Press Releases

     15 November 2004

No Society Can Flourish without Promoting ‘Essential Virtue’ of Tolerance, Says Secretary-General in Message on International Day


NEW YORK, 11 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message on the International Day of Tolerance, observed 16 November:

The global landscape continues to be scarred by fanaticism, exploitation of ignorance, and the fear of the “other”. One of the best responses to such toxic behaviour is to cultivate tolerance.

No society can hope to flourish if it does not promote this essential virtue. Tolerance is an essential condition for peace, democracy and sustainable development. The world’s leaders recognized this when, in adopting the Millennium Declaration in 2000, they placed tolerance among the fundamental values on which international relations in the twenty-first century must be based. This is also why tolerance has always been at the heart of the work of the United Nations.

In an increasingly interdependent world, societies are increasingly multicultural and more and more people are the product of several cultures. But beyond our differences, we all aspire to the same things: to lead a decent life, and to leave our children a world in which they can live freely, protected from want and fear. Practising tolerance, so as to live together as good neighbours, plays a crucial role in translating such hopes into reality.

Tolerance does not mean simple “putting up with” others. On the contrary, it means being actively committed to human rights and fundamental freedoms, constantly recognizing that what brings us together is more powerful than what keeps us apart, and adhering to rules of conduct that emphasize responsibility not only to oneself, but also to others.

On this International Day of Tolerance, I call on all people to turn the political and moral ideal of tolerance into a principle of action that will guide our work and our lives.

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