Secretary General Kofi Annan
Calls for 'Immediate, Far-Reaching Changes' in UN Response to Terror
United Nations General Assembly
New York, New York
October 1, 2001
On Friday night, the Security Council adopted unanimously a broad resolution
aimed at targeting terrorists and those who harbour, aid or support them. That
resolution requires Member States to cooperate in a wide range of areas -
from suppressing the financing of terrorism to providing early warning, cooperating
in criminal investigations, and exchanging information on possible terrorist
acts. I applaud the Council for acting so swiftly to enshrine in law the first
steps needed to carry this fight forward with new vigour and determination.
Now all Member States must make greater efforts to exchange information about
practices that have proved effective, and lessons that have been learned, in
the fight against terrorism -- so that a global standard of excellence can be
set. The implementation of this resolution will require technical expertise
at the national level. I encourage States that can offer assistance in this
regard to do so generously and without delay.
Thus far, the international community has been able to act with unprecedented
speed and unity. On 12 September, both the General Assembly and the Security
Council adopted strong resolutions condemning the attacks and calling on all
States to cooperate in bringing the perpetrators to justice. Now, a second and
more detailed resolution has been adopted by the Security Council, building
swiftly on the first. Today, this august Assembly meets to deliberate its own
response to the events of 11 September.
The reason for this response and unprecedented unity is clear. The terrorist
attacks against the United States - resulting in the deaths of some 6,000
people from 80 countries -- were acts of terrible evil which shocked the conscience
of the entire world.
But out of evil can come good. Paradoxically, these vicious assaults on our
common humanity have had the effect of reaffirming our common humanity. The
very heartlessness and callous indifference to the suffering and grief caused
to thousands of innocent families has brought a heartfelt response from millions
of ordinary people all over the world, in many different societies.
The task now is to build on that wave of human solidarity - to ensure
that the momentum is not lost, to develop a broad, comprehensive and above all
sustained strategy to combat terrorism and eradicate it from our world.
This important meeting of the General Assembly has a critical role to play in
this. It must not be merely symbolic. It must signal the beginning of immediate,
practical and far-reaching changes in the way this Organization and its Member
States act against terrorism.
Today, the shock of this crime has united the world. But, my dear friends, if
we are to prevent such crimes from being committed again, we must stay united
as we seek to eliminate terrorism. In this struggle, there is simply no alternative
to international cooperation. Terrorism will be defeated if the international
community summons the will to unite in a broad coalition, or it will not be
defeated at all. The United Nations is uniquely positioned to serve as the forum
for this coalition, and for the development of those steps governments must
now take - separately and together - to fight terrorism on a global
The global reaction to the attacks should give us courage and hope that we can
succeed in this fight. The sight of people gathering in cities in every part
of the world from every religion to mourn -- and to express solidarity with
the people of the United States -- proves more eloquently than any words that
terrorism is not an issue that divides humanity, but one that unites it. We
are in a moral struggle to fight an evil that is anathema to all faiths. Every
State and every people has a part to play. This was an attack on humanity, and
humanity must respond to it as one.
The urgent business of the United Nations must now be to develop a long-term
strategy, in order to ensure global legitimacy for the struggle ahead. The legitimacy
that the United Nations conveys can ensure that the greatest number of States
are able and willing to take the necessary and difficult steps - diplomatic,
legal and political - that are needed to defeat terrorism.
The Member States that you represent have a clear agenda before them. It begins
with ensuring that the 12 conventions and protocols on international terrorism
already drafted and adopted under United Nations auspices are signed, ratified
and implemented without delay by all States.
Two of these conventions, in particular, can strengthen the fight against terrorism.
First, the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings,
which entered into force on 23 May this year; and second, the 1999 Convention
for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, which so far has
44 signatories and four ratifications. It requires 18 additional ratifications
to enter into force, and I hope it will now be seen as a point of honour for
Member States to sign and ratify this vital convention as soon possible.
While no one imagines that these conventions - even when implemented --
will end terrorism on their own, they are part of the legal framework needed
for this effort. I wish to propose to all Member States that they make it their
order of business during the general debate to sign all the conventions on terrorism,
and pledge to work for their ratification and implementation without delay.
It will also be important to obtain agreement on a comprehensive convention
on international terrorism. In the post-11 September era, no one can dispute
the nature of the terrorist threat, nor the need to meet it with a global response.
I understand that there are outstanding issues, which until now have prevented
agreement on this convention. Some of the most difficult issues relate to the
definition of terrorism. I understand and accept the need for legal precision.
But let me say frankly that there is also a need for moral clarity. There can
be no acceptance of those who would seek to justify the deliberate taking of
innocent civilian life, regardless of cause or grievance. If there is one universal
principle that all peoples can agree on, surely it is this.
Even in situations of armed conflict, the targeting of innocent civilians is
illegal, as well as morally unacceptable. And yet, as I have stated in my two
reports on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, civilian populations
are more and more often deliberately targeted. Indeed, civilians have become
the principal victims of conflict, accounting for an estimated 75 per cent of
This demands from all of us an increased attention to the civilian costs of
conflict. It requires Member States to live up to their responsibilities under
international law. They must deal firmly with the reality of armed groups and
other non-State actors who refuse to respect common principles of human dignity.
It is hard to imagine how the tragedy of 11 September could have been worse.
Yet, the truth is that a single attack involving a nuclear or biological weapon
could have killed millions. While the world was unable to prevent the
11 September attacks, there is much we can do to help prevent future terrorist
acts carried out with weapons of mass destruction. The greatest danger arises
from a non-State group -- or even an individual -- acquiring and using a nuclear,
biological, or chemical weapon. Such a weapon could be delivered without the
need for any missile or any other sophisticated delivery system.
In addition to measures taken by individual Member States, we must now strengthen
the global norm against the use or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
This means, among other actions:
-- Redoubling efforts to ensure the universality, verification and full implementation
of key treaties relating to weapons of mass destruction, including those outlawing
chemical and biological weapons and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty;
-- Promoting cooperation among international organizations dealing with these
-- Tightening national legislation over exports of goods and technologies needed
to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery; and
-- Developing new efforts to criminalize the acquisition or use of weapons of
mass destruction by non-State groups.
In addition, we need to strengthen controls over other types of weapons that
pose grave dangers through terrorist use. This means doing more to ensure a
ban on the sale of small arms to non-State groups; making progress in eliminating
landmines; improving the physical protection of sensitive industrial facilities,
including nuclear and chemical plants; and increased vigilance against cyberterrorist
As we summon the will and the resources to succeed in the struggle against terrorism,
we must also care for all the victims of terrorism, whether they are the direct
targets or other populations who will be affected by our common effort. That
is why I have launched an alert to donors about the potential need for much
more generous humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
This appeal is only the most urgent part of our determination to continue to
care for those suffering from poverty, disease and conflict around the world.
The work of the United Nations in promoting development, resolving long-standing
disputes, and fighting ignorance and prejudice are even more important today
than they were before 11 September.
The victims of the attacks on 11 September were, first and foremost, the innocent
civilians who lost their lives, and their families who now grieve for them.
But peace, tolerance, mutual respect, human rights, the rule of law and the
global economy are all among the casualties of the terrorists acts.
In conclusion, let me say that repairing the damage done to the fabric of the
international community - restoring trust among peoples and cultures -
will not be easy. But just as a concerted international response can make the
work of terrorists much harder to accomplish, so should the unity born out of
this tragedy bring all nations together in defence of the most basic right -
the right of all peoples to live in peace and security. This is the challenge
before us as we seek to eliminate the evil of terrorism.