Press Releases

    20 February 2002


    NEW YORK, 19 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the second annual African Century Challenge Award Dinner, organized by Shared Interest, in New York on 18 February:

    Thank you very much for this very warm welcome. It gives me, and Nane, great pleasure to be here tonight. I felt compelled to stop by and add my voice to yours in paying tribute to the work of three incredible people: Danny Glover, Hugh Masekela and Susan Taylor.

    Each has used art to captivate the imagination and, most importantly, to mobilize people for the vital job of making our world a better place.

    I remember well, for example, the terrific concert Hugh Masekela gave in December 2000 in Addis Ababa during the African Development Forum on HIV/AIDS and the energy and enthusiasm he brought to the crowd there.

    Everyone knows how hard Susan Taylor has worked to make Essence magazine a platform for dialogue and debate for issues of concern to not only Americans, but also to Africans. I think we owe her a great deal.

    And Danny Glover’s work for the United Nations Development Programme has really galvanized our fight against poverty. He and Harry Belafonte -- who I see here tonight -- are among more than 70 messengers of peace and goodwill ambassadors for the United Nations who use their fame for the common good, helping to spread the word about the importance of fighting poverty, promoting human rights, and doing all we can for peace, justice and progress.

    The three people that we honour tonight remind me of farmers. Farmers who realize that in their everyday lives that whenever you take something from the earth you have to put something back to be able to return tomorrow. So those who we are honouring tonight and those who have been successful, are returning to give something back to help those who are less fortunate in our society and to make sure the cycle of life continues. Those are the ones we should really admire and cherish. The three people that we honour tonight have done just that.

    I should add that ever since the release of "The Royal Tenenbaums", people have been mistaking Danny for me, and me for him. I think the similarity goes beyond the goatee he wore in that film. After all, the movie told the story of a dysfunctional family. I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this, but what is the United Nations if not a troubled family trying to get along? So, Danny, next time someone mistakes you for me, I expect you to give me a hand, and work your magic on one of the world’s trouble spots.

    The organization behind tonight’s event is certainly working a bit of magic in South Africa. Since 1994, Shared Interest has helped thousands of small businesses get started, creating many more thousands of jobs, and has also played a key role in creating thousands of low-cost homes, helping to bring some of the most marginalized South Africans in from the fringes of society. This is yet another example of the crucial role that civil society groups can play. I hope this event will help Shared Interest do even more of its great work.

    Finally, let me say a word about Africa in general. I fear that the general public continues to see Africa as a continent in crisis. When you mention Africa they think in terms of conflict, poverty and disease. We managed before 11 September to get some attention for causes in Africa but since that date we have been so focused on fighting terrorism that the little attention we got for Africa seems to be overlooked. We should realize that even though we need to fight and take effective action against terrorism, none of the issues and the problems that existed on 10 September -– in other words the old problems -– have gone away, such as poverty. I believe that it is even more important that we pool our resources and tackle these issues as urgently as we can.

    This is where Shared Interest has a message for all of us. We must share that "shared interest" wider and wider.

    In that spirit of partnership, I wish you a wonderful, successful evening.

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