24 September 2001
Text: Secretary General Annan's Address to the UN General Assembly
(Addresses General Assembly session on terrorism) (1800)
United Nations -- Opening the first working session of the 56th
General Assembly September 24, Secretary General Kofi Annan talked of
the "need for a vigorous response to terrorism and for a sustained,
comprehensive strategy to defeat it."
The secretary general addressed the assembly on what was to have been
the traditional opening day of the general debate, which was postponed
until later in the year due to the terrorist attack on the World Trade
Center. That debate is being rescheduled because New York City and
Federal law enforcement agencies are unable to handle the security
arrangements for the large number of heads of state and foreign
ministers who attend the assembly's opening each year. Instead, the
assembly began discussing the work of the U.N., an issue originally
scheduled for later in the year.
The attack on the World Trade Center, Annan said, "struck at
everything this organization stands for: peace, freedom, tolerance,
human rights, the very idea of a united human family. It struck at all
our efforts to create a true international society based on the rule
The secretary general said that the assembly should respond "by
reaffirming the rule of law on the international as well as the
national level. No effort should be spared in bringing the
perpetrators to justice in a clear and transparent process that all
can understand and accept."
On September 12 the General Assembly met to pass a resolution
condemning the "heinous acts of terrorism" in New York, Washington,
and Pennsylvania and urgently called for international cooperation to
bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers, and sponsors of the
Annan also said that the vicious onslaught must not be allowed to set
back UN-sponsored efforts to advance economic development, education,
health, and human rights.
Following is the text of the secretary general's remarks:
THE SECRETARY-GENERAL'S ADDRESS TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
New York, 24 September 2001
Thank you, Mr. President.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Two weeks ago, as you will all remember, we were looking forward to
this day, as the day when we would begin our General Debate.
Many of you expected to be represented here by your Head of State or
Government, or by your Foreign Minister.
I had myself hoped to set out for you what I see as the main
priorities for the work of the Organization over the next five years.
But alas, Mr. President: that was two weeks ago.
Thirteen days ago -- on a day none of us is likely to forget -- our
host country, and our beloved host city, were struck by a blow so
deliberate, so heartless, malicious and destructive, that we are all
still struggling to grasp its enormity.
In truth, this was a blow not against one city or one country, but
against all of us.
It was not only an attack on our innocent fellow citizens -- well over
sixty Member States are affected, including, I am sad to say, my own
country -- but an attack on our shared values.
It struck at everything this Organization stands for: peace, freedom,
tolerance, human rights, and the very idea of a united human family.
It struck at all our efforts to create a true international society,
based on the rule of law.
Let us respond by reaffirming, with all our strength, our common
humanity and the values that we share. We shall not allow them to be
On the very day after the onslaught, the Security Council rightly
identified it as a threat to international peace and security.
Let us therefore respond to it in a way that strengthens international
peace and security -- by cementing the ties among nations, and not
subjecting them to new strains.
This Organization is the natural forum in which to build such a
universal coalition. It alone can give global legitimacy to the
long-term struggle against terrorism.
On that same day -- 12 September -- your own Assembly called for
"urgent action to enhance international cooperation to prevent and
eradicate acts of terrorism".
I welcome that Resolution, as well as the Assembly's decision to
address the scourge of terrorism in greater detail next week. Among
other things, this will be an occasion to stress the urgency of
ratifying, and above all implementing, the existing conventions on
international terrorism, and to consider agreeing on new instruments
to combat this heinous crime.
The need for a vigorous response to terrorism, and for a sustained,
comprehensive strategy to defeat it, is not in doubt. But we also need
to give greater urgency to our humanitarian task of relieving the
victims of conflict and starvation -- especially, at this time, those
displaced from their homes in Afghanistan.
The attack of 11 September was also an attack on the freedom of human
beings to travel, to exchange goods and services -- everything a World
Trade Center stands for -- and to exchange ideas.
Some commentators have rushed to assert that this confirms the dismal
thesis of an inevitable "clash of civilizations", according to which
we face a century of conflict between people of different faiths and
Let us affirm the opposite. Let us recall that your Assembly has
proclaimed this the year of Dialogue among Civilizations.
Let us reassert the freedom of people from every faith and culture to
meet, and mingle, and to exchange ideas and knowledge, in mutual
respect and tolerance -- to their mutual benefit and the benefit of
Finally, Mr. President, the attack of 11 September was an attack on
the rule of law -- that is, on the very principle that enables nations
and individuals to live together in peace, by following agreed rules
and settling their disputes through agreed procedures.
So let us respond by reaffirming the rule of law, on the international
as well as the national level.
No effort should be spared in bringing the perpetrators to justice, in
a clear and transparent process that all can understand and accept.
Let us uphold our own principles and standards, so that we can make
the difference unmistakable, for all the world to see, between those
who resort to terrorism and those who fight against it.
Responding appropriately to this vicious onslaught is indeed a vital
task. But we must not let it distract us from the rest of the work we
have to do.
In no way do these tragic events make the broader mission of the
United Nations less relevant.
On the contrary -- and especially if we allow them to succeed in
tipping the world economy into recession -- these events will make
that mission even more urgent.
Let us not respond to economic uncertainty in a way that is sure to
make it worse, by seeking to protect national markets against free
Instead, as we prepare for the meeting of the World Trade Organization
in Doha, let us strengthen our international trading system, and make
sure that its benefits are available to all, especially the developing
International co-operation is needed now, more than ever, in managing
the world economy -and in ensuring that the costs of adjustment do
not, once again, fall most heavily on developing countries.
We must not allow these events to set us back in our fulfilment of the
pledges given, one year ago, by our Heads of State and Government in
their Millennium Declaration -- such as the promise to halve, by 2015,
the proportion of the world's people whose income is less than one
dollar a day; to ensure universal primary education for girls and boys
alike; to halt and begin reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS; and to
preserve the planet for future generations by adopting a new ethic of
conservation and stewardship.
Those tasks remain as urgent as they ever were -- if anything more so;
and this Organization's work to advance them -- which is described in
detail in the Report you have before you -- remains as important as
These longer-term issues of development can and must be addressed
during this session of the Assembly. Our understandable preoccupation
with the fight against terrorism must not lead us to neglect them.
The social and economic evils in our world are all too real -- as is
the need to make globalization work for all the peoples of the world,
by embedding the new global economy in a global society, based on
shared global values of solidarity, social justice, and human rights.
But these things cannot be achieved by violence.
On the contrary, the hope of relieving world poverty will only
diminish, if the world is polarized into mutually hostile camps of
rich and poor, or North and South.
The only route that offers any hope of a better future for all
humanity is that of cooperation and partnership, in which all social
forces -- States, the private sector, institutions of learning and
research, and civil society in all its forms -- unite their efforts in
pursuit of specific, attainable goals.
And at the centre of all these partnerships must stand this
Organization -- which, one year ago, your Heads of State and
Government undertook to strengthen and make more effective, because
they considered it the "indispensable common house of our human
The United Nations must listen to all these different partners. It
must guide them. It must urge them on.
The United Nations must provide a framework of shared values and
understanding, within which their free and voluntary efforts can
interact, and reinforce each other, instead of getting in each other's
And -- to quote the Millennium Declaration once more -- it is through
the United Nations that the peoples of the world must seek to realize
their "universal aspirations to peace, co-operation and development".
Excellencies, that is the path traced for us by our Heads of State and
Government one year ago. Let us not be shaken, even by the unspeakable
horror that we witnessed 13 days ago, in our determination to proceed
Let us reject the path of violence, which is the product of nihilism
Let us prove by our actions that there is no need to despair; that the
political and economic problems of our time can be solved peacefully;
and that no human life should be sacrificed, because every human being
has cause to hope.
That, I believe, Mr. President, is the true business of this Assembly,
and the true mission of this Organization. Thank you very much.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list