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Texts of Leaders' Speeches Before the United Nations

Read the entire transcripts of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, German Chacellor Gerhard Schröder, U.S. President George W. Bush and French President Jacques Chirac's speeches before the United Nations General Assembly.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I would like to congratulate you, Mr. President, on your election as President of this, the 58th session of the General Assembly, and wish you every success with your work. May I also thank your predecessor, President Kavan, for the dedication with which he chaired the 57th General Assembly. I endorse the statements made by the Italian Council Presidency on behalf of the European Union.

Mr. President,
This year is a special one for Germany's work in the United Nations. History is both a reminder and guide to us all. Thirty years ago, on September 18, 1973, the United Nations welcomed Germany back into the fold of the family of nations. My predecessor, Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt, paved the way for this move. His standing as an antifascist inspired confidence. His passionate commitment to internationalism went far beyond the policy of detente in the East-West conflict.

In 1980 he made an urgent appeal to the community of states with a report entitled "North-South: A Program for Survival." He wrote: "The globalization of dangers and challenges -- war chaos, self-destruction -- calls for a domestic policy which goes much beyond (...) national items."

We are committed to this task, for, as I said, history is our guide. It guides us towards intensive international cooperation under the aegis of the United Nations, which we must further strengthen -- not least through courageous reforms. It guides us towards a universal order based on law and human dignity, good governance and prosperity shared by all. And it guides us towards security and peace through comprehensive prevention:

  • We must act resolutely by pursuing an effective multilateral strategy, wherever peace is threatened and human rights are violated.
  • But we must act just as resolutely to prevent conflicts and create stable structures, so that people can lead their lives in freedom and tolerance.

    Mr President,
    Thirty years ago, Germany was a country with limited sovereignty, divided by the Iron Curtain. Today, Germany is a sovereign nation, a civil power in the heart of a united Europe. We live in a common area of freedom, justice, prosperity and social responsibility. This shows that justice and peace can be won. And we will not fail to support endeavors to that end, be it in the Middle East, in Africa or other crisis areas.

    Mr President,
    Bearing in mind our own history, we are assuming responsibility for a cooperative policy of peace. This we do using economic, political and humanitarian means. But we are also, shoulder to shoulder with our partners in NATO and the EU, assuming military responsibility where there is no other way to secure peace and protect human beings.

    More than 9,000 members of the German armed forces and police are currently deployed on international peace missions. Our top priority is our commitment to peace in Afghanistan. Germany is willing to maintain its commitment there in the long term and to increase it.

    The basis for such commitments is the Charter of the United Nations. In the [German] Unification Treaty, Germany vowed that it would only deploy its armed forces within the framework of this Charter. The Charter provides us with "the necessary building blocks to ensure that our common humanity is an inclusive one, built on values such as tolerance and dignity".

    Thus spoke Sergio Vieira de Mello, who on August 19, 2003, fell victim to an underhand criminal attack in Baghdad. He was killed along with 22 others, including many members of the United Nations staff. They were working for the people of Iraq and their hopes of a better future. We must honor their death by taking on their legacy and discharging the duty arising there from.

    Our response must be to strengthen the role and commitment of the United Nations in Iraq. Only the United Nations can guarantee the legitimacy required to enable the people of Iraq to speedily rebuild their country under an independent, representative government.

    Germany stands ready to support such a process: by providing humanitarian, technical and economic assistance or also training Iraqi security personnel.

    Mr. President,
    International terrorism, failing states and the danger posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction threaten the security of us all. So what must we do to enhance security?

    • We must put an end to the terrorists and their masters and destroy their infrastructure.
    • We must prevent any further proliferation of nuclear weapons, strengthen the inspections regimes and pursue a policy of verified disarmament.

      But as we know from history as well as from our own experience, to follow any strategy focused narrowly on military and police aspects would be a recipe for failure. What is needed is to address the root causes of terrorism and insecurity. To combat fanaticism, we must ensure social and material but also cultural security.

      That we can do only on the basis of a broad concept of security. To outlaw infamy we must put an end to lawlessness. That is the core task of the international courts of justice and especially the International Criminal Court.

      And to win hearts and minds for freedom, peace and the open society, we must help people, in a secure environment, to acquire a greater stake in society and build a better life for themselves.

      What this means we can see, for example, in Afghanistan. There the international community succeeded in liberating the Afghan people from the Taliban and aI Qaeda yoke. At the same time the Petersberg Conference in Bonn -- held under the aegis of the United Nations -- created a political framework for rebuilding the country.

      This process needs our continued support, there must be sustained international commitment to the task of building security. In the long run, the fight against terrorism can only be won if people see that it produces benefits which are tangible in their own lives. They need to experience first hand that being once again part of the international community means not only more freedom and more security, but also better development opportunities and a greater stake in society.

      Mr President,
      There is no doubt that we have already made major strides towards realizing our common goals enshrined in the Charter. More countries than ever before now have democratic governments. Our concerted efforts have enabled more people than ever before to put poverty behind them.

      But the gap between the world's rich and poor has still not been closed, the fight against hunger, injustice and oppression is still far from won. Eradicating poverty remains an imperative of our policy for peace and stability.

      There has been a drastic fall in the number of wars fought between states. In the Balkans, for example, resolute action by NATO and the United Nations enabled us to put an end to the wars there and prevent others from breaking out.

      Nevertheless, our world has become -- and not just since the barbaric terrorist attacks in New York and Washington or indeed Bali, Casablanca, Moscow or Djerba -- a dramatically more insecure place.

      The new threats, which no country in the world can tackle effectively on its own, make international cooperation more vital than ever. They also mean new strategies are required. That is why we need to review whether the instruments available to the United Nations are appropriate to these new challenges.

      We all have a responsibility to ensure that people and their rights are protected in situations other than just inter-state wars. They must be protected from genocide and the consequences of asymmetrical, privatized violence as well. A political commitment to comprehensive prevention must further strengthen the United Nations' monopoly of the use of force as well as the institutions of international law.
      Within the United Nations we need to muster the strength to launch overdue institutional reforms. My Government fully supports the proposals made by the Secretary General. We must agree how to ensure in future an even better allocation of competencies, capacities and scarce resources.

      I also share the view of the Secretary General that the legitimacy of the Security Council depends on how far it is representative of all nations and regions. The Council must be reformed and enlarged to also include representatives of the developing countries.

      For Germany, let me reiterate that in the context of such a reform we are ready to assume greater responsibility.

      Mr President,
      The world of the 21st century offers us, its inhabitants, ample scope to change it either for better or for worse. Given the immense opportunities and the formidable dangers ahead, we have no choice but to strive for international partnership and to expand and strengthen multi-lateralism.

      We will be able to make our world more secure only if we also make it more equitable. It was for that purpose, after all, that the international community created the United Nations: that is its mandate.

      Let us join together to make the United Nations stronger still, so that it can fulfil its mandate to maintain international peace and security and build a more equitable world.

      Thank you.

      Next page -- Secretary General Kofi Annan: "Whatever view each of us may take of the events of recent months, it is vital to all of us that the outcome is a stable and democratic Iraq"

      United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan:

      Thank you Mr. President, Your Majesty, Distinguished Heads of State and Government. Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

      The last twelve months have been very painful for those of us who believe in collective answers to our common problems and challenges.

      In many countries, terrorism has once again brought death and suffering to innocent people.

      In the Middle East, and in certain parts of Africa, violence has continued to escalate. In the Korean peninsula, and elsewhere, the threat of nuclear proliferation casts an ominous shadow across the landscape.

      And barely one month ago, in Baghdad, the United Nations itself suffered a brutal and deliberate assault, in which the international community lost some of its most talented servants. Yesterday it was attacked again. Another major disaster was averted only by the prompt action of the Iraqi police, one of whom paid with his life.

      I extend my most sincere condolences to the family of that brave policeman. And my thoughts go also to the nineteen injured, including two Iraqi UN staff members. I wish them all a rapid recovery. Indeed, we should pray for all those who have lost their lives or been injured in this war – innocent civilians and soldiers alike. In that context I deplore – as I am sure you all do – the brutal attempt on the life of Dr. Akila al-Hashemi, a member of the Governing Council, and I pray for her full recovery, too.

      Excellencies, you are the United Nations. The staff who were killed and injured in the attack on our Baghdad headquarters were your staff. You had given them a mandate to assist the suffering Iraqi people, and to help Iraq recover their sovereignty.

      In future, not only in Iraq but wherever the United Nations is engaged, we must take more effective measures to protect the security of our staff. I count on your full support – legal, political and financial.

      Meanwhile, let me reaffirm the great importance I attach to a successful outcome in Iraq. Whatever view each of us may take of the events of recent months, it is vital to all of us that the outcome is a stable and democratic Iraq – at peace with itself and with its neighbours, and contributing to stability in the region.

      Subject to security considerations, the United Nations system is prepared to play its full role in working for a satisfactory outcome in Iraq, and to do so as part of an international effort, an effort by the whole international community, pulling together on the basis of a sound and viable policy. If it takes extra time and patience to forge that policy, a policy that is collective, coherent and workable, then I for one would regard that time as well spent. Indeed, this is how we must approach all the many pressing crises that confront us today.

      Excellencies,
      Three years ago, when you came here for the Millennium Summit, we shared a vision, a vision of global solidarity and collective security, expressed in the Millennium Declaration.

      But recent events have called that consensus in question.

      All of us know there are new threats that must be faced – or, perhaps, old threats in new and dangerous combinations: new forms of terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

      But, while some consider these threats as self-evidently the main challenge to world peace and security, others feel more immediately menaced by small arms employed in civil conflict, or by so-called “soft threats” such as the persistence of extreme poverty, the disparity of income between and within societies, and the spread of infectious diseases, or climate change and environmental degradation.

      In truth, we do not have to choose. The United Nations must confront all these threats and challenges – new and old, “hard” and “soft”. It must be fully engaged in the struggle for development and poverty eradication, starting with the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals; in the common struggle to protect our common environment; and in the struggle for human rights, democracy and good governance.

      In fact, all these struggles are linked. We now see, with chilling clarity, that a world where many millions of people endure brutal oppression and extreme misery will never be fully secure, even for its most privileged inhabitants.

      Yet the “hard” threats, such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, are real, and cannot be ignored.

      Terrorism is not a problem only for rich countries. Ask the people of Bali, or Bombay, Nairobi, or Casablanca.

      Weapons of mass destruction do not threaten only the western or northern world. Ask the people of Iran, or of Halabja in Iraq.

      Where we disagree, it seems, is on how to respond to these threats.

      Since this Organisation was founded, States have generally sought to deal with threats to the peace through containment and deterrence, by a system based on collective security and the United Nations Charter.

      Article 51 of the Charter prescribes that all States, if attacked, retain the inherent right of self-defence. But until now it has been understood that when States go beyond that, and decide to use force to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, they need the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations.

      Now, some say this understanding is no longer tenable, since an “armed attack” with weapons of mass destruction could be launched at any time, without warning, or by a clandestine group.

      Rather than wait for that to happen, they argue, States have the right and obligation to use force pre-emptively, even on the territory of other States, and even while weapons systems that might be used to attack them are still being developed.

      According to this argument, States are not obliged to wait until there is agreement in the Security Council. Instead, they reserve the right to act unilaterally, or in ad hoc coalitions.
      This logic represents a fundamental challenge to the principles on which, however imperfectly, world peace and stability have rested for the last fifty-eight years.

      My concern is that, if it were to be adopted, it could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without justification.
      But it is not enough to denounce unilateralism, unless we also face up squarely to the concerns that make some States feel uniquely vulnerable, since it is those concerns that drive them to take unilateral action. We must show that those concerns can, and will, be addressed effectively through collective action.

      Excellencies, we have come to a fork in the road. This may be a moment no less decisive than 1945 itself, when the United Nations was founded.

      At that time, a group of far-sighted leaders, led and inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, were determined to make the second half of the twentieth century different from the first half. They saw that the human race had only one world to live in, and that unless it managed its affairs prudently, all human beings may perish.

      So they drew up rules to govern international behaviour, and founded a network of institutions, with the United Nations at its centre, in which the peoples of the world could work together for the common good.

      Now we must decide whether it is possible to continue on the basis agreed then, or whether radical changes are needed.

      And we must not shy away from questions about the adequacy, and effectiveness, of the rules and instruments at our disposal.

      Among those instruments, none is more important than the Security Council itself.
      In my recent report on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, I drew attention to the urgent need for the Council to regain the confidence of States, and of world public opinion – both by demonstrating its ability to deal effectively with the most difficult issues, and by becoming more broadly representative of the international community as a whole, as well as the geopolitical realities of today.

      The Council needs to consider how it will deal with the possibility that individual States may use force “pre-emptively” against perceived threats.

      Its members may need to begin a discussion on the criteria for an early authorisation of coercive measures to address certain types of threats – for instance, terrorist groups armed with weapons of mass destruction.

      And they still need to engage in serious discussions of the best way to respond to threats of genocide or other comparable massive violations of human rights – an issue which I raised myself from this podium in 1999. Once again this year, our collective response to events of this type – in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in Liberia – has been hesitant and tardy.

      As for the composition of the Council, that has been on the agenda of this Assembly for over a decade. Virtually all Member States agree that the Council should be enlarged, but there is no agreement on the details.

      I respectfully suggest to you, Excellencies, that in the eyes of your peoples the difficulty of reaching agreement does not excuse your failure to do so. If you want the Council’s decisions to command greater respect, particularly in the developing world, you need to address the issue of its composition with greater urgency.

      But the Security Council is not the only institution that needs strengthening. As you know, I am doing my best to make the Secretariat more effective – and I look to this Assembly to support my efforts.

      Indeed, in my report I also suggested that this Assembly itself needs to be strengthened, and that the role of the Economic and Social Council – and the role of the United Nations as a whole in economic and social affairs, including its relationship to the Bretton Woods institutions –needs to be re-thought and reinvigorated.

      I even suggested that the role of the Trusteeship Council could be reviewed, in light of new kinds of responsibility that you have given to the United Nations in recent years.
      In short, Excellencies, I believe the time is ripe for a hard look at fundamental policy issues, and at the structural changes that may be needed in order to strengthen them.
      History is a harsh judge: it will not forgive us if we let this moment pass.

      For my part, I intend to establish a High-Level Panel of eminent personalities, to which I will assign four tasks:

      First, to examine the current challenges to peace and security;

      Second, to consider the contribution which collective action can make in addressing these challenges;

      Third, to review the functioning of the major organs of the United Nations and the relationship between them; and

      Fourth, to recommend ways of strengthening the United Nations, through reform of its institutions and processes.

      The Panel will focus primarily on threats to peace and security. But it will also need to examine other global challenges, in so far as these may influence or connect with those threats.

      I will ask the Panel to report back to me before the beginning of the next session of this General Assembly, so that I can make recommendations to you at that session. But only you can take the firm and clear decisions that will be needed.

      Those decisions might include far-reaching institutional reforms. Indeed, I hope they will.

      But institutional reforms alone will not suffice. Even the most perfect instrument will fail, unless people put it to good use.

      The United Nations is by no means a perfect instrument, but it is a precious one. I urge you to seek agreement on ways of improving it, but above all of using it as its founders intended – to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, to reestablish the basic conditions for justice and the rule of law, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.
      The world may have changed, Excellencies, but those aims are as valid and urgent as ever. We must keep them firmly in our sights.

      Thank you very much.

      NEXT PAGE -- George W. Bush: "Every young democracy needs the help of friends"

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