the Council offering some indications or some evidence as to why they believed Al-Quaeda is the perpetrator of this.  The Council discussed it and did not seem to object to the discussions that they had.  But the fact is, the issue was discussed in the Council.  Not only before but even after the actions.  So normally I would expect those who are going to take these kinds of action would also approach the Council in future.

On the second part of your question, I am not privy to the military operations strategically or tactically, it is not a United Nations operation, and I cannot give you a detailed response to that.  But if I follow the Security Council resolution, the idea would be to bring the perpetrators of the

11 September attacks to justice.  As for what the broader ultimate goal of this current operation is and all that, I am not in the loop on that.

      Question:  You have referred a number of times, Sir, to resolution 1368, which calls on States to bring the perpetrators to justice.  But before which tribunal?  A national court or the International Criminal Court, given that a former President has said that a Security Council resolution could be the basis for trying bin Laden and his associates.  That is my first question.  My second, extremely brief question is this:  A few days ago Ms. Mary Robinson called for a pause in the bombing for humanitarian reasons.  In your opinion, is this request still current?

The Secretary-General:  On the first question you are absolutely right. First of all we do not have the International Criminal Court established yet.  And even if we did, at this stage terrorism is not part of the issues that they can take up.  I expect one of the things they will do once the Court is created is perhaps to consider the possibility of expanding its remit to deal with terrorism. So if today you were to bring terrorists to justice, it will either have to be the Council setting up a special court as it has done in the past for specific situations, or an individual country that has been aggrieved can bring them to court.

On the question of the powers, I have indicated that for us what I would want to see is an end to the military operations as quickly as possible so that we can get on with our work.  And I suspect those undertaking the operation should also want to see that because we need to be able to step up our humanitarian operation and help the people.  And the question of avoiding civilian casualties is something that has been raised many times with the United States and the United

Kingdom and they have indicated their own concern about it.  And of course the humanitarian concern and the needs of the population and the assurance that we get in enough food to avoid starvation in the winter is also something that is of importance to them, I hope and I trust as well.  And therefore, I hope that we can get this over as quickly as possible for us to focus on that essential task.  That is the position that I maintain.

Question:  Secretary-General, you said that the maintenance of an international coalition was vital to defeat terrorism.  At the same time you have expressed a desire to see an end to the military campaign as soon as possible.  Is there a danger though that this campaign does not end very quickly; that this international coalition which you say is vital to the success of the fight is

actually going to collapse and therefore the process would become self-defeating?

The Secretary-General:  I think the implications in your question are right. That in every coalition of this kind you do have tensions.  And the longer it goes on, the greater the likelihood that there would be more tensions and stresses. These tensions and stresses have to be managed in any coalition.  And I hope they will be managed on this occasion as well, because it is extremely important for us to stay together in this struggle.

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For information media. Not an official record.