Press Releases

    23 October 2002


    NEW YORK, 22 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the toast proposed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the dinner hosted by Saparmurat Niyazov, President of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, 22 October:

    Let me begin by thanking you, Mr. President, and the Government and people of Turkmenistan for the warm and generous welcome my wife and I, and all my team, have received today.

    It is a pleasure for me to pay my first-ever visit to your country -- a land rich in tradition, culture and natural beauty; a land which has more than once found itself at the centre of major events in world history. Great empires have flourished here. The ancient Silk Road passed through here -- linking the civilizations of the East, Central Asia and Europe, and enriching people along its path through the exchange of goods, ideas and cultures.

    More recently, with the end of the cold war, the links between the countries on either end of the Silk Road have been restored, and the nations of Central Asia have regained the power to determine their future.

    Today, the most important challenge facing your region is the development of wise governance built on respect for the human rights and freedoms of every citizen, leading to healthy and balanced economic progress for the benefit of all.

    Mr. President, I know that after its independence, Turkmenistan proclaimed that "the supreme value of the State is the human being". I share wholeheartedly this commitment to making the lives of your people better. Indeed, if there is one guiding principle for the United Nations in the twenty-first century, it is putting people at the centre of everything we do.

    Today, we live in a world where democracy has become almost universally recognized as the only viable form of government, and no one claims to govern by any other method. This is a welcome development. Out of all the governments of the world, those who enjoy the best and most enduring success are those who strive to build their institutions on principles of transparency and accountability, in which the governed have a say and in which civil society plays an active and vibrant role.

    In particular, they and their people recognize the essential need for respect for the rights of every human being, as spelled out in the Universal

    Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights, properly understood and justly interpreted, apply to all countries and regions. They are foreign to no culture and native to all nations. A society based on human rights is a society that will thrive.

    The work for democracy is inextricably linked with the work for development. The foundations of democracy are much stronger when people can see that poverty is being reduced, that society is becoming more just, and that these gains can be sustained in the future. That requires an effort balancing economic progress to improve the lives of citizens today with protection of the planet’s resources for tomorrow. Such a balance is essential if we are to save this earth for succeeding generations.

    In all the challenges facing Turkmenistan, the United Nations family is here to work with you, and assist you in the development of your rich resources to create a just, stable and prosperous society for the benefit of all Turkmen people. The United Nations team in Turkmenistan is eager to conduct an open dialogue with you on all issues of importance to your country -- from good governance to the elimination of poverty. I hope they will be able to build strong relationships with counterparts in your Administration to ensure continuity in our common mission.

    Last but not least, let me thank you for the active and constructive part Turkmenistan plays at the United Nations through your highly skilled and respected Permanent Representative. She is also an inspiration at a time when we eagerly wish that more of our Member States were represented by women.

    Allow me, therefore, to propose a toast: to friendship; to your good health, Mr. President; to the well-being of the Turkmen people; and to an ever stronger partnership between Turkmenistan and the United Nations.

    Sag bol.

    Thank you very much.

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