For information only - not an official document.
    24 October 2000
 Secretary-General Extols Goodwill Ambassadors as “Defenders, Advocates”
Of United Nations Principles

NEW YORK, 23 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following in the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the United Nations Goodwill Ambassadors gathering this morning:

I can neither pole-vault, nor play the violin, so my credentials in this gathering are rather modest.  I have met a few ambassadors, messengers and other envoys in my day, but rarely have I seen quite so much energy, creativity and talent assembled in one room.

You are here because the United Nations needs you.  The United Nations may be an association of States, but its role is to protect the rights and meet the needs of people.  And it is on people as much as governments that it depends for support -- people far beyond those who work in this house and visit this house.

That is where you come in.  You have the personality to capture the imagination of people and policy makers alike.  You have the passion to inspire their faith in the principles on which the United Nations was founded. You have the power to convince them of the importance of the United Nations work in people's lives.  Who, then, are you?  You yourselves represent a United Nations of your own:  you come from some 30 nations, by your calling, you unite people far beyond those nations.  You represent professions and audiences for which national frontiers hardly exist.  

And between you, you can connect with people practically anywhere on earth.  People who are moved by good music.  People who admire good football.  People whose passion is good cinema.  People who love life, but who may know little about how hard lives are for others. 

You are here because you want those people to know more about the hardship of others, and because you want to encourage them to do something about it.  Some of you may have personally endured difficulties that have shaped you and inspire you to improve the lot of others.  All of you have shown that you have not only the gift of your calling, but the gift of empathy.  And you have put that empathy to work for those who are less fortunate than you.

You are defenders and advocates.  You raise funds, you raise awareness and you raise spirits.  And while funds are always welcome in an Organization that badly needs it, it is probably awareness and spirits that matter the most.

 Whenever you make an appearance in the service of a cause, you raise the spirits of the United Nations own men and women in the field, and those of the millions of people whom you are trying to help.  In many parts of the world where people feel forgotten, it can make the difference between hope and hopelessness to know they have you as an ally and they have you in their corner. 

Whenever you put your name to a message, you raise awareness far and wide, among policy makers and among the millions of people who elect them.  In an age when the media are cutting down on their coverage of international news, and chances of breaking through the barrier of indifference are vastly improved when we have people like you to plead our cause.  To explain what the United Nations does, why it matters, what are its limitations and its possibilities.  How it changes people's lives, strengthens peace and ensures human rights. 

Between you, you have a wide range of interests.  And that is good, because it enables you to benefit a wide spectrum of United Nations work.  From poverty eradication to girls’ education; from the fight against AIDS to the right to reproductive health; from protecting the vulnerable to protecting the planet; from advocating disarmament to promoting human rights.

These are big issues.  And the United Nations may look like a big institution.  But the truth is that in corporate or government terms, the United Nations is in the minor league.  The size of our staff here at New York Headquarters, for example, is smaller than the New York Police Department -- and while their role is local, our role is global.

By the same token, we have only the modest means with which to support our activities.  Your relationship with us is not governed by carefully crafted legal arguments any more than it is motivated by hefty fees.  We do not have elaborate public relations structures to work with you.  Our greatest assets are your creativity, your charisma and your commitment -- combined with the critical importance of your message to the lives of the people you are trying to help.  And that is already a great deal.

 So I am here to thank all of you for responding so generously to our calls for help.  But I am also here to ask you to think about how we can all do more and better in the future, to make the United Nations mean more to the people with whom you connect.  How -- in addition to the work you are doing in your respective spheres for various parts of the United Nations family -- you can make the United Nations as a whole better understood and better supported by the world's peoples.

 Seven weeks ago, the world's leaders gathered here for the Millennium Summit.  They pledged themselves to meeting the needs of the peoples -- to freeing them from abject poverty, from the scourge of war and from the threat of living on a planet that can no longer sustain its inhabitants.

Now is the time to act on that resolve.  But we can only do that if ordinary people all over the world insist that their leaders translate these pledges into action. 

You are the lightning conductors that can connect us with those people.  You can ignite their support.  And that is why, dear messengers, dear ambassadors, we are holding our own summit here today.  I am here to pay tribute to you -- and to ask you to take our shared mission to new frontiers.  On behalf of the United Nations, I thank you all.

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