3 June 2005
Secretary-General Thanks History Project for Timely Publication of ‘UN Voices’, ‘The Power of UN Ideas’ During Important Year of Organization
NEW YORK, 2 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following are UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks at an event to mark the publication of two volumes by the United Nations Intellectual History Project, in New York, 1 June:
It is a great pleasure for Nane and me to be here.
I would like to congratulate the authors and all others involved in this important project for producing two more important works.
I recall when the idea for an intellectual history of the United Nations was first brought to my attention, shortly after the brainstorming session that some of you held eight years ago. It was hard to believe that no such work had ever been undertaken, even though the Organization had contributed so much to the world of ideas over the years.
So I am very glad that the project got off the ground, that funding was secured from both foundations and governments, that so much has been produced in such a short time, and that it has all been carried out to the most rigorous standards of academic independence and excellence.
The results speak for themselves. We now have a growing library of authoritative books that are also highly readable. The short volume that you received tonight, The Power of UN Ideas, is a masterful summary of findings.
The project has also been very diligent in tracking down so many people for the oral history part of the project -- especially those who were getting on in years. I am almost ready to put myself in that category!
I have taken a quick look at UN Voices, which is full of powerful stories about people, the most precious resource of the United Nations. I myself was delighted to participate.
To suggest the importance of this project, I would like to quote Sir Brian Urquhart, who noted in the volume that there is very little appreciation of the United Nations’ contributions. As he said: “We all know about peacekeeping and all that because it got in the newspapers, but there is very little about the economic and social side.”
So let me thank the UN Intellectual History Project and the Ralph Bunche Institute for filling a significant gap in our collective institutional memory.
These publications are very timely, coming in a very important year for the United Nations.
Literally beginning today, 1 June, we are marking the sixtieth anniversary of our founding. Like you, we are looking back at our history.
But even more importantly, we are looking ahead, and engaging in debate about the future.
As you know, in my report, entitled In Larger Freedom, I have put before the membership a slate of wide-ranging proposals for building an effective collective security system, defeating poverty, protecting human rights and strengthening the United Nations itself. We want world leaders to take bold decisions in September, when they will gather for a summit at the United Nations.
Many people -- not just me -- have put solid, practical ideas on the table. I think there is also a sense of urgency about the need to act. Member States are engaged in very serious discussions and negotiations. I believe that historic, fundamental progress is possible. But I am also convinced that the summit is an opportunity that may not come our way again.
The reforms I have put forward are not just a matter of reorganizing the UN bureaucracy, or creating new pieces of international machinery. They are about an idea -- the idea that no matter who we are or where we live, our safety, our prosperity, our rights and our freedoms are indivisible.
I am grateful to you for understanding that idea and the power of UN ideas in general. Thank you, once again, for your willingness to take a hard look at the United Nations, and for your contributions to a more informed understanding of the difficulties that we face daily, in the Charter’s words, “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”
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