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
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