For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:  UNIS/SG/2592
Release Date:   14 June 2000
Secretary-General Calls Increasing Interdependence of Nations an Opportunity To Further Cause of Understanding, Tolerance and Peace

NEW YORK, 13 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the welcoming remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Abdurrahman Wahid, President of Indonesia, which were delivered today at Headquarters by Giandomenico Picco, Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations:

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the United Nations. I am especially pleased that you are here today to share your experiences as a peacemaker who transcended the racial and ethnic divisions of your own country.  Your embrace of diversity in Indonesia is an example that we at the United Nations hope to see widely emulated.

In this ever-shrinking world, civilizational dialogue is no longer an option -- it is a reality.  What may be debatable is the approach we take towards it.  Must we view it with suspicion and unease, or do we celebrate it as an essential component of any society?  Like you, Your Excellency, I regard our increasing interdependence as an opportunity, not a threat -- an opportunity to further the cause of understanding, tolerance and peace. 

Recent years have seen an increased preoccupation with issues of identity in many parts of the world, partly as a reaction to globalization -- and this phenomenon may well spread more widely in the years to come.  The coming years promise to extend the search for identity to every part of the world.  The aspirations of individuals and groups to have their voices heard, and their identity appreciated, stand a better chance of being realized in our times than ever before.  At first glance, this re-emergence of identities may seem to run counter to the growth of our international community.  But in truth, shared values and a global community are the means by which diversity can be preserved in an age of rapid economic integration.  In fact, we at the United Nations believe that diversity is the human face of globalization.

Of course, like most ambitious undertakings, progress towards a shared culture of peace will not always be smooth.  There will be obstacles to overcome, and setbacks to reverse.  Yet, with leaders of your calibre and vision to guide us, I remain confident that the culture of peace will prevail.  Our civilizational dialogue will prosper and we will leave a better, more tolerant world for our children.

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