16 March 2001


NEW YORK, 15 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the United Services Institution of India in New Delhi on 15 March:

I am very pleased to visit the United Services Institution and to witness first-hand your remarkable work on behalf of the United Nations peacekeeping efforts around the world. As a first-rank training centre, you are providing tomorrow's peacekeepers with the tools, the experience and the knowledge necessary to succeed in carrying out their missions. In your Director, General Nambiar, you have a man who is known and admired throughout the United Nations for his skills and leadership, and it gives me great pleasure and comfort to know that he is setting the standard for future graduates of this institute.

In all these conflicts Indian soldiers have distinguished themselves through discipline, training and professionalism and it is my hope that you can help set a new standard for United Nations peacekeeping. You have much to teach the peacekeepers of other countries, who may share your enthusiasm and determination, but lack your experience and training. And I was happy to hear you say, General Nambiar, that you will make space available for soldiers from other countries.

As you are aware, the demands facing peacekeeping troops on the ground today are extremely complex and challenging, requiring innovative leadership and courageous action. Peacekeepers are sometimes deployed into dangerous areas, in areas where there is no peace to keep and are required to help us create security and stability. The situation on the ground can change any minute and military personnel have to be ready to handle many kinds of situations.

At times, military personnel may become involved in peacemaking. At others, they are involved in disarmament, demobilization and in providing security for the reintegration of civilians and the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

At the United Nations, we are currently in the process of implementing the recommendations of the Brahimi Report, a report which I commissioned and which attempts to address some of the most urgent needs of our peacekeeping department, and to present a vision of peacekeeping that aims to meet the challenges of the new century. The report pointed out that pre-deployment training is one of the most important factors in ensuring that military personnel are ready to tackle the obstacles they face on the ground. India is well ahead of most others in this field, and we will continue to look to you for insights and advice.

But, if I may comment on some of the remarks you made there, General Nambiar, about the attitude of some Member States and whether the United Nations is relevant today or not, I think we all realize that we went through a period when major countries shied away from United Nations peacekeeping operations and I believe it all started with Somalia. After the Somalia experience, the United States pulled out from Somalia and other western countries followed and, thereafter, it was extremely difficult to convince them to become engaged in peacekeeping operations in Africa. In fact, I have had the opportunity to say that Rwanda was a victim of Somalia. Because of Somalia, governments did not want to send troops to Rwanda and we saw what happened. It's taken almost 10 years, a bit less actually. It was only last year that we went back to Africa, first deploying in Sierra Leone and now we have deployed to Ethiopia and Eritrea and we are deploying observers and troops to Congo.

In Sierra Leone, in addition to the United Nations troops, we have British forces, but they are not under the United Nations command. They are operating separately. They have been a friendly force and, I must say, they have been extremely helpful to the United Nations forces. You may recall that we did run into difficulties in Sierra Leone and about 500 peacekeepers were taken hostage. I appealed to the world to send in a rapid reaction force, but no one would respond. The British decided to send in their force, a separate British force, and that force arrived at the right psychological moment, had an impact on the ground and worked with us side-by-side in stabilizing the United Nations force for us to continue our work. The Indian contingent in that operation did a brilliant job and I think you all recall operation Khukri, where they freed the peacekeepers who had been taken hostage. I pay tribute to the men who took part in that operation and redeemed the honour of United Nations peacekeeping.

I believe that with the new report that has been produced, the membership is today discussing seriously what needs to be done to strengthen peacekeeping operations. The need for the members of the Council to pass this resolution is to participate themselves, because we saw a development where the Council members who passed the resolution, the permanent five and the big ones, would not participate and most of the troops were coming from the third world.

In Eritrea, I am pleased to say that there are several western countries who are on the ground with us. The Force Commander is Dutch. We have the Dutch, the Canadians and the Danes, and it's the first time those forces have returned to Africa since Somalia. And not only is this the first time; there is a serious discussion as to how we can strengthen the peacekeeping operations by engaging the troop-contributing countries much more.

I see Ambassador Gharekhan here. He was in New York when they first started this idea of bringing the Security Council, the Department of Peacekeeping and the troop contributors together to discuss mandates, where possible, before they are passed and any changes made in the mandate. People wondered if that kind of discussion would be useful, but I will give you one example. In Yugoslavia, in Bosnia, the Council was discussing a resolution that the force in Bosnia, which was already stretched, should go and secure the corridor, a Brcko corridor, which would have required around 2,000 men, further extending the army and the force on the ground. The troop-contributing countries resisted and said we will accept the request for our troops, if you can assure us that there will be support and additional men are going to come and are going to go and support them. There were no additional men to go and support them and so the proposal was dropped. That resolution was not passed, but this sort of exchange, and give and take, is going to be necessary and we are going to see more of that.

The other suggestion which has been made is that before the Security Council approves a mandate or a resolution to dispatch troops, they must first make sure that the troops are available. Because in the past we have tended to adopt resolutions, ask a force to go in. And we send in a force that is neither equipped nor adequate for the task, setting the men up for failure and raising the hopes, sometimes, of people in the region that the United Nations would protect them or will take certain actions that we have no means of taking. So we have faced these issues; we are facing these issues very, very squarely now and I hope as we move ahead and discuss implementation of the Brahimi Report we will be able to resolve some of these outstanding issues.

Another area where I believe we need to do better is the question of information, intelligence gathering, not in terms of spying, but to have the information, to be able to do serious analysis in order to anticipate how the crisis is likely to develop and be prepared to take appropriate action. Understanding the nature of the crisis and how it is likely to develop also helps you in determining the kind of force and the force strength you need to go in with and, therefore, you get on the ground prepared and hopefully be able to carry out your mandate.

On the United Nations as a whole, I think, those who believed that the United Nations was no longer relevant are having to change their mind in today's world. Today we live in a global village. We live in a rapidly globalizing world and we are dealing with issues that no one country, however powerful, can tackle alone. From health issues, to the issue of globalization, which I had a chance to talk about in Dhaka yesterday, and the whole range of issues that we can only resolve if we work together. And as the world globalizes, the United Nations influence, and its role, becomes even more necessary.

Most people do not realize how the United Nations affects their daily lives. When you look at the norms in the area of international law, whether it is aviation or air travel, without the work of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), that regulates air-traffic controllers and insists that they all speak one language, English, I don't think that the air controllers and the pilots would be able to understand each other. And the work we do for shipping, the work we do in telecommunications, where we control the frequencies. We have a whole set of practices, norms and international law that regulate how we relate to each other and do business in this global world.

Each community is held together by shared values and common values. The international community has shared values and it is what the United Nations offers from its Charter to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a whole range of issues. And if each community has a language to be able to communicate, the language of the global world today is international law, and here again the United Nations does lots of work in it.

So, when I maintain that in this globalizing world the United Nations is needed more than ever, I am quite serious, because it affects us daily even though most people may not know it. And, in discussions with some of the most powerful nations, they do admit that the United Nations has a convening power that no other organization has and that it has a credibility with the peoples of the world that the other institutions do not have and that they need to help strengthen it, and I hope that they will continue. For the smaller and the medium-size countries, the United Nations is extremely important and they almost understand instinctively that the problems they are facing they cannot face alone and they need to team up with others to tackle them. It reminds me of what Haile Selassie, the late Emperor of Ethiopia, said when his country was attacked by Italy. He went to see the League of Nations, and said, "Help us. It is us today and it may be you tomorrow". And that turned out to be very prophetic. The small ones understand and I hope that the big ones will also understand.

I think if I am going to take a few questions, I better stop here and I will try to answer your questions.

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