Press Releases

    3 May 2005

    Secretary-General Welcomes New Level of Understanding among UN, Israel, Jewish Communities Worldwide, in Remarks to International Delegation

    NEW YORK, 2 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks to the International Delegation of Jewish Leadership in New York, 2 May:

    I am happy that you are all here this afternoon, and it is a great pleasure for me to join you and to welcome you to the United Nations.

    I would like to thank the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute and the United Nations Foundation for their role in making this conference possible.

    Jews have been deeply involved in the United Nations since its founding.  Yet rarely have so many Jewish community leaders from around the world -- as you said, 24 countries -- gathered here at this Headquarters.

    I have said that I would like Jews, as you have heard from the Chairman, I would like Jews everywhere to feel that the United Nations is their home, too.  Your presence here today takes us another significant step towards that goal.

    This event also builds on other recent events to chart a new course for our relations.

    Last June, the United Nations convened a very important seminar on anti-Semitism, to demonstrate our commitment to fighting a scourge that has shown alarming resurgence recently in certain regions of the world.

    This past January, as you heard, the General Assembly also held an unprecedented session devoted to the Holocaust and invited a survivor of the Shoah to address the Assembly.

    And just seven weeks ago, I was honoured to represent the United Nations at the inauguration of the new Yad Vashem Holocaust history museum in Jerusalem -- and I was happy to be with Dan there -- where I explained how the Holocaust profoundly shaped this Organization’s mission.

    Today the United Nations, the State of Israel and Jewish communities around the world have reached a new level of confidence and mutual understanding.  Of course, there is still some distance to travel, and there are still and there will be, differences along the way.  But the trend is unmistakable, and that is a welcome development indeed, and we should all be pleased about that.

    I am especially glad that you have come to the United Nations at this time.  Member States will hold a Summit in September to assess the progress in implementing the declaration of the Millennium Development Goals.  They adopted that declaration at their Summit five years ago, and, given the serious global divisions of recent years, it was my feeling that this Summit must be much more than stock-taking -- stock-taking of what we have achieved since the Millennium Development Goals were adopted.  I felt this was a moment of decision, and some of you may recall that several years ago when I spoke at the opening of the General Assembly, I said I felt the United Nations had reached a fork in the road, and that we needed to really reassess where we were and what we needed to do to adapt our Organization, and also to try and come up with a collective security arrangement that everyone will feel confident with, because I had a sense that the one we had had come under stress –- this was after the Iraq war.

    The debate and the discussions leading to the Iraq war introduced incredible divisions in this organization.  Was it pressure to use force, and if you have to use force, should the Security Council decide?  Can you only do it if the Security Council decides?  And a whole series of questions came up.  So I felt I should set up a panel of high-level eminent people to really look at threats, challenges that we face and to suggest changes.  That panel gave me a report last December.  It was a very thought-provoking report -- they were bold, although when I put them together, people were asking me why did you get all these old men and women?  Because they were all of mature age.  But I gave them an answer, I said I wanted people who have had their careers; people who have lived; people with experience and can, therefore, afford to make mistakes; people who are not on the make and are, therefore, not amenable to pressure.  And they came with a report that surprised lots of people, including someone who came to me and said, “How could you expect anything out of this group?”  He said:  “They surprised us.”  I said “Anyway, so it did work.”

    Anyway, based on that and the Millennium Project Report on the Economic Development, I have put before Members a set of proposals for far-reaching changes in the international system.  The thrust of my message is that we will not enjoy security without development, and we will not enjoy development without security, and we will enjoy neither without human rights.  And this is really the basic thrust of the message.  And I have suggested ways to revitalize the United Nations itself so that it better reflects those priorities -- for example, through enlarging the Security Council and replacing the Commission on Human Rights with a smaller, more focused Human Rights Council.

    I believe historic progress is possible, but it depends on leadership from Heads of States and Governments and ordinary citizens like you.  And it depends on support from peoples throughout the world.

    I have no doubt that you will do your part.  I know that many of you are already on the front lines in your own communities -- fighting against anti-Semitism, campaigning for human rights, and at times suffering for your commitment to these causes.

    You have come here from many countries, and have diverse backgrounds.  I hope you will leave here emboldened by the knowledge that the United Nations strives hard to be your friend and ally in the struggle for peace, human dignity and justice for all.

    You share a faith, but just as important, you share a commitment to this Organization’s ideals.  That is fertile ground on which we can meet, exchange ideas and experiences, and move ahead together.

    Thank you for being here.  Now I will try to answer your questions.

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