10 July 2006

Secretary-General Says Choice of South Africa for 2010 World Cup Exciting Day for Africans and for "All Speakers of the Universal Language of Football"

NEW YORK, 7 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following are UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's remarks at the unveiling of the 2010 FIFA World Cup emblem in Berlin, 7 July:

This is indeed an exciting day -- not only for all Africans, but for all speakers of the universal language of football.

We in the United Nations rely on that language every day.  We use it in our efforts to heal the emotional wounds of war among young people in refugee camps, and in countries recovering from armed conflict.

We use it to try to bridge ethnic, social, cultural and religious divides.  We use it to promote teamwork and fair play.  We use it to empower girls.

We use it in our work to reach the Millennium Development Goals -- the set of powerful, people-centred objectives adopted by all countries as a blueprint for building a better world in the twenty-first century.

Governments, too, know the value of speaking football in the quest for development, peace and human rights.  At the 2005 World Summit, they declared that "sports can foster peace and development, and can contribute to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding".

These are just some of the reasons why the World Cup makes us in the United Nations green with envy.  As the pinnacle of the only truly global game, played in every country by every race and every religion, it is one of the few phenomena as universal as the United Nations.  You could even say it's more universal.  FIFA has 207 members; we have a mere 192.

The World Cup is an event in which everybody knows where their team stands, and what it did to get there.  Everybody loves talking about what their team did right, and what it could have done differently.

I wish we had more of that sort of competition and conversation in the family of nations.  Countries openly vying for the best standing in the table of respect for human rights, and trying to outdo one another in reducing the number of new HIV infections.  States parading their performance for all the world to see.  Governments being held accountable for what actions led them to that result.  Citizens consumed by the topic of how their country could do better.

With that kind of public scrutiny, good governance would not be an option; it would be a necessity.  And with that sense of public ownership, countries would better ensure that their own resources are used in a way that benefits their own daughters and sons.

There are more reasons to be envious.  The World Cup takes place on a level playing field, where every country has a chance to participate on equal terms.  Where only two commodities matter:  talent and team work.  I wish we had more levellers like that in the global arena.  Free and fair exchanges without the interference of subsidies, barriers or tariffs.  Every country getting a real chance to field its strengths on the world stage.

And the World Cup is an event which illustrates the benefits of cross-pollination between peoples and countries.  More and more national teams now welcome coaches from other countries.  More and more players represent clubs away from home between World Cups.  They all bring new ways of thinking and playing.  Everybody wins by that cross-pollination.  I wish it were equally plain for all to see that human migration in general can create triple wins -- for migrants, for their countries of origin, and for the societies that receive them.

I, for one, will be migrating briefly to South Africa in July of 2010.  Mr. President, I hope you will have me.  But today, I congratulate my brothers Thabo Mbeki, Alpha Konare and Issa Hayatou on this historic occasion; I thank Sepp Blatter and FIFA for bringing the Cup to Africa; I look forward to speaking football with all of you on Sunday, and again in South Africa four years from now.

Finally, I wish to congratulate the Government and people of Germany.  Their national team will not play on Sunday.  But they have already won -- they won by organizing the best World Cup ever, and by uniting the entire German nation behind that glorious effort.  Today, the whole world knows:  the Germans can speak football.

* *** *