Press Releases

    21 October 2002


    Principle of Multilateralism Said to Face Critical Test – Even Most Powerful Countries
    Know They Must Work with Others to Achieve Aims

    NEW YORK, 18 October (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of a message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the third Summit meeting of Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome today (delivered on his behalf by Shalini Dewan, Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Rome):

    Distinguished leaders and champions of peace,

    I am pleased and honoured to convey my warm greeting to all who have gathered in Rome for this important Summit. I know you all join me in congratulating President Carter on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002. He has indeed earned it by his tireless efforts to promote peace, even in the most difficult circumstances.

    Your meeting is taking place at a critical moment for world peace, and for the United Nations. The situation created by Iraq's failure to comply fully with the resolutions of the Security Council since 1991 is indeed one of the gravest and most serious facing the international community today. If handled properly, this challenge may ultimately strengthen international cooperation, the rule of law, and the United Nations -- enabling it to move forward in a purposeful way, not only in this immediate crisis but in the future as well.

    I have appealed to all who might have influence with Iraq's leaders to impress on them the vital importance of accepting the weapons inspections. And I myself urged Iraq to comply with its obligations -- for the sake of its own people, and for the sake of world order. Iraq's decision to readmit the inspectors without conditions is an important first step, but only a first step. Full compliance remains indispensable, and it has not yet happened.

    This moment is also a critical test for the principle of multilateralism -- and the commitment of all States to join forces in pursuit of common aims. On almost no item on the global agenda does anyone seriously contend that each nation, or any nation, can fend for itself. Even the most powerful countries know that they need to work with others, in multilateral institutions, to achieve their aims.

    When countries work together in multilateral institutions -- developing, respecting, and when necessary enforcing international law -- they also develop mutual trust, and more effective cooperation on other issues. And among multilateral institutions, the United Nations has a special place. Any State, if attacked, retains the inherent right of self-defence under Article 51 of the Charter. But beyond that, when States decide to use force to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, there is no substitute for the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations.

    The United Nations, whose membership comprises almost all the States in the world, is founded on the principle of the equal worth of every human being. It is the nearest thing we have to a representative institution that can address the interests of all States, and all peoples. Through this universal, indispensable instrument of human progress, States can serve the interests of their citizens by recognizing common interests and pursuing them in unity.

    I know you all share my concern for world order and the future of multilateralism at this juncture, and look forward to hearing the results of your deliberations.

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