United Nations
Rector of the University for Peace R. Martin Lees
Statement on the Terrorist Attacks
San José, Costa Rica
September 26, 2001

The following statement was issued today by the Rector of the University for Peace, R. Martin Lees, concerning the terrorist attacks in the United States:

The world has been shaken and profoundly changed by the terrorist attacks which have caused the tragic and bitter loss of thousands of innocent victims from the United States and from many other nations. The unprecedented scale of this assault has aroused intense feelings of sympathy and common humanity around the world, surmounting differences of nationality, race, religion or economic and social conditions.

Our thoughts and prayers are first of all directed to the victims of these tragic events and to their families, relatives and friends in their grievous loss. No political, economic or religious purposes can justify such atrocious acts and the deaths of innocent people. The perpetrators must be brought to justice and the threat of further terrorist attacks must be eliminated.

The world community is confronted by profound challenges to security, peace and progress different in their nature from those encountered in the past. No society, however sophisticated, is immune from the threat of such desperate acts. Indeed, the more complex and materially successful societies are most at risk.

International action is clearly required to eradicate the immediate threats posed by international terrorism to the peace and security of all nations. But these coldly calculated attacks by a small group of terrorists were intended to provoke a cycle of violence and retaliation which would incite further polarization and resentment and thus motivate a wider, more intensive confrontation. Action in response to these terrorist acts should therefore be carefully measured and precisely focused so as to minimize the impact on innocent people and not to compromise the fundamental values of respect for human rights and the rule of law.

The acute realization that we are all vulnerable in the face of common threats should foster a sense of solidarity and co-operation, not of retrenchment and confrontation. It should stimulate concerted international efforts to remove the underlying problems of poverty, injustice, economic inequity, environmental degradation and political failure which create the political and social conditions

conducive to hatred, terrorist acts, violence and conflict. Humanity has the resources, the expertise and the capability to address these crucial issues effectively. We must hope that the shock of these terrible events will stimulate the will to act in a spirit of global solidarity to create a more equitable and peaceful world.

The University for Peace, in accordance with its mission endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly, will take full account of these issues in the further development of its program of education, training and research in the field of peace and security.

The action now being planned in response to this assault on the fundamental rights and aspirations of innocent people to pursue their lives in liberty and security should be accompanied by deep reflection on the underlying conditions which give rise to violence and terrorism. This reflection on the nature and orientation of our societies and the threats and opportunities ahead should in turn lead to new directions for international and national action to address the root causes of injustice, hatred, prejudice, violence and conflict in the modern world.

-- However confident we may be in our own values and systems, we must, through dialogue and openness to other views and cultures, achieve a deeper understanding of the underlying causes of frustration, despair, mistrust and hatred which motivate violence and conflict. As stated in the Constitution of UNESCO, “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” Thus, the values, ethics and spiritual qualities which motivate men and women at the deepest level are the sources of the attitudes and behaviour which provide the foundations for peace.

-- Through education for peace, public information and the constructive efforts of the media, we must strengthen those basic values we hold in common, reduce prejudice and ignorance, promote non-violence and the peaceful resolution of conflicts, encourage tolerance and human rights and learn to respect cultures and opinions different from our own.

-- We must devote more resources to building up the knowledge and expertise needed all over the world to promote peaceful coexistence and reconciliation, to prevent violence and to build peace; we should expend less resources on armaments and conflict. In particular, the individuals and organizations dedicated to the mediation of differences, the prevention and resolution of conflict and the building of peace deserve more support. In this perspective, the central role and capability of the United Nations in the field of peace and security should be enhanced.

-- Classical military responses alone will not prove adequate to counter the complex and diffuse threats to democracy and liberty across the world. A strategy to contain and eliminate terrorism and conflict must therefore include supporting measures to promote reconciliation, security and peace. New concepts and approaches to security must be developed through research and dialogue in order to respond effectively to the emerging threats to peace in the twenty-first century.

-- The fundamental requirement for the elimination of the threats of violence, conflict and terrorism from the modern world is to reduce and eliminate their underlying causes. It will not be sufficient to address the symptoms alone. To avert violence and conflict in the coming century, a renewed and strengthened international commitment is needed to reduce political and economic injustices and the suppression of human rights, to promote social and economic progress, human security and employment, and to provide the hope of positive change for the future.

If the world community can take such positive steps as a result of these tragic events, the victims of the terrorist attacks will not have died in vain.