For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No: UNIS/SG/2644
Release Date: 6 September 2000
 Secretary-General, Addressing Meeting on Dialogue Among Civilizations,
Says Global Civilization Defined by Tolerance of Dissent

 NEW YORK, 5 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the address by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the meeting on the Dialogue among Civilizations, delivered this morning:

 Je vous remercie de vos paroles aimables, Monsieur le Directeur général.

 Je tiens tout d’abord à exprimer ma gratitude à son Excellence le Président Khatami, sous l’impulsion duquel le dialogue entre les civilisations est devenu réalité, au sein de l’Organisation et dans le monde entier. Monsieur le Président, la présence de tant de chefs d’État dans cette salle est un hommage éloquent à votre idéal d’une société mondiale fondée sur la compassion et la tolérance. Je remercie également Monsieur Koichiro Matsuura et le personnel de l'UNESCO d'avoir organisé la manifestation d'aujourd'hui. 

 I am honoured and pleased to join you for this important conference on the day before the opening of the Millennium Summit. Indeed, I can think of no better moral and spiritual foundation for the Summit than a meeting devoted to Dialogue among Civilizations. The United Nations itself was created in the belief that dialogue can triumph over discord, that diversity is a universal virtue and that the peoples of the world are far more united by common fate than they are divided by their separate identities. 

 The United Nations – at its best – can be the true home of the dialogue among civilizations – the forum where such dialogue can flourish and bear fruit in every field of human endeavour. That is why I have warmly welcomed the proclamation of the year 2001 as the “United Nations Year of the Dialogue among Civilizations”. Without this dialogue taking place every day among all nations – within and between civilizations, cultures and groups – no peace can be lasting and no prosperity can be secure. That is the lesson of the United Nations’ of the first half-century. It is a lesson that we ignore at our peril.

 What this history should teach us also is that, alongside an infinite diversity of cultures, there does exist one, global civilization in which humanity’s ideas and beliefs meet and develop peacefully and productively. It is a civilization that must be defined by its tolerance of dissent, its celebration of cultural diversity, its insistence on fundamental, universal human rights and its belief in the right of people everywhere to have a say in how they are governed. It is a civilization that we are called on to defend and promote as we embark on a new century.

 Our own specific efforts to advance the Dialogue among Civilizations are led by my Personal Envoy, Mr. Giandomenico Picco. As part of his responsibilities, he has assembled a group of eminent persons to help frame the issues in a forthcoming report which will be presented to me next summer. In turn, I intend to present it to the Assembly as our contribution to the dialogue. Those reflections will start from the realization that we have to use diversity as an asset in an increasingly inter-connected world. Indeed, the perception of diversity as a threat is the very seed of war. Diversity is not only the basis for the dialogue among civilizations, but also the reality that makes dialogue necessary.

 I am confident that this meeting will contribute greatly to the report and to our common efforts to advance this vital dialogue for humanity. It will no doubt also offer guidance and inspiration to the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance which will be held in South Africa next year.

 I know that you all have important contributions to make to this vital subject, and I will close with the following thought. I hope that we can engage today in a genuine and fruitful exchange of views on this question, and thereby ensure that we display the value of a true dialogue among civilizations.

* * * * *