Press Releases

    22 November 2002


    Message to "Arts as Mediator of Tolerance" Event in New York

    NEW YORK, 21 November (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of a message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on "Arts as a Mediator of Tolerance" delivered at the Guggenheim Museum in New York today by Giandomenico Picco, the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for the United Nations Dialogue among Civilizations:

    I am very pleased that the European Academy of Sciences and the Arts, the National Academy of Sciences and the Guggenheim Foundation have put their remarkable strengths behind the cause of tolerance.

    The face of intolerance is all too familiar to us. But we are often much hazier about the meaning of "tolerance". Some regard the word itself with suspicion, saying it conveys a message of condescension, reluctant indulgence or outright indifference to the beliefs, traditions and feelings of others.

    The United Nations invests the term with a more positive meaning. Under the Organization's aegis, treaties and legal instruments have been adopted to combat discrimination on every front, and to promote human freedom and dignity. United Nations agencies carry out a range of programmes focused on knowledge, education and cross-cultural dialogue and exchange.

    Active tolerance demands a real effort to understand the wellsprings of our differences. Only with such an effort will we allay suspicions, dispel resentments, heal ancient wounds and forge lasting harmony. It is possible to cherish what we are without hating what we are not.

    Artists have a special role to play in the global struggle for peace, development and human rights. At their best, artists speak not only to people, they speak for them. Art is a weapon against ignorance and hatred, and an agent of public awareness. Art was one of civilization's first global movements. Centuries ago, a school of art in China might influence artists in Persia, who might inspire their counterparts in India, whose work might form the basis for a new school of painting in France. Art remains a global force today, with the power to open new doors for learning, mutual understanding and coexistence.

    I thank you for your commitment and for this contribution to the work of the United Nations. Please accept my best wishes for a successful event.

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