12 December 2001


NEW YORK, 11 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to a meeting of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) hosted by the United Nations Association of Norway, in Oslo, 11 December:

Thank you very much for your warm welcome. I am delighted to see you, and happy to have this opportunity to talk with you and hear your ideas about how we can work together towards our common goals.

You all know the reason for my presence in Norway. As you can imagine, we at the United Nations were all filled with great pride and joy when we learned that the Nobel Committee had awarded us the Peace Prize for this year. It is indeed an exceptional moment for us. But this recognition also gives us an enormous challenge. The world will now watch even closer what we do to live up to the ideals of peace and progress that our founding fathers proclaimed when they created the United Nations.

One such test will certainly be how well the United Nations performs in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September, which have had a profound impact all over the world. We face a daunting task in Afghanistan. The immediate priority is humanitarian relief for more than 7 million people.

At the same time, we are working on the political level with the Afghan parties to ensure that a broad-based government will be put in place –- a government in which all Afghans, regardless of ethnicity, gender or religion, will be represented. The agreement on an interim government that was reached in Bonn last week is an encouraging first step in that direction.

As we move ahead, it is clear that Afghanistan will need sustained assistance for many years to come if it is to achieve lasting reconciliation and rebuild its economy and infrastructure. The United Nations and its agencies will play a major role in this effort. The continued engagement of the international community, including financial support from donors, will be crucial.

In the last few days, we have also seen a terrible escalation of violence in the Middle East, creating even greater bitterness and mistrust between Palestinians and Israelis, and undermining efforts towards reconciliation. The crisis of the past 14 months has also had a catastrophic effect on the Palestinian economy, increasing unemployment and poverty and adding to the sense of despair, frustration and anger felt among Palestinians. At this very difficult time, we must persevere in our efforts to reach a peaceful settlement based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and the principle of land for peace.

Of course, suffering is not confined to Afghanistan and the Middle East. In many other parts of the world, civilians continue to bear the brunt of conflict. Millions continue to die each year of AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other preventable diseases. And more than 1 billion people worldwide still struggle to subsist on less than $1 a day. We must do all we can to give hope to those fellow members of the human community trapped in the vicious circle of poverty, conflict and disease, and marginalized from the global community.

If we are to achieve these goals, we must move ahead as partners. Such partnerships must include not only governments, which have the primary responsibility for the well-being of their population, but also the private sector, which produces most of the wealth in the world today, and non-governmental organizations, such as yours.

You are often on the ground, closest to those in need, and have acquired great expertise in what works and what does not. You also have long experience in advocacy on issues ranging from human rights and the environment to development and disarmament. Indeed, global alliances among like-minded non-governmental organizations have already proved very successful on issues such as debt relief and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

With that in mind, I would like to draw your attention to two important events that will take place next year: the International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held next March in Monterrey, Mexico, and the World Summit on Sustainable Development, in Johannesburg next September. In Mexico, we have a real opportunity to mobilize new resources for the developing world, in particular the least developed countries (LDCs). And in Johannesburg, we must reinvigorate the struggle to protect the global environment which reached such a turning point in Rio de Janeiro thanks to your efforts, but which has seen too many unfulfilled promises since then.

I have talked enough. Now I would like to hear your views and I will do my best to answer your questions. Thank you again for your support. The floor is yours.

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