30 July 2003



NEW YORK, 29 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks delivered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the fifth high-level meeting of the United Nations and Regional Organizations, held at Headquarters today:

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to New York for this fifth high-level meeting between the United Nations and so many of the world’s leading regional organizations and mechanisms.

At the opening of our last high-level meeting in February 2001, I said that most of the challenges we were facing are bigger than any single one of us can handle singly.  If that was true then, it is even truer now.

Our age is abundant with promise.  But we have to remind ourselves, in stark and terrible terms, that our increasing interdependence also brings great vulnerability.  In rich and poor States alike, many things happen over which people feel they have little control.

Borders are no barriers to the flow of new ideas, goods and services, tourists, economic migrants and communications.  But nor do they easily stop the movement of terrorists, warlords, small arms, smuggled people, refugees, narcotics, infectious diseases and environmental hazards.

The vicious sting of terrorism has been felt by the world’s most powerful country, by its biggest democracy, by its largest State, by its most populous Muslim nation, and by the home of Islam’s holiest sites -- indeed, by all of us.  And we now see that weapons of mass destruction threaten us not only by their very existence, but also by the potential that they might fall into the hands of terrorists who are difficult to deter and extreme in their methods and objectives.

Civil wars and the disintegration of States create conditions where civilians are brutalized and warlords, terrorists and traffickers are empowered.

Meanwhile, the question of when and on whose authority military force should be used, be it to protect the innocent or to achieve other aims, arouses great passions -- not only in those States where force is deployed, but everywhere.

While many of these problems have long been with us in one form or another, the range and diversity of the challenges presented by this environment are unprecedented.  In discussing how we can work together to address these challenges, I hope we can build on the progress made during our previous high-level meetings in cooperating on conflict prevention and peace-building.

I also hope we can build on discussions earlier this year where regional organizations took active part in the special meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Committee and in the Security Council’s high-level meeting on new threats to peace and security.

As we discuss these new challenges, I have invited INTERPOL, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization to join us, and I welcome them to this forum.  They have much to contribute to the consideration of the items on the agenda.

I do not want to pre-judge what course our discussions might take or the conclusions we might reach.  But I believe we would do well to bear in mind a few basic points.

First, we must remember that we are all in this together.  Let us not add to our burdens by descending into unproductive polarizing over our differences.  The interests and values we share are vastly more important than the disputes we have, even on fundamental issues.

Second, as our world changes, our institutions must keep pace with those changes.  We need a candid evaluation of our existing mechanisms and ways of working.  And we must redouble our efforts aimed at innovation and reform.

Third, we must be proactive not only against common enemies and threats, but also against the factors which allow them to thrive.  Much of the work of the United Nations seeks to remove the sense of political grievance and economic despair, which can yield recruits to the violent designs of terrorists.  This work must have a central place in any overall strategy to defeat terrorism and other causes of insecurity.

Fourth, we must be proactive in promoting the principles in which we believe and which are enshrined in the Charter, including the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Every time we advance the protection of human rights, we deal a blow to the evil designs of terrorists, and we remove a sense of injustice, which can cause the oppressed to channel their frustration into illegitimate violence.  If we compromise on human rights in seeking to fight terrorism, we hand terrorists a victory they cannot achieve on their own.

If we build on these fundamentals, I believe we can develop a new vision of global security.  A vision that respects human rights while confronting the threats of our age -- including the threat of terrorism.  A vision that draws upon the resources and legitimacy of a network of effective and mutually reinforcing multilateral mechanisms -- regional and global -- which are flexible and responsive to our rapidly changing and integrating world.

In conclusion, let me say that I look forward to a productive session and to hearing your views.  And I hope that when we conclude we have a common set of specific steps to move forward on.

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