U.S. Pre-Emption Threatens Collective Global Security

By Annan, Kofi | Canadian Speeches, September-October 2003 | Go to article overview

U.S. Pre-Emption Threatens Collective Global Security


Annan, Kofi, Canadian Speeches


The U.S. policy of unilateral pre-emptive military action against a perceived threat of terrorism is said to be "a fundamental challenge to the principles on which world peace and stability have rested for the last 58 years." It could lead to the lawless use of force, threatening the policy of collective global action exercised through the United Nations. But terrorism is not the only global threat: the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, civil conflicts, extreme poverty, income disparity, the spread of infectious diseases, climate change, and environmental degradation are all seen as threats that must be dealt with by collective action. But the UN itself must be urgently reformed and strengthened to meet these challenges. Speech to the United Nations General Assembly, New York, September 23, 2003.

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The last 12 months have been very painful for those of us who believe in collective answers to our common problems and challenges.

In many countries, terrorism has once again brought death and suffering to innocent people.

In the Middle East, and in certain parts of Africa, violence has continued to escalate.

In the Korean peninsula, and elsewhere, the threat of nuclear proliferation casts an ominous shadow across the landscape.

And barely one month ago, in Baghdad, the United Nations itself suffered a brutal and deliberate assault, in which the international community lost some of its most talented servants. Yesterday, it was attacked again. Another major disaster was averted only by the prompt action of the Iraqi police, one of whom paid with his life.

I extend my most sincere condolences to the family of that brave policeman. And my thoughts go also to the 19 injured, including two Iraqi UN staff members. I wish them all a rapid recovery, Indeed, we should pray for all those who have lost their lives or been injured in this war--innocent civilians and soldiers alike. In that context, I deplore--as I am sure you all do--the brutal attempt on the life of Dr. Akila al-Hashemi, a member of the Governing Council, and I pray for her full recovery, too.

Excellencies, you are the United Nations. The staff who were killed and injured in the attack on our Baghdad headquarters were your staff. You had given them a mandate to assist the suffering Iraqi people, and to help Iraq recover their sovereignty.

In future, not only in Iraq but wherever the United Nations is engaged, we must take more effective measures to protect the security of our staff. I count on your full support--legal, political and financial.

Meanwhile, let me reaffirm the great importance I attach to a successful outcome in Iraq. Whatever view each of us may take of the events of recent months, it is vital to all of us that the outcome is a stable and democratic Iraq--at peace with itself and with its neighbours, and contributing to stability in the region.

Subject to security considerations, the United Nations system is prepared to play its full role in working for a satisfactory outcome in Iraq, and to do so as part of an international effort, an effort by the whole international community, pulling together on the basis of a sound and viable policy. If it takes extra time and patience to forge that policy, a policy that is collective, coherent and workable, then I for one would regard that time as well spent. Indeed, this is how we must approach all the many pressing crises that confront us today.

Three years ago, when you came here for the Millennium Summit, we shared a vision, a vision of global solidarity and collective security, expressed in the Millennium Declaration.

But recent events have called that consensus in question.

All of us know there are new threats that must be faced--or, perhaps, old threats in new and dangerous combinations: new forms of terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

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