13 April 2006

On Receiving "Knight Grand Cross" of Netherlands, Secretary-General Expresses Appreciation for Country's "Generous Assistance to Less Fortunate Peoples"

NEW YORK, 12 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan upon receiving the Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands today in The Hague:

Thank you for your kind words, Prime Minister.  You have done me an exceptional honour with this award.  I accept it with gratitude, as one more testimony of your country's confidence in the United Nations.

Indeed, the Netherlands is always in the first rank of those seeking to strengthen the United Nations, and to promote its purposes and principles.

As a founding member of the Organization, and the host nation of the International Court of Justice -- whose sixtieth anniversary we have been celebrating today -- the Netherlands brings an important voice to the Organization's work:  a voice raised consistently for a just and prosperous international society, in defence of individual rights, and to uphold the rule of law.

This past year, your voice has also been heard in support of United Nations reform.  As co-chair of both the management reform and development negotiations for the World Summit Outcome, you played an important part in the Summit's success.  Now, as we work to turn the Summit's words into deeds, your support is again crucial.

Fortunately, such leadership comes naturally to the Netherlands.  Geography and history have long predestined you to a life of constant exchange and interaction with other nations.  This made you aware of, and sensitive to, the needs of the world around you.

Your generous assistance to less fortunate peoples is but one shining example.  Last year the Netherlands was the single largest contributor to both the UN Development Programme, and the UN Population Fund.  You are also one of only five countries that give more than 0.7 per cent of their gross national income in official development assistance.

It is not just how much you give, but how you do it, that distinguishes Dutch generosity.  You focus on poverty reduction in Africa, and you have forged high impact partnerships for education, the struggle against HIV/AIDS, safe water, protection of the environment and reproductive health.  You also emphasize good governance and human rights, because you understand that without these there is not sustainable development.  All in all, you are making a contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals far beyond your share of world gross domestic product (GDP).

Prime Minister, at our last meeting in January your country was considering the difficult decision to send troops to Afghanistan.  Since then, you have decided to do so.  Your military's involvement in this mission, and your support for several UN peacekeeping missions worldwide, are commendable.  Allow me to express my hope that they reflect a sustained commitment by the Netherlands to support and take part in peace operations worldwide.

The Grand Cross is traditionally awarded on the basis of reciprocity.  The United Nations has no equivalent award of its own to offer.  But please accept my deep and heartfelt gratitude to you and to the people of the Netherlands -- certainly for this honour, but far more for the principled part your nation plays in our international system.

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