United Nations
Secretary General Kofi Annan
Address to the UN General Assembly
September 24, 2001

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

60 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 overthrown.

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 cultures.

Let us affirm the opposite. Let us recall that your Assembly has proclaimed this the Year of Dialogue among Civilisations.

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 all mankind.

Finally, 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 levels.

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 exchange.

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 countries.

International cooperation 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 ever.

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 the 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 family”.

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 way.

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 of peace, cooperation 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 along it.

Let us reject the path of violence, which is the product of nihilism and despair.

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.