For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No: UNIS/SG/2599
Release Date: 27 June 2000
Peace Built from Bottom up “Begins With Every One of Us”, Says
Secretary-General to “Mondial des Enfants” Festival

NEW YORK, 26 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks made by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Festival Mondial des Enfants in Basel, Switzerland, on 24 June:

I am delighted to be with you.  Here, at one of the great crossroads of Europe, young people from around the world have joined forces with their peers living in France, Germany and Switzerland. 

This is a very a special occasion, not only for all of you -- but also for me and, I hope, for millions of other young people whom you are going to serve.  As your generation grows into young men and women, it is those millions of your contemporaries who stand to benefit from your work as Young Ambassadors for Peace.

Your mission involves learning about other cultures, helping other people and building a better planet for all humankind.  How close that is to our work in the United Nations!  We too strive to create better understanding, end human suffering and protect the environment.  I congratulate you all as true citizens of the world and allies of the United Nations.

As I look into your young faces today, I see some very promising ambassadors indeed.  I see young people ready to use their energy and growing experience to work for a better world.  I see the Culture of Peace come to life.

You have a lot going for you already.  You are healthy and strong.  And I know you want to work for a world where that applies to everyone -- where no one has to go without food, clean water, or the medicine they need.  Because how can we build understanding among people if millions are going sick and hungry?

Many of you are very good students, I have been told.  I know you want the same opportunity to be offered to all people your age -- including to more than 100 million children in the world who at present are unable to go to school at all.  Because how can we educate people about peace if they don't have the chance to learn how to read?

Many of you speak several languages, and some of you travelled long distances from your homes to come here.  For some of you, that may have been a dream come true.  But to many people, travel means something quite different:  some are forced to flee their homes in fear, because their neighbours do not accept that they speak a different language, or belong to a different church.

Many of you are skilled in the use of computers, e-mail and the Internet.  We can use these tools of communication to spread the Culture of Peace.  But did you know that half the world has never even made or received a telephone call?  Did you know that less than 1 per cent of all the people in Africa have used the Internet?

You see, you are fortunate in many, many ways.  And you are here because you know that good fortune brings with it a responsibility.  I am delighted that you have come together here to prepare yourselves for the future, without waiting for governments to tell you what to do; and that you are spending these 10 days thinking about what you can do to promote the Culture of Peace. 

More and more, young people are asking me this encouraging question:  What can I do to make things better?  My advice is always:  start by learning and looking around you.  Get to know people whose lives are different from yours.  Find out what you have in common with them.  Build bridges of understanding with them.  It is only by doing so that we can truly appreciate the worth of others.  We do so whether we are sharing our lunch with someone sitting next to us, or exchanging e-mail greetings with someone at the other end of the world. 

Computers and modems help us talk and listen to each other across oceans. But that would not do us much good if we did not already have a lot in common. Every society needs shared values:  for our global society, that is respect for our equal human rights.  We may have different religions, different languages, different coloured skins -- but we all belong to one human race.  We are all part of the same human family -- and when one part of that family does well, we all do better.  So we want to help others to have the same opportunities we have.

Once you have created a bridge with others, keep it open by talking to each other and, above all, by listening.  This is what I try to do in my job as Secretary-General -- because I know that once I have built up trust with someone, we can work to change things together.  So can you.  When you see something that is wrong, no matter how big the problem is, ask yourself:  Who else would like to change this?  How can we work together?  Take action with others who share your conviction.  Have the courage to believe you can make a difference.  As with everything in life, small steps count.  If something has not been done before, it does not mean it can't be done:  it only means you could be the first to do it.

How wonderful that, at this festival, you have launched a 10-year programme exactly like that.  It is an ambitious plan, taking you, step by step, from “Peace and My Person” to “Peace and My Family”; from “Peace and My School” to “Peace and My City”; from “Peace and My Country” to “Peace and My Planet”.  But in its very first step -- peace and my person -- this plan recognizes a simple fact:  that peace must be built from the bottom up, and begins with every one of us. 

That is the responsibility you have assumed today:  peace begins with every one of you.  On behalf of the United Nations, I congratulate you on taking up that mission.  Dear young ambassadors, go and make your difference in this world.  I shall be following you closely.  Vielen Dank, meine Freunde, et bonne chance à vous tous.

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