19 July 2005

At 2005 Summit, World Must Commit Decisively to Path of Cooperation, Solidarity, Says Secretary-General, in Message to Tehran Conference

NEW YORK, 18 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the International Conference on United Nations Reform, delivered by Edward Mortimer, Director of Communications in the Office of the Secretary-General, in Tehran, 17-18 July:

I send my greetings to all those attending this very timely conference, and my particular thanks to the Institute for Political and International Studies for hosting it.  You meet at an important moment for the United Nations, and indeed for our global community.  Just last month, we celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter.  But our minds are on the future, not on the past.  We are deep in debate and discussion about how to adapt our collective responses and our shared institutions to the needs of a rapidly changing world.

I will come to those vital issues in a moment -- but first, let me stress that no reform proposals, however important, should distract us from certain urgent tasks, particularly the need to resolve protracted conflicts and ensure that countries in difficult transitions receive the support they need.  That is why the United Nations will continue to work for peace and stability based on democratic self-government in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as many other countries, and for a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis.  Iran has an important contribution to make to the solution of many of these problems, as well as to our collective global response to global challenges.  I look forward to continuing to work with the authorities of the Islamic Republic under its newly elected President, His Excellency Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as I have done with the outgoing government, and I hope to have the pleasure of meeting him at the 2005 World Summit in New York in September.

We are now in the midst of a far-reaching attempt to reform the concepts, structures and processes through which we work as an international community, so that we are better able to mount effective collective responses to the needs of States and individuals around the world.  The Summit will be a unique opportunity to do just that.  That is why -- on 21 March, the Iranian New Year’s Day -- I put forward a comprehensive set of proposals for renewal in my report entitled “In larger freedom:  towards development, security and human rights for all”.

Last month the President of the General Assembly put forward a draft document setting out the political outcome on which he believes heads of State and government should be able to agree at the Summit.  That document addresses all the major issues, and reflects points raised by Member States during several months of deliberations.  Further consultations are now being carried out on the basis of the draft, and I believe a new version should be available later this week.

The reform agenda is of vital interest to Iran, as to other countries in this region, and I believe you have a major contribution to make.

As a starting point, let me recall the importance of a culture of peace, and the need to build and strengthen it at both the national and the international levels.  We must educate ourselves and our societies to go beyond stereotypes of each other, and to avoid simplistic categorizations that exacerbate misunderstandings and prevent real problems being tackled.  That is why, since Iran first suggested it in 1998, I have strongly supported efforts to promote a dialogue among civilizations, through the United Nations, and I continue to do so.

Any culture of peace is threatened by resort to terrorism, which Iran -- like too many other countries -- has experienced at first hand.  Terrorism does not emanate from any particular religion or ideology, nor is it directed only at certain countries or certain people.  We are all potential targets, and we must truly confront this phenomenon as an international community.  To do so, we must agree how to define it, and adopt a comprehensive convention outlawing it in all its forms.  While I am fully aware of the sensitivities and concerns that exist on this issue, I believe we must be able to agree that the legitimate right of a people to resist foreign occupation does not and cannot include the right to deliberately kill or maim civilians and non-combatants.

We must also build a culture of full respect for human rights.  If we are to restore human rights to the place intended for them by the United Nations Charter, we need a fresh start.  The establishment of a Human Rights Council, which is gathering broad support from around the world, would go a long way to restore the credibility of the international human rights machinery.

A culture of respect for human rights must, in my view, include an acknowledgement of the responsibility to protect civilian populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing and other such heinous crimes.  That responsibility rests, first and foremost, with each sovereign State.  As necessary, the international community should, through diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, encourage and help States to exercise this responsibility.  If, and only if, such means fail, and a State appears wholly unable or unwilling to assume its responsibilities, the international community should, as a last resort, accept that it has a shared responsibility to take collective action, through the United Nations Security Council.  I believe the World Summit is an occasion to embrace this concept of the responsibility to protect, and the sequential approach that it entails. This would benefit all States by making clear the principles on which the international community intends to act.  It would also remove the pretext for, and thereby reduce the prospect of, unilateral humanitarian intervention by any individual State or group of States.

A related area where there is need for greater clarity is the rules governing the use of force by States.  Let me stress that no one is proposing to alter Article 51 of the Charter, which safeguards the inherent right of individual and collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.  I know that this is a point of great sensitivity for Iranians, since the Security Council failed to take such measures when Iran was attacked in 1980, and Iran was left to exercise its right of self-defence on its own.

But when it is proposed to use force, not in self-defence against an actual or imminent attack, but to deal with a latent or non-imminent threat, then, I believe, the decision must be made not by individual States but collectively by the Security Council, fulfilling one of the Purposes of the United Nations as set out in Article 1 of the Charter, namely “to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”.  I have suggested that the Security Council should consider adopting a resolution setting out the principles by which it would be guided in making such decisions.  But discussion of this may need to continue in other fora, before it gets considered by the Council.

Meanwhile, the recent failure of States Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to reach agreement at the 2005 Review Conference is an obvious cause for concern.  Nevertheless, the central obligations and rights conferred by the Treaty continue to enjoy full support.  The Treaty remains the cornerstone of the global arms control and disarmament regime, with important implications for development, as well.  I believe the World Summit offers us a vital opportunity to reaffirm these principles, and to renew the commitment of all States to disarmament and non-proliferation.  We must focus on the long-term question of disarmament -- especially as we mark the sixtieth anniversary of the use of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The Summit also offers an opportunity to seek broad consensus on other important issues such as access to the nuclear fuel cycle in conformity with the rights and obligations of States Parties under the Treaty, and adoption of the IAEA Additional Protocol as the new global standard for verification.  I know that these and other issues are of pressing concern to Iran.  At this time especially all States Parties need to use great restraint in exercising their rights under the Treaty. The emphasis must, in my view, be on maintaining constructive dialogue as the surest route to agreement.

These and other proposals on security and human rights must be seen in the broader reform context -- a context in which development has pride of place.  Important steps have recently been announced on the development front by the European Union and the Group of Eight.  All countries, both developed and developing, must do their part to ensure that, between now and the year 2015, the fight against poverty and disease is taken to a new level.  We need an all-out global effort to meet the Millennium Development Goals in the next decade, and to ensure that the benefits of globalization are more equally shared.

My friends, we have embarked on an ambitious project of reform and renewal.  A great deal is at stake.  All that we are doing harks back to the vision of the Millennium Declaration, which captured the hopes of humankind for a safer, more just and more prosperous world.  As I have said before, the international community has reached a fork in the road.  One path leads to a more anarchic, conflict-ridden world of entrenched poverty; the other to increased global cooperation and solidarity.  I urge all participants in this conference to do their utmost to make sure that we use September’s World Summit to commit ourselves decisively to the latter path.

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