REVIEW: Article

Letter to the United Nations Staff

March 27, 2003

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

I wanted to write to let you know how much I appreciate the devotion and loyalty which all of you continue to show during these trying times for the world and the United Nations.

For many of us, war and the suffering it causes are, sadly, familiar. Indeed, much of our task is dealing with the effects of war. That does not diminish our profound sadness at seeing the war unfold in Iraq. We grieve with those families who lose their loved ones and their homes. We worry about the broader, longer-term implications that this war might have for peace and security in the region, and throughout the world. We deeply regret that Iraq’s disarmament was not achieved peacefully through the Security Council and the inspections.

Many of you will have heard the dire predictions about the future of our Organization. On one side, we hear that the United Nations has failed, because it could not prevent the war. On the other, we are told that it is doomed to irrelevance, because the Security Council did not agree on military action.

I do not accept either of these claims. In fact, I think we can derive some encouragement from the fact that the United Nations, and specifically the Security Council, was both the focus and forum for an intense and sustained debate over several months on how best to disarm Iraq. The breadth and depth of the disappointment in so many countries at the failure of the Council to find a collective solution shows how much is expected of the United Nations. It reflects the conviction of people all over the world that the United Nations is the institution where decisions on matters of collective peace and security should be taken. It is my belief, therefore, that the United Nations family may come out of this difficult experience more relevant than ever.

The world’s people—including the people of Iraq—are looking to the United Nations. The Iraqi people urgently need our help, and we must make every effort to bring them humanitarian relief and assistance as soon as possible. Member States are even now actively debating what will happen when the fighting stops. They are asking not whether the United Nations should be involved, but how, under what circumstances, and for what purpose. If we are called upon by the Security Council to play a wider role in Iraq after the war, we must be ready to meet the challenge. Beyond Iraq, people everywhere will keep looking to us to carry on our daily struggle to prevent conflict wherever it is threatened; to resolve it, and to protect its victims, wherever it is raging; and to help those emerging from it to heal their wounds and rebuild their lives in lasting peace.

They will keep looking to us to promote development and human rights, to defeat poverty, to protect our natural environment, and to fight the many global scourges that afflict mankind—from HIV/AIDS to terrorism.

The months ahead promise to put our Organization to new tests. But what has never failed us in the life of our United Nations is the commitment of all of you, the staff—our most important asset. I know that you will see us safely through the challenges ahead.

         Yours sincerely,                

         Kofi A. Annan

Issue Date


Secretary-General of the United Nations