Annan outlines key priorities at General Assembly's high-level debate

10 November 2001

In a statement at the outset of the General Assembly's annual high-level debate, Secretary-General Kofi Annan this morning outlined his priorities for the coming years while reviewing the guiding principles for the United Nations.

The Secretary-General said no words could adequately convey his "revulsion and sorrow" at the 11 September attacks, adding that, like the United States, the UN was determined to "overcome the forces that inflicted this ordeal upon us."

"One is tempted to say that we must now focus all our energies on the struggle against terrorism, and on directly related issues, yet if we did so we should give the terrorists a kind of victory," he said. "Let us remember that none of the issues that faced us on September 10th has become less urgent."

At the current juncture, he said, the world clearly understood the need to resist the looming danger of division within the human family. "We face two possible futures: a mutually destructive clash between so-called 'civilizations' based on the exaggeration of religious and cultural differences; or a global community, respecting diversity and rooted in universal values," he said. "The latter must be our choice - but we can achieve it only if we bring real hope to the billions now trapped in poverty, conflict and disease."

Outlining fundamental guiding principles for the UN, the Secretary-General pointed out that the Organization must always stand for the rule of law, "in international and domestic affairs." In addition, it must make full use of its multilateral institutions and procedures while placing people at the centre of everything it did, enabling them to meet their needs and realize their full potential. "That can only be achieved in a world of effective, accountable States, which use sovereignty as a means to ensure the security of their peoples, and to uphold - not violate - their rights," he said.

Mr. Annan also called for the UN to reach out to the widest possible range of partners. In addition, he emphasized that the UN must continue to excel at its tasks. "What the United Nations does do, it must do well," he said.

The Secretary-General said priority would be given to eradicating extreme poverty, and pledged to address the fundamental needs of developing countries. He also promised to intensify his commitment to the struggle against HIV/AIDS and to strengthen the UN's focus on preventing deadly conflict. "We must not wait passively for crises to erupt, but tackle the root causes of political violence." At the same time, he called for placing environmentally sustainable development at the centre of the policy-making process.

"The common thread connecting all these issues is the need to respect fundamental human rights; and Africa is the region where all of them present the greatest challenge," he said. "I am determined to integrate human rights even more fully into every aspect of our work," he added, pledging to ensure that the UN fully supports the priorities established by African leaders themselves, in the New Partnership for African Development.

Underscoring the importance of two upcoming international meetings - the Conference on Financing for Development in March 2002, and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in September of that year - the Secretary-General said those events "can mark a real turning point in our struggle to eradicate poverty and achieve genuinely sustainable development."

"The world's peoples will judge us by our ability to perform specific tasks - not by the resounding speeches we make, or the number of decisions we reach, but by the quality of those decisions, and of the service we provide," he said. "For the sake of all those whom we hope to save - whether from terrorism, from war, from poverty, from disease, or from environmental degradation - let us resolve that only the best is good enough, and let us equip ourselves so that, in future, the best is what we give."


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