Press Releases

                                                                                                                     17 June 2004

    Secretary-General’s Message on Receiving ‘Companion of O.R. Tambo’ Award

    NEW YORK, 16 June (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of the message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the awards ceremony in Pretoria, South Africa, today of the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo (delivered for him by Ibrahima Fall, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region):

    It is a singular honour to be a recipient of this special award. While I am deeply proud, I am equally humbled, for I am aware of the remarkable accomplishments of others who have been thus honoured. Above all, I am aware of what it means to be called a companion of Oliver Tambo –- an extraordinary man who throughout his life worked tirelessly for genuine change, and played a pivotal role in the struggle against apartheid. And as a living witness of that titanic struggle, I am all the more moved by this honour on a personal level.

    The United Nations joined in that struggle, and worked to accelerate the isolation and eventual demise of the apartheid regime. We remember it as a struggle which galvanized the entire world community -- one that rallied peoples and governments behind a common objective: the objective of reaffirming the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of all peoples, irrespective of race or gender.

    Today, 10 years after the end of apartheid, we rejoice at the significant achievements of South Africa as a vibrant, non-racial, multiparty democracy, with a constitution strongly protective of basic human rights, enjoying sturdy rates of economic growth. We celebrate the fact that South Africans of all colours, ethnic groups and creeds, are working together to forge a better, common future. We are heartened that civil society organizations are working hand in hand with the Government and the private sector to address major challenges such as the harsh legacies of the apartheid regime, crime, poverty, and the devastation being wrought by HIV/AIDS.

    We know that young people in South Africa today are growing up in an environment where the right to a quality education is not determined by the colour of their skin; that they live in a country where political freedom and economic well-being are accepted as inextricably linked; that they all have the chance to contribute to building a stronger, more prosperous South Africa, which can not only help its own citizens, but also lead progress throughout the wider region.

    Today, South Africa occupies a key position, and plays a strategic role, in regional and international affairs. South Africans have played an indispensable part in efforts to bring peace to several countries on the continent, including Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are working with their brothers and sisters in the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, and other organizations, to advance the cause of development, justice and African unity. And in 2001, South Africa became one the five countries that launched the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

    The victory of President Thabo Mbeki and the African National Congress in the general elections in April provided confirmation of the trust and confidence that the majority of the South African people place in their current leaders. And the impressive efficiency of the electoral process set an important example. Allow me to express my gratitude for the close cooperation the United Nations enjoys with the South African Government across a wide range of issues. We pledge our continued support in your struggle to further consolidate democratic institutions, to promote human rights, and to build a stronger, ever more successful South Africa.

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