17 November 2003


NEW YORK, 14 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks delivered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on being awarded the Grand Cross of the Condor de los Andes in La Paz, Bolivia, on 13 November:

You have said some very kind words about me, Mr. Foreign Minister, and you have done me a great honour with this award.  I know it is a reflection of the esteem in which the people of Bolivia hold the United Nations.

I have had an exhilarating visit to many countries of the Andes.  It has left me with a sense of wonder, both at the power of nature and the potential of man.  I felt that wonder yesterday, when I saw for the first time the unforgettable city of La Paz, with its apartments and homes spread like millions of stones and shells on sand, high up in the peaks of the Andes.

My visit to this region has also taught me much about the problems that you face in the region, and the spirit of its people.  As I drove in from El Alto, I saw the diverse people of this vibrant city, so recently troubled by unrest, going about their daily business, and doing what people do all over the world -- looking to earn a living for themselves and their family, hoping for a brighter tomorrow, and praying that division and conflict will give way to harmony and peace.

We must be worthy of their hopes. We must work to build democracy, fight poverty, and ensure respect for diversity and human rights. These are difficult challenges. They are challenges we must face.  I am an optimist, and I believe that we can meet them together.

During my journey, I have been reminded of the famous Andean song “El Condor Pasa” -- a song I first heard as a young man.  The condor is the national bird of your country, Bolivia.  It gives its name to the award with which you have honoured me.

So I will treasure this award always -- as a symbol of the friendship between Bolivia and the United Nations, and as a reminder of the warm and wonderful people of Bolivia -- their creativity and diversity, their trials and tribulations, their hopes and dreams.  And it will make me want to come back.  As the lyrics of “El Condor Pasa” say: “Oh mighty condor, owner of the skies, take me home, up into the Andes”.

Muchas gracias, amigos.

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