FORMER UN SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN IN HIS NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LECTURE — DECEMBER 10, 2001
In the twenty-first century I believe the mission of the United Nations will be defined by a new, more profound, awareness of the sanctity and dignity of every human life, regardless of race or religion. This will require us to look beyond the framework of States, and beneath the surface of nations or communities. We must focus, as never before, on improving the conditions of the individual men and women who give the State or nation its richness and character. We must begin with the young Afghan girl, recognizing that saving that one life is to save humanity itself.
Over the past five years, I have often recalled that the United Nations’ Charter begins with the words: “We the peoples.” What is not always recognized is that “We the peoples” are made up of individuals whose claims to the most fundamental rights have too often been sacrificed in the supposed interests of the State or the nation. A genocide begins with the killing of one man — not for what he has done, but because of who he is. A campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ begins with one neighbour turning on another. Poverty begins when even one child is denied his or her fundamental right to education. What begins with the failure to uphold the dignity of one life, all too often ends with a calamity for entire nations.
LET’S EMBRACE PEACE: In this new century, we must start from the understanding that peace belongs not only to States or peoples, but to each and every member of those communities. The sovereignty of States must no longer be used as a shield for gross violations of human rights. Peace must be made real and tangible in the daily existence of every individual in need. Peace must be sought, above all, because it is the condition for every member of the human family to live a life of dignity and security.
The rights of the individual are of no less importance to immigrants and minorities in Europe and the Americas than to women in Afghanistan or children in Africa. They are as fundamental to the poor as to the rich; they are as necessary to the security of the developed world as to that of the developing world.
From this vision of the role of the United Nations in the next century flow three key priorities for the future: eradicating poverty, preventing conflict, and promoting democracy. Only in a world that is rid of poverty can all men and women make the most of their abilities. Only where individual rights are respected can difference be channelled politically and resolved peacefully. Only in a democratic environment, based on respect for diversity and dialogue, can individual self-expression and self-government be secured, and freedom of association be upheld.
Throughout my term as Secretary-General, I have sought to place human beings at the centre of everything we do -– from conflict prevention to development to human rights. Securing real and lasting improvement in the lives of individual men and women is the measure of all we do at the United Nations. ‘’ We understand, as never before, that each of us is fully worthy of the respect and dignity essential to our common humanity. We recognize that we are the products of many cultures, traditions, and memories; that mutual respect allows us to study and learn from other cultures; and that we gain strength by combining the foreign with the familiar.
TOLERANCE & UNDERSTANDING: In every great faith and tradition one can find the values of tolerance and mutual understanding. The Qur’an, for example, tells us that “We created you from a single pair of male and female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other.” Confucius urged his followers: “when the good way prevails in the State, speak boldly and act boldly. When the State has lost the way, act boldly and speak softly.” In the Jewish tradition, the injunction to “love thy neighbour as thyself,” is considered to be the very essence of the Torah. This thought is reflected in the Christian Gospel, which also teaches us to love our enemies and pray for those who wish to persecute us. Hindus are taught that “truth is one, the sages give it various names.” And in the Buddhist tradition, individuals are urged to act with compassion in every facet of life.
Each of us has the right to take pride in our particular faith or heritage. But the notion that what is ours is necessarily in conflict with what is theirs is both false and dangerous. It has resulted in endless enmity and conflict, leading men to commit the greatest of crimes in the name of a higher power. It need not be so. People of different religions and cultures live side by side in almost every part of the world, and most of us have overlapping identities that unite us with very different groups. We can love what we are, without hating what –- and who — we are not. We can thrive in our own tradition, even as we learn from others, and come to respect their teachings’’.
EXCERPT FROM THE ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON THE FIRST NELSON MANDELA ANNUAL LECTURE JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, JULY 19, 2003
— Last year I was in Ghana, on a mission I’ll mention in a moment, and I was walking to my aeroplane on the tarmac at the airport in Accra, and this lady began screaming at me, behind me saying: “President Clinton, President Clinton don’t go, wait”, so I turned around and this lady was running towards me waving a package, and she came up and said, “I am one of 400 women who have jobs in a shirt factory here, because of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, so here’s your shirt”. And I figured, I’m not in Office anymore – I took the shirt. And I brought it home, and put in a place in my private quarters where I literally look at it every morning of my life, I look at this shirt every morning of my life, why? Because in a world where we are consumed with worries about terror and racial and tribal and religious conflicts and chaos, that shirt reminds me that woman is not mad at me, she does not hate my country, she does not want her child to grow up and fight in an African tribal war. She believes her child can get an education and get a better job than she has and build a stronger country and a better future for her grandchildren. Why? Because in a simple act of enlightened self-interest we passed a Bill that said to her:“We want you to be a part of our common future.” So, I think we should have more debt relief and more trade.
Ever since human beings first rose up on this earth on the African Savannah over a hundred thousand years ago, we have constantly struggled each in our own little way with fear and hatred and hurt, with selfishness and short-sightedness, we constantly struggled to get beyond the narrow confines of our own experience to the larger truth of our common humanity. All of history in a way is the story of that struggle. That is the lesson of Mandela’s monumental life. Ancient wisdom in modern form. My Bible says, “All the Law is fulfilled in one word even this, love thy neighbour as thyself”.
The Koran says, “Requite evil with good and he who is your enemy will become your dearest friend”. The Talmud says, “That man is a hero who can make a friend out of a foe”. In the Dhammapada the Buddhist says, “Never does hatred by hatred cease but by love alone”. Easy to say, hard to do. But we live in a world without walls and we cannot own the future of that world unless we share it. In my lifetime only two people have made that personal journey as the leaders of their nations, in the rough and tumble world of politics, Mahatma Gandhi and his worthy successor, Nelson Mandela. And so I say to you Madiba, for whatever time I have on this earth, my birthday present to you is to try to help build that village, for every African child, every child in the Middle-East, every child in my home country, and God willing, when we come back here in 10 years for your 95th birthday party, we will all be closer to your dream.’’
PRESIDENT HARRY S. TRUMAN’S ADDRESS TO THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON OCTOBER 24, 1950: The United Nations represents the idea of universal morality, superior to the interests of individual nations. Its foundation does not rest upon power or privilege; it rests upon faith. They rest upon the faith of men in human values–upon the belief that men in every land hold the same high ideals and strive toward the same goals for peace and justice. This faith is deeply held by the people of the United States of America and, I believe, by the peoples of all other countries.
Governments may sometimes falter in their support of the United Nations, but the peoples of the world do not falter. The demand of men and women throughout the world for international order and justice is one of the strongest forces in these troubled times. We have just had a vivid demonstration of that fact in Korea. The invasion of the Republic of Korea was a direct challenge to the principles of the United Nations. That challenge was met by an overwhelming response. The people of almost every member country supported the decision of the Security Council to meet this aggression with force. Few acts in our time have met with such widespread approval.
Throughout the world today, men are seeking a better life. They want to be freed from the bondage and the injustice of the past. They want to work out their own destinies. These aspirations of mankind can be met–met without conflict and bloodshed–by international cooperation through the United Nations. To us in this assembly hall, the United Nations that we see and hear is made up of speeches, debates, and resolutions. But to millions of people, the United Nations is a source of direct help in their everyday lives. To them it is a case of food or a box of schoolbooks; it is a doctor who vaccinates their children; it is an expert who shows them how to raise more rice, or more wheat, on their land; it is the flag which marks a safe haven to the refugee, or an extra meal a day to a nursing mother.
One of the strongest reasons for this belief is our faith in the United Nations. The United Nations has three great roles to play in preventing wars. First: it provides a way for negotiation and the settlement of disputes among nations by peaceful means. Second: it provides a way of utilizing the collective strength of member nations, under the charter, to prevent aggression. Third: it provides a way through which, once the danger of aggression is reduced, the nations can be relieved of the burden of armaments. All of us must help the United Nations to be effective in performing these functions. The charter obligates all of us to settle our disputes peacefully. Today is an appropriate occasion for us solemnly to reaffirm our obligations under the charter.
Within the spirit and even the letter of the charter we shall go even further. We must attempt to find peaceful adjustments of underlying situations or tensions before they harden into actual disputes. The basic issues in the world today affect the fate of millions of people. Here, in the United Nations, there is an opportunity for the large and the small alike to have their voices heard on these issues. Here the interests of every country can be considered in the settlement of problems which are of common concern.