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Stand: 28.02.2002
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Introductory speech by the President of the German Bundestag, Wolfgang Thierse, on the occasion of UN secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the German Bundestag on 28 February 2002

Federal Chancellor,
Minister President Müller,
Federal Constitutional Judge Papier,
colleagues from the Bundestag and the Bundesrat,
honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen
and of course: Mrs Annan and Secretary-General Kofi Annan,

You are the first Secretary-General of the United Nations to address the German Bundestag. Your name is almost a programme in itself. It is associated with your work for peace, the observance of human rights and the global strengthening of democracy. You argue for a genuine dialogue of cultures and religions. And you call for a just global economic order that provides opportunities not just for the rich, but also for the poor countries. Many hopes rest on you as the holder of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize – hopes that are, of course, shared in the German Bundestag. However, this also makes it necessary for action to be taken – by Germany and by the other Member States – to ensure the United Nations is capable of living up to these raised expectations. As you said in your Stockholm lecture, the world has entered the 21st century through a gate of fire such as none of us ever wished to see. The torches of terrorism lit in New York and Washington on 11 September finally demonstrated that we can only overcome global terrorism by acting together.

At the same time, we must prevent terrorism that has no respect for human life from escalating into the war of cultures and religions that the terrorists want to force on us. Secretary-General, you have spoken again and again of the need for a sense of proportion and a rational approach to politics. The international coalition against terrorism that was forged after 11 September fulfils these criteria. By its nature, joint action in a coalition is incompatible with unilateral operations. Mandates approved by the United Nations will provide the appropriate framework for international measures against terrorism in future. We should always seek to avoid war and build peace at the same time. The deployment of military force is at best a last resort. A concentration on political initiatives and solutions would be in tune with the spirit of the UN Charter. In this connection, I would like to refer with particular respect to the UN’s peace troops, the Blue Helmets, who are so successful in their work precisely because there is no doubt about their adherence to the terms of their missions and the principle of neutrality.

The example of Afghanistan shows how important it is to implement peace-building measures after decades of war and years of rule by a terrorist regime. It remains to be seen whether the resources deployed so far are sufficient to guarantee lasting peace and internal stability. We all hope that they are. The international community has a particular responsibility towards this country, which has suffered for decades. But Afghanistan is just one example of the global task of peace-building. Under your leadership, Secretary-General, the United Nations have taken an ever clearer stand against the world’s warmongers and dictators. The UN Tribunal in The Hague sends a signal round the world that the brutal infringement of human rights, and the use of violence and expulsion as political tools will no longer be tolerated by the international community. Dictators must not be allowed to carry the day – and they must be made to answer for their actions before the institutions of the international community.

Secretary-General Annan, you have called again and again for spirals of violence to be broken – particularly in the Middle East. After decades of enmity and the almost daily escalation of violence in recent times, ways must finally be found to leave confrontation behind. We Germans, in particular, are aware of Europe’s responsibility for this region, to which you have repeatedly drawn attention.

However, the settlement of acute crises does not guarantee lasting peace. Peace is unthinkable without a just global economic order, without successful measures to fight hunger, diseases and unremitting deprivation around the world. You spoke forcefully of these dimensions of any international policy for peace not long ago at the World Economic Forum in New York. You demanded that “signals of hope” be sent to the poor countries of the world by means of a massive strengthening of development cooperation. And you challenged the representatives of economic liberalism to refute the idea that globalisation is the cause of poverty and social injustice in the world – and not just with words, but with deeds.

Your speech met with strong agreement around the world. However, this applause must be followed up with economic and political measures as soon as possible. The United Nations marked the Millennium by setting the target of halving world poverty by the year 2015. We will support this aim vigorously – not least because we know that new violent conflicts will always flare up as long as there is no shared commitment to fight poverty, disease, deprivation and the destruction of the natural resource base.

Mr Annan, you have given a number of significant speeches in Berlin over the last few years. I recall the speech you gave in Berlin in 1999 on the role of Europe in the world of the 21st century and your address on receiving an honorary doctorate from the Free University in 2001. Today you will talk to us about the most important challenge of all: building sustainable peace around the world.

Secretary-General, we are delighted that you are here to address us today.

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