7 March 2003

All Must Work Together to Counter Terrorism, Prevent Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Secretary-General Says

Following is today's statement as delivered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, at the special meeting of the Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee:

I would like to thank the Chairman of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, the Committee's members, and the distinguished representatives from international, regional and subregional bodies for their presence here today. And let me express my special thanks to you, Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, for chairing the Counter-Terrorism Committee with distinction, energy and creativity from the time of its creation in October 2001. As you know, he will be leaving the position to Ambassador Arias, of Spain, beginning next month.

The Counter-Terrorism Committee is now playing a vital role in the global effort to fight terrorism. By seeking to ensure compliance with resolution 1373, enhancing States' counter-terrorism capacity, and promoting universal adherence to the anti-terrorism Conventions, the Counter-Terrorism Committee has demonstrated the universal nature of this challenge, and the need for a universal response.

The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and those conducted in Bali, Mombasa, and Moscow more recently have shown that this scourge knows no boundaries. Terrorism is clearly a threat to international peace and security, and the Security Council has made a firm commitment to fight it in every instance. The ministerial meeting that took place on 20 January of this year offered a fine demonstration of international commitment to this effort at the highest levels.

We are all well aware, however, of how much more damage terrorists could do if they were to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Although recent terrorist attacks have been massive in their scale, future attacks could make them pale in comparison, particularly if terrorists were to acquire lethal chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Never has it been more important to strengthen the multilateral regimes that have been developed to prevent the proliferation of such weapons.

For the fight against terrorism to be effective, it is essential that we all work together to ensure that universal principles prevail over lawlessness. Cooperation among international, regional, and subregional organizations is thus essential. This is why today's meeting is so important. For international efforts to be effective in countering terrorism, cooperation must be made systematic, ensuring a proper division of labour based on comparative advantages.

In addition, we need to develop an international programme of action, founded on an unshakeable commitment to upholding the rule of law. As terrorism involves the calculated use of violence in violation of the law, our response to terrorism should aim to ensure the rule of law.

Terrorist acts, particularly those involving the loss of life, constitute grave violations of human rights. Our responses to terrorism, as well as our efforts to thwart it and prevent it should uphold the human rights that terrorists aim to destroy. Human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law are essential tools in the effort to combat terrorism -- not privileges to be sacrificed at a time of tension. Finally, we must strive to bridge the cultural and religious divides which lead to polarization, suspicion and mistrust. We all have a stake in this struggle, and we must all feel that we are part of it.

In its efforts to address the problem of terrorism, the United Nations and its members must not lose sight of the broader international agenda. While there is a clear and urgent necessity to prevent despicable acts of terror, there is also a compelling need to continue striving towards the fulfillment of the goals enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the Millennium Development Goals. To the extent that the Organization succeeds in fighting poverty and injustice, suffering and war, it is also likely to help counter the conditions that serve as justification to those who would commit acts of terror.

I wish you all success in these deliberations, and hope they will further strengthen our collective efforts in the fight against terrorism.

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