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UN Vienna Civil Society Award Presentation Vienna Rathaus, 19 July 1999
Remarks by Pino Arlacchi, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna
Good evening to you all. We are here for a very happy occasion. As you know, this is the first “UN Vienna Civil Society Award” to be granted. It is a source of happiness for many reasons.
Mr. Secretary-General, when you set about to reshape the United Nations, one of your goals was to create strong links between the UN and what we call civil society. We your colleagues thank you for this initiative and vision. The success in our endeavours in the fields of drug abuse and crime prevention depends ultimately on the decisions people make about the way they live their lives. We therefore must reach people. We are thus especially pleased to honour tonight some remarkable individuals who have found successful ways to do so.
Mr. Mayor, Madam State Secretary, the very nature of this award is a cause for great satisfaction. The City of Vienna and the Republic of Austria are our home. We enjoy a level of support from you that is the envy of many other parts of the UN system. We come from many lands. We speak many languages. We have unusual customs. But you have graciously taken us into your community.
It was during my first meeting with you, Mr. Mayor, soon after my arrival in Vienna less than two years ago, that the idea behind this award was initially discussed. The enthusiasm you expressed was soon echoed by the Austrian Government as well. We thank you for this support as co-sponsors of the award. It is a fine example of cooperation between the United Nations and the people of Vienna and Austria.
The aspect of this award which causes me the greatest personal happiness is the subject matter it addresses. There are awards for literature, for singing, for architecture and for just about every field of human endeavour. Yet there was up to now no award intended to honour those who contributed, some of them with their lives, to the global effort to fight crime and drugs.
Such an award was in fact long overdue. Those who dedicate themselves to this work are a special breed of people. They are prepared to take on challenges which many others refuse. They are prepared to maintain their belief that they can succeed, in the face of others who say that the effort should be abandoned. They are prepared to deal with the dark side of human existence and bring light to it. They are prepared to face danger. They maintain an unwavering conviction that they can make a difference to a young boy who has lost his way on the tough streets of our cities, to a young woman who has lost her humanity by being forced into prostitution. They refuse to accept the destructive forces unleashed by drug traffickers and other criminals.
Choosing today’s winners was not an easy task. There were more than one hundred nominations. Many of them exemplified the qualities I just outlined and deserve recognition for their sacrifice, determination and vision. They worked in many different areas, ranging from journalism to health to government. They all shared a determination to serve civil society and shape it in a positive manner.
The selection panel brought together a group of eminent people who themselves have strong commitment to human betterment -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Mr. Ted Turner, Mr. Enrique Iglesias, and the Chairmen of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.
Their decision was to share today’s award among four winners. Two are organizations from Japan and Mexico, and two are individuals from Uganda and India.
The Drug Abuse Prevention Centre is recognized for its widespread and effective public awareness campaigns in Japan. I might add that it reaches out to the rest of the world by making part of the funds it raises available for use in drug abuse prevention work by grass-roots NGOs in developing and transition countries.
The Aztec Foundation has been instrumental in raising public awareness in Mexico of the dangers of drugs. In addition to extensive media campaigns, the Foundation manages a large network of groups operating telephone hotlines directly assisting addicts.
Mr. Rogers Kasirye performs outstanding work in Uganda, especially with regard to children. He has successfully brought the drug issue to the attention of the public, and his experience related to the link between drug abuse and HIV/AIDS among street children is serving as a model for the work of both nongovernmental organizations and UN programmes.
Ms. Shanthi Ranganathan has over the past twenty years carried out pioneering work in India on the rehabilitation of drug addicts. Through her dedication and energy she has been highly successful in mobilizing communities to reduce and prevent drug abuse.
The four recipients share an ability to rally others to their cause. Their success is without any doubt possible only because they have always believed that they could succeed. They are models for us all.
It is a very special honour to have the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, with us this evening to present the award. Mr. Secretary-General, may I invite you to address the audience.
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