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    10 September 1999
    For UN, No Challenge Is more Pressing, No Goal more Daunting than Freeing
    Humanity from Shackles of Poverty, Says Secretary-General


    NEW YORK, 9 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the awards ceremony for the Race against Poverty, in New York yesterday,  8 September:

     Poverty is the greatest single challenge confronting humanity. We are here tonight because we are determined to rise to the challenge.  These awards for the race against poverty give us occasion to recommit ourselves to it.

     For the United Nations, no challenge is more pressing and diverse, no goal more daunting or urgent, than freeing humanity from the shackles of poverty.  It is a goal that lies at the very heart of the work of the United Nations and its agencies in developing countries around the world.  

     While we have seen a number of impressive achievements to date -- in literacy and in reducing infant mortality rates, for example -- the enormous reach of poverty remains staggering.  There are three billion people in the world today living on less than three dollars a day. 

     Women and children continue to be disproportionately affected.  Violent conflict, the spread of HIV and AIDS, the failure of economic growth and environmental degradation have pushed millions more into poverty over the past 20 years.

     On the eve of the new millennium, meeting this challenge requires decisive action by all of us -- governments; community organizations; NGOs; the private sector; the international community; and, perhaps most importantly, individuals. 

     The individuals being honoured by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) here tonight have made decisive personal contributions to the fight against poverty in their own communities.  They have set examples for us all to follow.  They teach us that with perseverance, tenacity and selflessness, individuals can make a difference in the lives of people from the poorest communities.  They can help them rise up from poverty and defeat it. 

     We must not only applaud these great accomplishments:  we must encourage others to follow.  

     And we must do our part by not wavering in our support for programmes to reduce poverty at the community, national and global levels.  If we stay on  course, I am convinced that we can make great progress in eradicating extreme poverty in the span of one generation.

     We are already almost halfway through the International Decade for the Eradication of Poverty.  We have no time to lose in focusing our efforts. 

     The Poverty Eradication Committee, many of whose members are here tonight, has shown us the way by generating impressive momentum around UNDP's campaign.  I would like to thank the Committee for making this event such a resounding success.  I would also like to express my gratitude to UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Nadine Gordimer.  Ms. Gordimer, your untiring commitment to making the planet a better place should serve as inspiration to us all. 

     I would also like to pay tribute to NetAid, the groundbreaking international initiative undertaken by UNDP and Cisco Systems to help bolster awareness of poverty eradication around the world. 

     The NetAid concerts to be broadcast worldwide in October are a fine illustration of what can be achieved by marrying talent, technology and true commitment.

     It is an inspiring example of the kind of corporate citizenship and public-private partnership that will be crucial in addressing the challenges of the twenty-century century.  And it is a powerful demonstration that poverty must be fought on all fronts -- and by all of us.

     Allow me at this time to invite one of our partners in that fight, John Chambers, Cisco Systems President and CEO, to unveil the NetAid Web site. 

     John, allow me to express the gratitude of the entire United Nations family for the vision and leadership you have demonstrated in our race against poverty. The floor is yours.

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