REVIEW: Article

"Our United Nations in a World That Has Been Altered Forever on September 11, 2001"

I stand before you today in a world that has been altered forever by the unspeakable acts of evil committed against the United States of America and innocent civilians on September 11, 2001.

September 11, 2001, the 20th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) International Day of Peace, was supposed to be a day on which we try to imagine a world quite different from the one we know.

It was to be a day on which “we try to picture hatred turning into respect, bigotry into understanding and ignorance into knowledge, a day on which we dare to imagine a world free of conflict and violence.” I am quoting here from the Message of the Secretary-General that you are about to witness, a message that was recorded, as if the Secretary-General were prescient, on Monday, September 10.

Instead, the horrible and previously unimaginable acts of terror committed by international terrorists on September 11 have altered our world forever. America, indeed the entire civilized world, must now be at war against terrorism.

Barely a mile from United Nations Headquarters, the Parliament of Mankind, the Parliament of Peace, more than 5,000 innocent civilians were killed and a symbol of New York City and the Free World was destroyed. The Capital of the United States of America was attacked.

President George W. Bush, with the entire nation rallied behind him, said this will not stand.

This single most horrible act of international terrorism has united people across the globe. This was not only an attack on America, but also on everyone in the modern world. This will and shall provide the catalyst for an unprecedented international coalition to resist terrorism and fanaticism, against hatred, bigotry and ignorance.

Let a call go out from the 2001 International Seoul Peace Conference for all civilized citizens of the world to join this international coalition.

On September 12, the newly elected President of the United Nations General Assembly, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, Dr. Han Seung-soo, stated before the assembled representatives of the international community:

“Mere words cannot express the outrage and disgust we doubtless all feel for the vile actions perpetrated in our host country, the United States. I condemn in the strongest possible terms these heinous acts of terrorism. I pray for those who lost their lives and on behalf of the General Assembly offer our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the innocent victims. My most profound feelings of sympathy and solidarity also go out to the people and government of the United States at this time of great distress.

These terrorist crimes were, in effect, acts of war against all the world’s peace-loving peoples. Their primary target was, by a vicious twist of fate, located in the very city, which is home to the world’s foremost institution dedicated to promoting world peace. The opening of this session of the General Assembly has been delayed by a day due to this tragedy. But no terrorists can ever deflect this body from the task to which it has dedicated itself since 1945—ending the scourge of war in whatever form it may take once and for all.”

On the same day, the United Nations General Assembly, at the initiative of General Assembly President Dr. Han Seung-soo, adopted the following resolution:

“The General Assembly,

Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

  1. Strongly condemns the heinous acts of terrorism, which have caused enormous loss of human life, destruction and damage in the cities of New York, host city of the United Nations, in Washington, DC and in Pennsylvania;
  2. Expresses its condolences and solidarity with the people and Government of the United States of America in these sad and tragic circumstances;
  3. Urgently calls for international cooperation to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of the outrages of September 11, 2001;
  4. Urgently calls also for international cooperation to prevent and eradicate acts of terrorism, and stresses that those responsible for aiding, supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of such acts will be held accountable.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me now to address a few words to our hosts.

I feel privileged and proud to be again in the great and noble nation of Korea, its grand capital, Seoul, and in one of its most famous academic institutions, Kyung Hee University. As I said three years ago, in September 1998 at the Graduate School of Pan Pacific International Studies, we at the United Nations know that we can count on Kyung Hee University to continue to play its role in the search for peace. Your University serves as an example for many countries in training leaders for the challenges of tomorrow. And, I am sure that among the representatives assembled here today there are leaders of tomorrow who will face and live up to the challenge of building a unified, democratic and peace-loving Korea. In this endeavour you can draw on the accomplishments of the past to face the difficult challenges facing us now and in the future. In this endeavour you can count on your many friends, including myself, and on the support of the international community of which the Republic of Korea is a respected member.

On this occasion I cannot fail to pay tribute to my good and respected friend, Chancellor Choue. Dear Chancellor Choue, your single-minded and innovative pursuit of world peace through the United Nations has been instrumental in winning your nation many friends. Your leadership in the worldwide effort for the proclamation of the International Day of Peace and the International Year of Peace, an effort now in its 20th year, has made a major contribution to international peace and understanding in the complicated times we are living through. You, Chancellor Choue, are the quintessential United Nations Peace messenger and we honor you for your accomplishments.

Our Conference today is a fitting testimony to your tireless dedication to the purposes and principles of the United Nations and to the institution itself. We at the United Nations, the Secretary-General and the Staff, are very much appreciative of your service, Chancellor Choue, and that of your dedicated team.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Message from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, His Excellency, Mr. Kofi Annan.

“Dear friends,

The International Day of Peace is a day on which we try to imagine a world quite different from the one we know.

We try to picture those who wage war laying down their arms and talking out their differences.

We try to picture all governments listening to—and acting on—the will of the people.

We try to picture hatred turning into respect, bigotry turning into understanding, and ignorance turning into knowledge.

And we try to picture the very root causes of conflict—poverty, marginalization and greed—giving way to development and justice.

We do this because progress in our world does not happen without someone first having a vision or a dream.

The International Day of Peace started with such a dream. It was proclaimed 20 years ago by the United Nations General Assembly, at the initiative of Costa Rica.

This year, at the initiative of Costa Rica and the United Kingdom, the Assembly decided to go one step further. It declared that the International Day of Peace should be a day of global cease-fire and non-violence.

This step promises to be more than symbolic. Where respected, it will have practical effect. Where truces are observed, medical and developmental agencies can provide vital services to civilian victims in safety. And even a one-day pause in the fighting gives us something to build on in the work to end conflict.

On the International Day of Peace, let us dare to imagine a world free of conflict and violence. And let us seize the opportunity for peace to take hold, day by day, year by year, until every day is a day of peace.”

*Editor’s Note: Ambassador Reed presented these remarks to the 2001 International Seoul Peace Conference at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, Republic of Korea, on September 27, 2001.

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