by Kofi Annan,
Secretary General of the United Nations
As we enter a new century of challenges and inevitable crises, it is critically important for us to draw on each other's strengths in pursuit of peace and security.
We must create a new architecture of preventive, pro-active policies for peace - designed not for the wars of the past, but for those of the future. We must seek and find new ways to prevent instability from any source, even as we advance reconciliation in post-conflict societies to prevent the all-too frequent relapses into war and violence.
The bloody wars of the last decade have left us with no illusions about the difficulty of halting internal conflicts - by reason or by force - particularly against the wishes of the government of a sovereign state. But nor have they left us with any illusions about the need to use force, when all other means have failed. We may be reaching that limit, once again, in the former Yugoslavia.
Let me begin with Kosovo. When I addressed the NATO Conference in Rome last June, I expressed the hope that we were beginning to draw the right lessons from our experience in the Bosnian war - about such critical factors as credibility, legitimacy and the morality of intervention and non-intervention. But I added that there is only one way in which we can prove that we have done this; by applying those lessons practically and emphatically where horror threatens.
Alas, the horror no longer threatens. It is present, in the lives of hundreds of thousands of the people of Kosovo whose lives have been disrupted violently. And now, Racak has been added to the list of crimes against humanity committed in the former Yugoslavia.
I know that you and your member states are engaged in intense consultations - in the Contact Group and elsewhere - in order to restore the fragile agreement that halted the killings last time round and bring the parties to the negotiating table. Therefore, let me ask only that we all - particularly those with the capacity to act - recall the lessons of Bosnia.
Ultimately, however, it means providing the people of Kosovo with the degree of autonomy that is consistent with their need to live lives free from terror and violence. What form such autonomy will take will depend not only on the wishes of the Kosovars, but also on the actions of the Yugoslav authoroties. We can only hope that they, too, have learned the lessons of Bosnia.
Second, let me say that the cooperation between the UN and SFOR in Bosnia remains essential to its prospects for lasting peace. In every area - from security to the return of refugees to restoring schools and roads and hospitals - we are working together. Still, we need to ensure that IPTF and SFOR communication remains clear and effective, so that all threats to the peace can be contained in concert.
Let me conclude by congratulating you - a bit early - on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the alliance, and wish you all success in your deliverations on devising a new strategic concept for the next century. How you define your role, and where and how you decide to pursue it, is of vital interest to the United Nations, given the long tradition of cooperation and coordination between NATO and the UN in matters of war and peace. I look forward to hearing your views on this matter.