13 November 2003


Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the International Day for Tolerance observed 16 November:

One of the most important challenges facing the international community today is how to rid the world of intolerance -- a scourge that can have deadly consequences, as history has shown all too often.  As the transformation of our societies -- by globalization, migration and unprecedented mobility --- continues to raise fundamental questions about the ability of people to live together, ignorance and fear of the “other” are still being exploited to stir up hatred and justify exclusion.  Since there is hardly any corner of the world that is not characterized by diversity, the upsurge of intolerance represents a universal threat to democracy, peace and security.

This is why, more than 50 years after the signatories of the United Nations Charter resolved to “practice tolerance” and to “live together in peace with one another as good neighbours”, tolerance is still a main focus of Unite Nations action.  No modern society can be built or can flourish by cultivating intolerance.

Tolerance is much more than peaceful coexistence of different cultures.  It is an active and positive attitude, inspired by a recognition of and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.  It means that concern for others must prevail over callousness and contempt, and that an effort to know the “other” takes the place of ignorance, blind prejudice and discrimination.  It means the vigilant exercise of an ethic of responsibility, concerned with the integrity of the human being and with our allegiance to a humanity worthy of the name.  More than a moral virtue, it is a reasoned exercise through which we can define, together, through dialogue, exchanges and acceptance of difference, the values on which we wish to base our existence.

On the International Day for Tolerance, let us pledge to be always open to others, in heart and in mind.  Let us practise the active tolerance that will help us build the safer and more peaceful world towards which we all aspire.

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