19 September 2003


NEW YORK, 19 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to mark the International Day of Peace, 21 September:

There is special poignancy and purpose in this year’s observance of the International Day of Peace.  The troubling events of the last year -- the conflicts, violence and hatred, the bomb attack on the United Nations itself in Baghdad, the deep divisions among States -- have raised fundamental questions about the efforts of the international community to promote peace and well-being for all the world’s people.

The International Day of Peace has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly as “a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, an invitation to all nations and peoples to honour a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the day”.  It is meant to still the guns for some very practical reasons:  so that humanitarian assistance can be delivered more easily; so that civilians can gain safe passage away from besieged areas; so that crops can be planted, or shelter erected, free from the threat of instant destruction; so that refugees and displaced persons can have at least some respite from the hostilities that have routed them from their homes.

But, of course, the Day of Peace should also be a pause for reflection by the wider international community on the threats and challenges we face.  In some parts of the world, the dominant threats to peace and security are seen as new and potentially more virulent forms of terrorism, the proliferation of non-conventional weapons, the spread of transnational criminal networks and the ways in which all these things maybe coming together to reinforce one another.  But for many others around the globe, poverty, disease, deprivation and civil war remain the highest priorities.

Our challenge is to ensure we have the rules, instruments and institutions to deal with all these threats -- not according to some hierarchy of “first order” and “second order” issues, but as a linked set of global, cross-border challenges that affect, and should concern, all people.  The divisions of the past year have raised doubts about the adequacy and effectiveness of those rules and tools.

On the International Day of Peace, let us use these 24 hours -- this brief period of what we hope will be relative quiet -- to begin a peaceful dialogue, one that should continue in the General Assembly, to promote a global consensus on the dominant threats to peace and security in our time -- and most of all, what to do about them.

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