Press Releases

    10 May 2002

    Secretary-General Praises "Visionary Leadership" of Bill, Melinda Gates, in Remarks at United Nations Association-USA Dinner

    NEW YORK, 9 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the United Nations Association-USA dinner honouring Bill and Melinda Gates and the Gates Foundation, in New York on 8 May:

    It's always a great pleasure for me to be the guest of the United Nations Association-USA. There are United Nations associations in many other countries, but this one is unique -- both in the challenges it faces and in the energy and resources it devotes to tackling them.

    From our perspective, it is hard to think of any work more valuable than what you do to improve the understanding of United Nations issues in our host country -- which just happens also to be our largest contributor, and now also the only remaining superpower!

    Yes, attending these dinners is always a great pleasure. But, I am especially pleased to speak at this one, because tonight we are recognizing the visionary leadership of two very special people; two people who, having helped to transform the world we all live in, are not resting on their laurels, but devoting their energy and resources to relieving the plight of others.

    Bill Gates is, indeed, an unusual figure: a highly successful business leader who has evolved into a true global leader, with a tremendous grasp of development issues.

    He and Melinda, when they first established their Foundation, immediately saw that the shameful gap between the haves and have-nots in health, and in access to medical care, is one of the greatest challenges to philanthropy in our time. And ever since, they have been determined to do something about it.

    As most of you know, one of my highest priorities as Secretary-General has been to encourage public-private partnerships, because in the twenty-first century mankind faces so many tasks that governments alone cannot manage. I'm glad to say this principle is now widely understood and, indeed, embodied in the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals, which all world leaders agreed on at the Millennium Summit two years ago.

    Among those goals, none are more important than those relating to health: eradicating hunger; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; defeating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; and reducing by 50 per cent the proportion of people who have to live without safe drinking water by 2015. I know Dr. Brundtland is very happy to hear all this.

    Through their Foundation, Bill and Melinda have been working to help achieve those goals by building new partnerships -- and I cannot thank them enough. In the last few years, let me say the Foundation has done more than anyone to focus attention on global health issues -- improving our efforts on preventing infectious diseases, on child health, and on vaccines and immunizations.

    This Foundation, brilliantly shepherded by Bill's father -- Bill Gates, Sr. -- and by Patty Stonesifer, who is here with us tonight, the Foundation has been ready to take risks in the search for new ways to fight major diseases in this world -- and ways that will bring lasting results. The impact its work has had on the lives of ordinary people -- especially children -- will be hard to exaggerate.

    Finally, let me also thank Raymond Gilmartin and Henry McKinnell for all they have done to help us find ways of bringing their life-saving medicines within the reach of the poor. It's never easy for corporate leaders to balance the interests of their shareholders against their responsibility to help meet social needs. But these two have really shown the way. Let's give them a hand.

    There too, Bill and Melinda Gates have been very helpful, through their role in creating new networks such as GAVI -- the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. Through this Alliance, governments, international organizations, philanthropists, research institutions and the private sector all come together to save lives -- especially those of children -- by spreading the use of modern vaccines.

    I could give many more examples of public-private partnerships initiated or encouraged by the Gates Foundation -- and I cannot end without acknowledging their seminal contribution to the new Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

    But I know you didn't come here to listen to me -- I know you are all hungry. So, let me now invite you to raise your glasses and drink ... a health to health.

    Health and long life to Bill and Melinda, truly deserving winners of your Global Leadership Award.

    And the same to all the millions around the world, whose health Bill and Melinda have made their special concern.

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