Statement by Minister Cowen, at UN General Assembly debate on Terrorism.
There are moments in history so defining and so etched in the memory of all who witness them, that they become landmarks in time, defining events that change history and lead to new impulses of resolve and determination.
On 11 September, such a moment occurred as the forces of international terrorism struck the people of the United States with a viciousness and evil of purpose which caused revulsion and horror around the world.
These acts of barbarous terrorism and the determined international response which must necessarily follow do not, as some have suggested, represent a conflict between civilisations, or a religious war. International terrorism strikes at the universal values, including that of religious tolerance, on which the United Nations is founded. Our collective response to these outrages must uphold these values and bring stark relief to the differences which divide those who uphold the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and those, hiding in our midst, who would seek to subvert them.
International terrorism must be denied the means and the opportunity to launch attacks in pursuit of a cause or a perceived grievance. There can be no exceptions. This calls for a firm resolve. The defeat of terrorism will take time and it cannot be achieved in the absence of a total commitment by governments to the task and without the widest possible co-operation between them.
The General Assembly has done excellent work over the years in addressing various aspects of terrorism and in establishing the measures that Member States need to take. This work must now be carried on with a greater sense of urgency to achieve the full complement of international instruments that is required. Of course, reaching agreements on Conventions in this Assembly is clearly not enough and neither is their signature. The record of signature, ratification and implementation has been disappointing and this work must now move right to the front of our agenda. It is by our actions alone that we can demonstrate our determination to succeed.
Action has already been forthcoming, in the Security Council, and in the General Assembly. The message is going out. We the peoples of the United Nations are saying to the terrorists: you do not act for us; we reject your campaign of death and murder; your path is the road to destruction of everything we cherish and all that the United Nations embodies and reflects; we will act together to ensure that you do not prevail.
We must meet the threat of international terrorism on three levels. First, we must, as member States of the United Nations, do all we can, in accordance with Resolution 1368, to bring to justice the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of the attacks of
11 September and to prevent further such atrocities. Secondly, we must combine in a longer-term initiative to defeat the monster of international terrorism; by choking off its funds, by cutting its supply of munitions and technical support and by denying it the bases from which it plans and prepares its actions. Thirdly, we must redouble our efforts to put an end to the many conflicts and injustices, which, while they can never, ever justify the horrors of 11 September, are exploited by the terrorists to garner support for their warped philosophies.
At the first level, dealing with the immediate security threat, the Security Council has acknowledged, in Resolutions 1368 and 1373, the inherent right of individual and collective self-defence, as recognized under Article 51 of the UN Charter. The United States has suffered a most grievous assault; one of a long series of terrorist attacks against US targets. Who can reasonably argue that the US does not have the right to defend itself, in a targetted and proportionate manner, by bringing to justice those who planned, perpetrated and assisted in these outrages and who continue to threaten international peace and security?
Ireland is seeking to play its part in efforts to respond to the immediate terrorist threat by cooperating in police investigations and by opening our airspace and airports to aircraft operating in pursuit of Resolution 1368. Ireland is not a member of a military alliance, but Ireland is not neutral in the struggle against international terrorism.
How, I ask, can any member of the United Nations abstain from joining a collective effort to confront what is a global threat to international peace and security?
The fact that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan has, for the past two years, defied the demands of the Security Council to hand over Osama bin Laden, a main suspect in the terrorist campaign against the United States, surely justifies the refusal by virtually the entire international community to grant it diplomatic recognition.
But let me be clear, the Afghan people, who are already suffering terribly from the effects of drought, civil war and political instability, are not to blame for the actions of the Taliban and must not suffer the consequences of the Taliban's defiance. The international community is rightly mobilising to deal with the worsening humanitarian situation facing the people of Afghanistan. For Ireland's part, my government yesterday announced that we will allocate a further sum of over $3 million in response to the UN Donor Alert.
At the second level, the need for legal action, we must act in concert to deny international terrorism the means and capacity to launch attacks on both people and property. This can only be achieved through a strong commitment by all our governments to the task, and with the widest possible cooperation between us.
The General Assembly has done excellent work over the years in addressing various aspects of terrorism. We already have twelve different International Conventions that bear in one way or another on terrorism, including a most important one on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, adopted in 1999. We must, my own government included, move quickly to ensure the ratification and implementation of these Conventions.
We need to go further, for instance, by speeding up work on the draft Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism that was initiated by India, and the Convention on Nuclear Terrorism that has been proposed by the Russian Federation.
The Security Council has also been active. Ireland, as current President of the Security Council, strongly welcomes the adoption last Friday of Resolution 1373 (2001). We will do all in our power to ensure that the committee to be established to monitor the implementation of the Resolution by all Member States is operational as soon as possible. In this regard, I am hopeful that it will be possible to reach an early agreement on the structure and chairmanship of the committee.
At the third level, we must seek to eliminate the conflict, alienation and deprivation which is used by the godfathers of international terrorism to justify their actions. We must demonstrate that we can deal with these problems, either directly or indirectly, and resolve them through peaceful dialogue and cooperation.
Negotiation, conducted on a basis of mutual respect, leading to a just and peaceful settlement that embodies the legitimate rights of the parties, is the only effective means of conflict resolution. Our own experience in Ireland, in this regard, bears this out. The task which we face in Ireland is to move the political process forward at the earliest moment. It is imperative that all those with responsibilities live up to their obligations.
Successful negotiation involves compromise, which all too often is misrepresented as appeasement or surrender. We need to rehabilitate the concept of compromise and face down the forces of extremism. We have seen in many instances around the world how extremists, fearing compromise, will commit terrorist outrages precisely with the aim of blocking moves towards negotiations. We must not allow them to succeed in their aim.
The City of New York has hosted the headquarters of the United Nations for half a century. During that time, the city's services, its Police Department and its Fire Department, have assured the physical safety of this organisation and of its Member States' delegations. We owe this city, and its services, a special debt of thanks. We know that the police and firefighters who went up the stairs of the World Trade Center to save others and thereby lost their lives, would have done the same if it was the UN building that had been attacked, or any of the buildings that house our Missions, or our Mission staff.
The sacrifice of the police and firefighters of New York City chose to put their lives on the line in rejecting the campaign of murder and destruction waged by the dark, secretive and cowardly men of terror. The families have sacrificed their loved ones in the most noble show of determination that you, whoever you are and wherever you hide, you do not act for us, the people of the free world.
Let those images and those stories of bravery and heroism in the face of the most awful terror, stand as a constant reminder that we, members of this Assembly, have our own duty to perform, to ensure that terrorists will find no welcome in any part of the globe. That duty, Mr President, is about action and not words.
We heard Mayor Giuliani yesterday morning speak words of wisdom and leadership from this podium. On behalf of the Irish people, I can only say today: New York City has honored us all over the past weeks by its courage and nobility of action.
I saw, with my own eyes, the wreckage of the World Trade Center, in which are entombed the remains of more than five thousand people. Out of this wreckage and this appalling destruction of human life, we the peoples of the United Nations, must seek to rebuild the moral authority of our Organisation. We must begin by leading the fight against international terrorism. The Irish Government and our delegation in New York stand ready to work throughout our Presidency of the Security Council and beyond to meet this challenge. This will not be a short or an easy struggle, but for our sake and the sake of succeeding generations, it is one in which we simply must prevail.
Thank you, Mr. President.