Annan stresses vital role of multilateral institutions in address to UN Assembly
Multilateral action is essential to success in combating terrorism and a broad spectrum of global ills facing the world, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the United Nations General Assembly as it opened its high-level debate today.
Mr. Annan underscored the need for a collective international response to a wide array of challenges, from fighting poverty and curbing the spread of AIDS to tackling environmental degradation and halting the traffic in drugs and human beings.
Multilateral action takes on special importance in the prevention of terrorism, Mr. Annan said, noting that even the most powerful countries knew that they needed to work with others to achieve their aims. “Individual States may defend themselves, by striking back at terrorist groups and the countries that harbour or support them,” he said. “But only concerted vigilance and cooperation among all States, with constant, systematic exchange of information, offers any real hope of denying terrorists their opportunities.”
Mr. Annan underscored that for any one State – large or small – choosing to follow or reject the multilateral path must not be a simple matter of political convenience. “It has consequences far beyond the immediate context,” he cautioned.
The Secretary-General also noted the value of forging international cooperation for those seeking to lead others. “The more a country makes use of multilateral institutions – thereby respecting shared values, and accepting the obligations and restraints inherent in those values – the more others will trust and respect it, and the stronger its chance to exercise true leadership.”
While recalling that the UN Charter protected countries' inherent right to self-defence, he added that “beyond that, when States decide to use force to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, there is no substitute for the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations.” Stressing the “fundamental importance” which States attached to this legitimacy, he cited the liberation of Kuwait 12 years ago as evidence that “they are willing to take actions under the authority of the Security Council which they would not be willing to take without it.”
Mr. Annan emphasized that an effective international security system depended on the authority of the Security Council – “and therefore on the Council having the political will to act, even in the most difficult cases, when agreement seems elusive at the outset.”
In his speech, the Secretary-General also addressed several specific hotspots, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he said could only be resolved through a comprehensive approach. “An international peace conference is needed without delay, to set out a roadmap of parallel steps: steps to strengthen Israel's security, steps to strengthen Palestinian economic and political institutions, and steps to settle the details of the final peace agreement,” he said. “Meanwhile, humanitarian steps to relieve Palestinian suffering must be intensified.”
With regard to the situation in Iraq, the Secretary-General noted that he had engaged Baghdad in an in-depth discussion on a range of issues, including the need for arms inspectors to return, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions. Calling for continued efforts to secure Iraq’s compliance, he appealed to all with influence to impress on the country’s leaders “the vital importance of accepting the weapons inspections.” At the same time, he warned that “if Iraq’s defiance continues, the Security Council must face its responsibilities.”
Mr. Annan also appealed for a continued international commitment to Afghanistan, pointing out that the recent failed assassination attempt against President Hamid Karzai served as a “graphic reminder of how hard it is to uproot the remnants of terrorism in any country where it has taken root.”
Concerning the tensions in South Asia, the Secretary-General warned that although the situation between two nuclear capable countries had calmed somewhat, it remains perilous. “If a fresh crisis erupts, the international community might have a role to play; though I gladly acknowledge – indeed, strongly welcome – the efforts made by well-placed Member States to help the two leaders find a solution,” he said.