9 May 2001


NEW YORK, 8 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks, as delivered today by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Board of Directors of the International Olympic Truce Foundation in New York:

I am delighted to welcome all of you to the United Nations. To the many among you who are already familiar with this house, let me say, welcome back. I am grateful to the Foreign Minister of Greece for his initiative in bringing this meeting of your Board to the United Nations.

Above all, let me pay tribute to the International Olympic Committee and to Juan Antonio Samaranch for their vision in reviving the Olympic Truce; and to Greece for its generosity in establishing the International Centre to promote the Truce's ideals.

There is remarkable support worldwide for the concept of the Olympic Truce -- this calls for warring parties to lay down their arms while athletes from the entire community of nations meet under the noble flame of the Olympic torch.

Here, at the United Nations, General Assembly resolutions endorsing the Truce have been sponsored by more Member States than any other resolution in the history of the Organization. At last year’s Millennium Summit, it was embraced by a record number of heads of State and government in their Millennium Declaration -- which the leaders themselves called a landmark document for the twenty-first century.

What, then, do these endorsements represent? Clearly, they reflect a universality shared by the United Nations and the Olympic Movement. As the membership of the United Nations has continued to grow, so has the Olympic Movement grown in the developing world, making it possible for an ever-increasing number of athletes from those countries to participate in the Olympic Games.

But I hope the widespread support for the Olympic Truce speaks not only for its symbolic value, but also for its practical potential. As all of you gathered here know, peacemaking requires tools that can give the parties opportunities to step back from the fray.

While limited in duration and scope, the Olympic Truce can offer a neutral point of consensus, a window of time to open dialogue, a pause to provide relief for the suffering of the population.

How I wish, therefore, that the Truce had as many practitioners as it has supporters on paper! I hope that as Board members of the Olympic Truce Foundation -- and as partners of the United Nations -- you will keep pressing leaders to make serious use of this tool they have repeatedly endorsed.

The United Nations also looks forward to working with you on the broader mission of the Foundation and the Centre: to promote the Olympic ideals of peace, friendship and international understanding as tools of conflict prevention and peace-building.

In that context, I am delighted that Adolf Ogi, who is here with us today, has agreed to volunteer his time and expertise as my Special Adviser on Sports for Development and Peace. I am grateful to the Government of Switzerland for supporting his efforts to harness the goodwill and energy of sport to the work of the United Nations.

The United Nations family has a long record of engaging the world of sports to advocate a wide range of causes. World-class athletes have lent their names and time to campaigns fighting AIDS and other diseases -- I am really grateful to President Samaranch for his support in the fight against AIDS -- drug abuse and poverty. Sport has been used to support education and expand opportunities for youth; to encourage community development in societies burdened by inequalities, poverty and the aftermath of conflict; and to ease the trauma and discomfort of refugees and internally displaced people.

These activities are often undertaken ad hoc, at very modest cost. But for those directly involved, they have yielded a high return. In some post-conflict areas, providing simple sports equipment to young people has often proved one of the most effective ways to help restore normal life.

The IOC has been at the forefront of these efforts. Again, let me pay tribute to President Samaranch and to Fékrou Kidane, the IOC Director of International Cooperation, who have done so much to develop the relationship between the United Nations and the Olympic Movement for the benefit of people living in poor countries and in areas troubled by conflict.

I look to you to build further on this work.

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