14 November 2003


NEW YORK, 13 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks at a welcome ceremony hosted by the City of El Alto yesterday:

I am deeply moved by this honour, and by the warm reception you have given to my wife and me.  We are very happy to be here.

This is our first visit to your city and to Bolivia -- and it is certainly the first time that I have given a speech at more than 4,000 metres above sea level!

El Alto is not only one of the highest-altitude cities in the world, it is also one of the most remarkable -- so much sacrifice, effort and hope has been involved in building it into what it is today.

I know that for you, as Alteños and Bolivians, the past few weeks and months have not been easy.  You have experienced turmoil and upheaval.

Today, it is deeply heartening to know that Bolivians were able to address the recent crisis through constitutional means.  It is those constitutional mechanisms that need to be strengthened in the future.

Your experience underlines the importance of working to settle differences through peaceful means and dialogue -- with full respect for human rights, above all the right to life.

It underlines the need to work for reconciliation -- but equally, that reconciliation must go hand in hand with justice.  Achieving those goals is the responsibility of us all.

To address the very serious social and economic problems confronting your country, it is important to work to strengthen your democratic institutions, while upholding the rule of law.  This is the only way to ensure peaceful development for the benefit of all Bolivians.

Here in El Alto, where the vast majority of you are indigenous people, you contribute greatly to the rich cultural diversity of your country.  I know you draw great pride from your heritage, and your struggle to build an identity true to that heritage.

You rightly make participation your priority -- not only to ensure that your own issues and interests are addressed, but also to ensure that you can contribute positively to the full range of issues on the national and global agenda.

Alteños, you have made me proud by honouring me today, but it is you who should take pride in your strength, resilience, courage and character.

I thank you for this key to your city.  I promise to treasure and take good care of it.  Muchas gracias, amigos.  Thank you very much.

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