Press Releases

    27 September 2002


    NEW YORK, 26 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the UNA-USA Dinner held in New York, on 25 September:

    I am delighted to join you once again for an evening of celebration, commitment and dedication to the highest values of the United Nations. It is good to be among loyal friends who support the United Nations and the great causes we defend, and to find renewed inspiration.

    I am especially pleased to join UNA-USA and the Business Council for the United Nations in honouring Mike Bloomberg and Muhammad Ali with the 2002 Global Leadership Award. It has been one of the great privileges of my time as Secretary-General to work closely with each of them in advancing the cause of peace, understanding and tolerance.

    Muhammad Ali is honoured, admired (and still feared) the world over as a humanitarian, a voice for understanding and, of course, a boxer of unequalled skill and genius. No one who has followed his career can help but feel a deep sense of privilege at having witnessed the rise and rise of a fighter and an athlete whose physical prowess was matched only by his razor sharp wit and unceasing commitment to being, simply, the greatest.

    Thank you, Muhammad, for showing us the true meaning of greatness in the ring, and, even more so, outside the ring where you have helped UNICEF draw attention to the plight of the world’s children.

    As one of the United Nations’ Messengers of Peace, you have also furthered the cause of mutual understanding across borders of culture and religion -– particularly at a time of suspicion and hostility between nations. You have made the world a better, more tolerant place.

    Mike Bloomberg was a friend –- to me and to the United Nations -- before he became Mayor. I think I can say without exaggeration that we have rarely, if ever, had a Mayor with such a profound appreciation for the United Nations, or a Mayor so strongly committed to making New York truly the capital of the world. I salute you and thank you.

    In the difficult year since the horrendous attacks on our city, you, Mike, have led all New Yorkers in reacting: not with suspicion, but with openness and generosity; not by turning inward, but by embracing even more firmly the diversity that makes this city the true home of the United Nations.

    I was not sure whether I was going to mention this, but Mike once said that his two dream jobs were United Nations Secretary-General and Mayor of New York -– in that order. While I am sure you would have made a great Secretary-General, I must say that I am very happy with the way it worked out –- for both of us.

    Finally, allow me to join you in paying tribute to the outstanding humanitarian work done by Paul McCartney and Heather Mills in fighting the scourge of landmines –- the scourge that claims so many innocent lives in the poorest parts of the world. Paul and Heather, you have truly deserved this evening’s "Global Humanitarian Action Award" –- and I am confident that with your efforts we will come one step closer to ridding the world of this wicked weapon. Each mine cleared may mean a life saved. Each mine cleared brings us one step closer to building the conditions for lasting and productive peace. The presence -- or even the fear of the presence -- of just one landmine can prevent the cultivation of an entire field, robbing a family of its livelihood and an entire village of its sustenance.

    A global alliance has come together to overcome this scourge, and with your continuing leadership and commitment, it will be a lasting one.

    Today’s real borders are not between nations, but between powerful and powerless, free and fettered, privileged and humiliated. Today, no walls can separate humanitarian or human rights crises in one part of the world from national security crises in another.

    In the twenty-first century, the United Nations will be defined by a new, more profound, awareness of the sanctity and dignity of every human life, regardless of race or religion. This will require us to look beyond the framework of States, and beneath the surface of nations and communities. We must focus, as never before, on improving the conditions of the individual men and women who give the State or nation its richness and character.

    The leaders we honour tonight are all devoted to this humble, but great cause -– to lift the yoke of poverty and oppression from every shoulder, every life. I salute them, and thank you all for your support of our one and only United Nations.

    * *** *