The Task Now Is to Build on the Wave of Human Solidarity
Address by UN Secretary Kofi Annan
October 1, 2001
Mr. President, [Mayor Giuliani,] Distinguished delegates, Ladies
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 the 12th of 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
enough. 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 around 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:
Today, the shock of this crime has united the world. But, Excellencies,
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- scale.
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 eighteen 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 first order of business during
the General Debate to sign all the conventions on terrorism, and
pledge to work for their ratification and implementation without
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 percent 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 immediate 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
implementation of key treaties relating to weapons of mass
destruction, including those outlawing chemical and biological
weapons and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty;
promoting closer cooperation among international organizations
dealing with- these-weapons;
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 the 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.
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 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.