Press Releases

    For information - not an official document     Zur Information - kein offizielles Dokument    Pour information - document sans caractère officiel
    19 November 1999
    Global Effort Needed against Terrorism, Says Secretary-General
    But Responses Must Be Sophisticated, Proportional


    Address to OSCE Summit Calls Indiscriminate Action 'Immoral' -- Hurting the Innocent, Enabling Terrorists to Attract More Recruits

     NEW YORK, 18 November (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of an address by Secretary-General Kofi Annan today at the opening ceremony of the summit meeting in Istanbul of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE):

     It is a great honour to address this conference.  We must all feel more than usual gratitude to the Turkish people, who have welcomed us so generously, so soon after the disastrous earthquakes.  Our relief at seeing the beauty of this city still intact cannot assuage our deep sorrow at the loss of so many lives.  Nor can it lessen our compassion for the tens of thousands who suffered injury and whose homes have been destroyed.  The Turkish people are setting about the task of reconstruction with great courage.  We must all give them whatever support they need.

     This is a place and time of historic significance.  This place -- for sixteen centuries, the capital of great empires that bridged Europe and Asia -- symbolizes a greater Europe, an outward-looking Europe, which today finds its fullest expression in your Organization.  And we meet at the end of a century like no other in Europe's history, or indeed the world’s.

     Both our organizations -- the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) -- are products of this century.  Both embody a constructive and hopeful way of dealing with its conflicts, and their legacy for the next century.  We were, you might say, born to work together.  And we do -- in strengthening restored democracy; in conflict prevention; and, when that fails, in peacemaking and peace-building.

     This year, we have embarked on our biggest and most challenging joint task to date:  building peace in Kosovo.  The OSCE is our indispensable partner in the work of building a free, pluralist and multi-ethnic Kosovo -- an appallingly difficult task, given the bitter resentments left by conflict.

     All of us must feel shame, as well as sadness, when we remember how often in recent years we failed to prevent such conflicts in Europe and elsewhere.  Even in this, its final year, this century’s darker side is very much with us.

     In Europe, as in other continents, we see women and children driven en masse from their homes; towns and villages in smoking ruins; the environment and economic life of whole regions disrupted by war.  We hear the grim tales of survivors from massacre and rape, and watch the even grimmer spectacle of bodies exhumed from mass graves.

     Excellencies, in the new century we must do better.

     We now have such an opportunity in Cyprus.  Happily, the parties there have accepted my invitation to meet in New York early next month.  The aim is to hold proximity talks to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement.  It is my personal hope that this renewed effort will begin the closing chapter of this longstanding dispute.

     Last year, the OSCE took part in two meetings which I convened with regional organizations, to work out specific forms of collaboration in preventing conflicts.  But forms are not enough.  We must mobilize the political will to act effectively, and in good time.

     I am glad the Security Council will consider prevention later this month, as will the Group of Eight at their summit early next year.  One form of prevention they should consider is the need for more sophisticated responses to terrorism.  We are all determined to fight terrorism, and do our utmost to banish it from the face of the earth.

     But the force we use to fight it should always be proportional, and focused on the actual terrorists.  We cannot and must not fight them by using their own methods -- by inflicting indiscriminate violence and terror on innocent civilians, including children.  Such tactics are immoral and contrary to humanitarian law.  They are also counter-productive, because they make it easier for terrorists to justify their acts in the eyes of ordinary people, and to lure more recruits into their ranks.

     Much conflict could also be prevented if the rich cultural diversity within so many of our States were considered as an asset, rather than a threat, and allowed to flourish accordingly.  This is why the quiet but effective work of your High Commissioner on National Minorities is so important.  All European states should heed his advice, and other continents would do well to adopt a similar mechanism.

     When prevention does fail, and massive violations of human rights occur, we need clearer principles to tell us where intervention is justified.  Earlier this year, there was such an intervention, but without the authority of the Security Council.  Because of this, I decided, in my address to this year’s General Assembly, to call for a debate on ways to reconcile respect for national sovereignty with the need to prevent outrageous violations of international humanitarian law.  I hope all the States represented here will contribute to that debate, and that it will lead to a new consensus, so that, in future, the Council as a whole can act effectively to defend our common humanity.

     Already, our organizations have achieved much together.  Our cooperation is a model of what could be achieved throughout the world by the United Nations working with regional groups.  I look forward to strengthening it even further in the future.

    * * * * *