Office of the Press Secretary
(New York, New York)
General Assembly Hall
United Nations Headquarters
New York, New York
10:30 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, excellencies, distinguished guests. This week the United Nations is 50 years old. The dreams of its founders have not been fully realized, but its promise endures. The value of the United Nations can be seen the world over -- in the nourished bodies of once-starving children; in the full lives of those immunized against disease; in the eyes of students eager to learn; in the environment sustained, the refugees saved, the peace kept; and most recently, in standing up for the human rights and human possibilities of women and their children at the Beijing Conference.
The United Nations is the product of faith and knowledge: Faith that different peoples can work together for tolerance, decency and peace; knowledge that this faith will be forever tested by the forces of intolerance, depravity and aggression. Now we must summon that faith and act on that knowledge to meet the challenges of a new era.
In the United States some people ask, why should we bother with the U.N.; America is strong; we can go it alone. Well, we will act if we have to alone. But my fellow Americans should not forget that our values and our interests are also served by working with the U.N.
The U.N. helps the peacemakers, the care providers, the defenders of freedom and human rights, the architects of economic prosperity, and the protectors of our planet to spread the risk, share the burden and increase the impact of our common efforts.
Last year I pledged that the United States would continue to contribute substantially to the U.N.'s finances. Historically, the United States has been, and today it remains, the largest contributor to the United Nations. But I am determined that we must fully meet our obligations, and I am working with our Congress on a plan to do so.
All who contribute to the U.N.'s work and care about its future must also be committed to reform -- to ending bureaucratic inefficiencies and outdated priorities. The U.N. must be able to show that the money it receives supports saving and enriching people's lives, not unneeded overhead. Reform requires breaking up bureaucratic fiefdom, eliminating obsolete agencies, and doing more with less. The U.N. must reform to remain relevant and to play a still stronger role in the march of freedom, peace, and prosperity.
We see it around the world in the Middle East and Northern Ireland -- people turning from a violent past to a future of peace; and South Africa and Haiti -- long nights and fears have given way to new days of freedom. Throughout this hemisphere, every nation except one has chosen democracy, and the goal of an integrated, peaceful and democratic Europe is now within our reach for the first time. In the Balkans, the international community's determination and NATO's resolve have made prospects for peace brighter than they have been for four long years.
Let me salute the U.N.'s efforts on behalf of the people of Bosnia. The nations that took part in UNPROFOR kept the toll of this terrible war and lives lost, wounds left unhealed, children left unfed from being far graver still.
Next week, the parties to the war in Bosnia will meet in Dayton, Ohio, under the auspices of the United States and our Contact Group partners -- Russia, the United Kingdom, France and Germany -- to intensify the search for peace. Many fundamental differences remain. But I urge the parties to seize this chance for a settlement. If they achieve peace, the United States will be there with our friends and allies to help secure it.
All over the world, people yearn to live in peace. And that dream is becoming a reality. But our time is not free of peril. As the Cold War gives way to the global village, too many people remain vulnerable to poverty, disease and underdevelopment. And all of us who are exposed to ethnic and religious hatred, the reckless aggression of rogue states, terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The emergence of the information and technology age has brought us all closer together and given us extraordinary opportunities to build a better future. But in our global village, progress can spread quickly, but trouble can, too. Trouble on the far end of town soon becomes a plague on everyone's house. We can't free our own neighborhoods from drug-related crime without the help of countries where the drugs are produced. We can't track down terrorists without assistance from other governments. We can't prosper or preserve our environment unless sustainable development is a reality for all nations. And our vigilance alone can't keep nuclear weapons stored half a world away from falling into the wrong hands.
Nowhere is cooperation more vital than in fighting the increasingly interconnected groups that traffic in terror, organized crime, drug smuggling and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. No one is immune -- not the people of Japan, where terrorists unleash nerve gas in the subway and poison thousands; not the people of Latin America or Southeast Asia, where drug traffickers wielding imported weapons have murdered judges, journalists, police officers and innocent passersby; not the people of Israel and France. where hatemongers have blown up buses and trains full of children with suitcase bombs made from smuggled explosives; not the people of the former Soviet Union and Central Europe, where organized criminals seek to weaken new democracies and prey on decent, hard-working men and women. And not the people of the United States, where homegrown terrorists blew of a federal building in the heart of America and foreign terrorists tried to topple the World Trade Center and plotted to destroy the very hall we gather in today.
These forces jeopardize the global trend toward peace and freedom, undermine fragile new democracies, sap the strength from developing countries, threaten our efforts to build a safer, more prosperous world.
So today I call upon all nations to join us in the fight against them. Our common efforts can produce results. To reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction, we are working with Russia to reduce our nuclear arsenals by two-thirds. We supported Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus in removing nuclear weapons from their soil. We worked with the states of the former Soviet Union to safeguard nuclear materials and convert them to peaceful use. North Korea has agreed to freeze its nuclear program under international monitoring. Many of the nations in this room succeeded in getting the indefinite extension of the nonproliferation treaty.
To stem the flow of narcotics and stop the spread of organized crime, we are cooperating with many nations, sharing information, providing military support, initiating anticorruption efforts. And results are coming. With Colombian authorities, we have cracked down on the cartels that control the world's cocaine market. Two years ago, they lived as billionaires, beyond the law; now many are living as prisoners behind bars.
To take on terrorists, we maintain strong sanctions against states that sponsor terrorism and defy the rule of law, such as Iran, Iraq, Libya and Sudan. We ask them today again to turn from that path. Meanwhile, we increase our own law enforcement efforts and our cooperation with other nations.
Nothing we do will make us invulnerable, but we call all can become less vulnerable if we work together. That is why today I am announcing new initiatives to fight international organized crime, drug trafficking, terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction -- initiatives we can take on our own and others we hope we will take together in the form of an international declaration to promote the safety of the world's citizens.
First, the steps we will take: Yesterday, I directed our government to identify and put on notice nations that tolerate money laundering. Criminal enterprises are moving vast sums of ill-gotten gains through the international financial system with absolute impunity. We must not allow them to wash the blood off profits from the sale of drugs from terror or organized crimes. Nations should bring their banks and financial systems into conformity with the international antimoney- laundering standards. We will work to help them to do so. And if they refuse, we will consider appropriate sanctions.
Next, I directed our government to identify the front companies and to freeze the assets of the largest drug ring in the world -- the Cali Cartel -- to cut off its economic lifelines and stop our own people from dealing unknowingly with its companies.
Finally, I have instructed the Justice Department to prepare legislation to provide our other agencies with the tools they need to respond to organized criminal activity.
But because we must win this battle together, I now invite every country to join in negotiating and endorsing a declaration on international crime and citizen safety; a declaration which would first include a no sanctuary pledge, so that we could say together to organized criminals, terrorists, drug traffickers and smugglers, you have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
Second, a counterterrorism pact, so that we would together urge more states to ratify existing antiterrorism treaties, and work with us to shut down the grey markets that outfit terrorists and criminals with firearms and false documents.
Third, an antinarcotics offensive. The international drug trade poisons people, breeds violence, tears at the moral fabric of our society. We must intensify action against the cartels and the destruction of drug crops. And we, in consumer nations like the United States, must decrease demand for drugs.
Fourth, an effective police force partnership. International criminal organizations target nations whose law enforcement agencies lack the experience and capacity to stop them. To help police in the new democracies of Central Europe, Hungary and the United States established an international law enforcement academy in Budapest. Now we should consider a network of centers all around the world to share the latest crime-fighting techniques and technology.
Fifth, we need an illegal arms and deadly materials control effort that we all participate in. A package the size of a child's lunch bag held the poison gas used to terrorize Tokyo. A lump of plutonium no bigger than a soda can is enough to make an atomic bomb. Building on efforts already underway with the states of the former Soviet Union and with our G-7 partners, we will seek to better account for, store, and safeguard materials with massive destructive power. We should strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention, pass the comprehensive test ban treaty next year, and ultimately eliminate the deadly scourge of land mines. We must press other countries and our own Congress to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, and to intensify our efforts to combat the global illegal arms network that fuels terrorism, equips drug cartels, and prolongs deadly conflicts.
This is a full and challenging agenda, but we must complete it and we must do it together.
Fifty years ago, as the conference that gave birth to the United Nations got underway in San Francisco, a young American war hero recorded his impressions of that event for a newspaper. "The average G.I. in the street doesn't seem to have a very clear-cut conception of what this meeting's about," wrote the young John F. Kennedy. But one bemedaled Marine sergeant gave the general reaction when he said, "I don't know much about what's going on, but if they just fix it so we don't have to fight anymore, they can count me in."
Well, the United Nations has not ended war, but it has made it less likely, and helped many nations to turn from war to peace. The United Nations has not stopped human suffering, but it has healed the wounds and lengthened the lives of millions of human beings. The United Nations has not banished repression or poverty from the Earth, but it has advanced the cause of freedom and prosperity on every continent. The United Nations has not been all that we wished it would be, but it has been a force for good and a bulwark against evil.
So a the dawn of a new century so full of promise, yet plagued by peril, we still need the United Nations. And so, for another 50 years and beyond, you can count the United States in.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 11:44 A.M. EDT