24 April 2003

Secretary-General Says Turkey's Children's Festival Celebrates Diversity in Spirit of Friendship, Peace, Faithfully Reflecting UN's Ideas

NEW YORK, 23 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message to the International Children's Festival, delivered by Jakob Simonsen, United Nations Development Programme Resident Coordinator, in Anatolia, 23 April:

It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to everyone who has gathered for the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation's twenty-fifth International Children's Festival.

This date marks the anniversary of the opening, in 1920, of the Turkish Grand National Assembly. When Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, dedicated this day to children, he stressed that the future of all nations lies in their children -- in nurturing them and enabling them to reach their full potential. In 1979 the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation began the tradition of inviting children from other countries to Turkey in order to make the celebration an opportunity to promote mutual understanding among children of many different countries and cultures.

By bringing people together, by celebrating the diversity of their talents and identities, and by doing so in a spirit of friendship, peace and solidarity, this festival faithfully reflects the ideals of the United Nations. Such efforts are valuable at any age, but especially so for children. Exposed to each other's cultures early in life, they are more likely to develop the mutual respect and tolerance that are so important in an age of interdependence among peoples and nations.

My wife, Nane, remembers with great affection the celebration of International Children's Day in Istanbul two years ago, when she had the pleasure of participating in the launch of the "Say Yes for Children" campaign in Turkey. That campaign went on to amass an amazing 16 million signatures, meaning that one in every four people in Turkey pledged their commitment to a better future for children -- better education, health, protection and more. The task now is to follow up on this massive expression of the nation's will. I hope that Turkish leaders will do everything they can to respond.

Both Nane and I will continue to closely follow the situation of children in Turkey, in the countries represented at this festival, and, indeed, everywhere. Thank you for your continued commitment to this cause, and please accept my best wishes for a successful event.

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