September 21, 2001
Fighting Terrorism on a Global Front
By KOFI A. ANNAN
The terrorists who attacked the United States on Sept. 11 aimed at one nation but wounded an entire world. Rarely, if ever, has the world been as united as it was on that terrible day. It was a unity born of horror, of fear, of outrage and of profound sympathy with the American people. This unity also reflected the fact that the World Trade Center, in this uniquely international city, was home to men and women of every faith from some 60 nations. This was an attack on all humanity, and all humanity has a stake in defeating the forces behind it.
As the United States decides what actions it will take in defense of its citizens, and as the world comes to terms with the full implications of this calamity, the unity of Sept. 11 will be invoked, and it will be tested. I have expressed to President Bush and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani — and to New Yorkers at services in churches, synagogues and mosques — the complete solidarity of the United Nations with Americans in their grief. In less than 48 hours, the Security Council and the General Assembly joined me in condemning the attacks and voted to support actions taken against those responsible and states that aid them. Of this solidarity, let no one be in doubt.
Nor should anyone question the worldwide resolve to fight terrorism as long as is needed. The most eloquent global answer so far to last week's attacks has been the commitment of states from every faith and region to act firmly against terrorism.
The international community is defined not only by what it is for, but by what and whom it is against. The United Nations must have the courage to recognize that just as there are common aims, there are common enemies. To defeat them, all nations must join forces in an effort encompassing every aspect of the open, free global system so wickedly exploited by the perpetrators of last week's atrocities.
The United Nations is uniquely positioned to advance this effort. It provides the forum necessary for building a universal coalition and can ensure global legitimacy for the long-term response to terrorism. United Nations conventions already provide a legal framework for many of the steps that must be taken to eradicate terrorism — including the extradition and prosecution of offenders and the suppression of money laundering. These conventions must be implemented in full.
Essential to the global response to terrorism is that it not fracture the unity of Sept. 11. While the world must recognize that there are enemies common to all societies, it must equally understand that they are not, are never, defined by religion or national descent. No people, no region and no religion should be targeted because of the unspeakable acts of individuals. As Mayor Giuliani said, "That is exactly what we are fighting here." To allow divisions between and within societies to be exacerbated by these acts would be to do the terrorists' work for them.
Terrorism threatens every society. As the world takes action against it, we have all been reminded of the need to address the conditions that permit the growth of such hatred and depravity. We must confront violence, bigotry and hatred even more resolutely. The United Nations' work must continue as we address the ills of conflict, ignorance, poverty and disease.
Doing so will not remove every source of hatred or prevent every act of violence. There are those who will hate and who will kill even if every injustice is ended. But if the world can show that it will carry on, that it will persevere in creating a stronger, more just, more benevolent and more genuine international community across all lines of religion and race, then terrorism will have failed.
Kofi A. Annan is secretary-general of the United Nations.Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company