14 April 2003

Framework for Peace, Security Must Have Capacity to Respond Swiftly, Effectively, Secretary-General Tells Security Council

NEW YORK, 11 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of opening remarks, as delivered, by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to today's meeting of the Security Council on regional organizations and new challenges to international peace and security:

Mr. President, let me thank you for your timely initiative in arranging this important meeting. We are clearly at a crucial juncture in the development of international relations, and I am pleased to see representatives of so many regional organizations here. This demonstrates our joint interest in forging common strategies to address the challenges we all face.

The feeling of global insecurity has seldom, if ever, been greater than it is today. Equally, there has never been a more keenly felt desire among peoples and nations for a peace and security framework based firmly on the international rule of law.

That framework must be capable of responding swiftly and effectively to the challenges of our rapidly changing world.

We live in a world where unprecedented wealth coexists with terrible deprivation. Globalization brings opportunities for some, but excludes far too many. Interdependence and open borders knit us closer together, while intolerance drives us apart. Science offers unprecedented promise, yet AIDS kills a child every minute. Technological progress enables us to communicate in a split second across thousands of miles, but has given international terrorists tools that can help them in their plans to obliterate thousands of people in the same split second.

I could go on with this catalogue. I do not intend to. It must be clear to all of us that in the twenty-first century, many of the challenges we face are global. And from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to the trafficking of small arms, from climate change to the emergence of new, deadly viruses -- they all have the potential to threaten not only our stability, but our survival.

These issues are not new to the United Nations agenda. But for many, they were brought into more acute and painful focus after the events of 11 September 2001, and now even more so by the war in Iraq, which people across the globe have been following in real time on their television screens.

And yet, despite the sense of vulnerability and uncertainty that pervades the global consciousness, people and nations retain the hope of strengthening the foundations of stability and uniting around a common humanity. People look for institutions and systems to uphold shared principles and ensure multilateral solutions.

They look to the United Nations. They look for ways to translate into reality the ideals expressed in the United Nations Charter, which established the fundamental principles of international law. These principles are the outcome of long and often tragic history of humankind.

Our Organization -- for all its imperfections, real and perceived -- has built up unique experience in dealing with a range of crises, by bringing humanitarian relief to millions in need, helping people rebuild their countries after the ruins of armed conflict, promoting human rights and the rule of law, and many other activities that have come to be seen as essential parts of peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building.

In all these endeavours, the United Nations has relied, to a greater or lesser extent, on regional partners -- in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Together, through all the turbulent years of the past few decades, we have learnt a great deal about the need to transform a sense of collective insecurity into a system of collective security. That is precisely the purpose of Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter, which guides and inspires your meeting today.

Now, we need to redouble our efforts to find common ground and purpose again. We need to move towards creating a network of effective mutually reinforcing mechanisms -- regional and global -- that are flexible and responsive to the reality we live in today.

The United Nations stands ready to work together with you, the regional organizations, in that cardinal mission. Your meeting today promises to inject new momentum into our partnership. For the sake of the world's people, we must make that partnership succeed.

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