Press Releases

    8 November 2002


    NEW YORK, 7 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the 50th anniversary of guided tours at the United Nations, New York, on 6 November:

    "Welcome to the United Nations. My name is Kofi Annan, I’m from Ghana, and I’ll be your guide today."

    I’ve always wanted to say that. But I could never pretend to the flair displayed by our tour guides who have introduced this Organization to millions of people over the past 50 years.

    The tour guides are the friendly face of the United Nations that greets visitors from every corner of the world. They are informed, engaging and, of course, multilingual.

    Their working day involves speaking an average of 30,000 words a day in one of 20 languages. Together, they tell almost half a million visitors every year about the United Nations.

    They tell people about the history and features of this landmark building.

    Even more important, they explain what the United Nations does and why it matters.

    They have to answer every possible kind of question and some impossible ones, too. Imagine standing before a group of 20 people and being confronted by a child asking, "Why do people make war?" Or, "How many dinosaurs can you fit into the General Assembly Hall?"

    Yet they invariably respond with a politeness, poise and self-possession to which we should all aspire.

    They are what makes this House open to those in whose name the United Nations Charter was written -- "We the Peoples".

    In the turbulent times in which we live, since the events of last year, there may be a temptation to limit the access of the public to our House.

    But I would venture that, in these uncertain times, it is even more important for people everywhere to come and learn about the work and the principles of the United Nations. This is the best way they can understand that the United Nations is their Organization, and that it works for them and for the generations that will succeed them.

    Let us not forget that this year also marks the 50th anniversary of our House itself. At 50, United Nations Headquarters has withstood the tests of time, changing tastes and technological change.

    We hope to keep it that way. That is why we are proposing a major renovation to ensure the building remains healthy and functioning -- and able to experience more anniversaries like this one.

    To our guides, past, present and future, let me say: Happy anniversary -- and thank you from all your colleagues at the United Nations.

    Merci. Choukran. Xie Xie. Spasiba. Gracias.

    * *** *