Press Releases

          16 September 2004

    UN Will Continue to Work with Guatemala to Build Just, Peaceful Society, Secretary-General Says at Exhibit Opening

    NEW YORK, 15 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the opening of the exhibit “Guatemala:  Images of Peace” at Headquarters on 14 September:

    It is a great pleasure to join you for the opening of this exhibit.

    And I want to say a special thank you to Ambassador Rosenthal. Gert, you’re very much part of the UN family, through your work not only as Guatemala’s Permanent Representative and as President of ECOSOC, but before that, as the Executive Secretary of ECLAC. We’ll miss you when you leave New York later this year.

    For 36 years, until 1996, too many pictures we saw from the beautiful land of Guatemala were images of conflict.

    Today, eight years after the signing of the ceasefire, and 10 years after the deployment of the United Nations Verification Mission, MINUGUA, we are able to look with pride and gratification at the images in this exhibit -- images of peace.

    The journey to peace over the last eight years began with the courage of Guatemalans themselves -- the courage to sign a pioneering set of peace agreements, designed not just to secure a ceasefire, but to eradicate the root causes of the conflict.

    And the journey has been made by Guatemalans themselves -- with the United Nations being proud to lend a helping hand.

    We can follow the story of the last eight years through these powerful photographs.

    We see combatants demobilizing, refugees returning and resettling, the bitter legacy of history being addressed, the opening up of peaceful political activity, and progress being made in housing, health, education, agriculture, and labour conditions.

    We see dedicated UN staff working with the people of Guatemala.

    Guatemala has now consolidated its democratic framework. The country is able to address the many issues that still must be resolved through national mechanisms. The peace process has matured, and the time has come for MINUGUA to depart.

    But while MINUGUA may be leaving, the United Nations system is not.  We will continue to work with the Government and people of Guatemala, as they struggle to deal with the legacy of a violent past and build a just and peaceful society with equal access to opportunity for all of its citizens.

    The journey that began eight years ago must continue, for the sake of the people of Guatemala.  The accords signed in 1996 will continue to shape national debate, and provide sound, creative solutions to the country’s most pressing problems. They remain a comprehensive national agenda to guide policies for democratization and development.

    But all can take pride at what has been achieved so far. As we look at the smiling faces of the children on display in this exhibit, we can see that there is hope in Guatemala.

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