23 June 1997

Press Release


Toast at Luncheon for Heads of State and Government Attending Special Assembly Session on Environment and Development

This is the text of a toast offered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan today, at a luncheon hosted by the Secretary-General for Heads of State and Government attending the nineteenth special session of the General Assembly:

It has been a great honour for me to welcome you to the United Nations and it is a privilege for me to invite you to this luncheon. I am truly delighted to witness this great gathering of leaders joined by a devotion to our planet and a commitment to peace.

You have been carried here by the hopes of the peoples of the earth. To you has fallen the great challenge of saving our planet from environmental decay and devastation. The future of our environment allows no divisions, no disputes, no sides in a debate, no surrender to conflict. On the question of the environment, there is only one side. Ours. Your voices are humanity's voices, and humanity's fate is your fate.

The Rio Summit was the great beginning of the global push for action on behalf of the environment. But it was only a beginning. Your presence today, at this special session of the General Assembly, testifies to the fact that the cause of the environment is alive, that it is thriving, and that it is gaining support with every passing day.

The threat to our environment has taught us that a decaying habitat for one people is a decaying habitat for all. It has also taught us that privilege and prosperity cannot protect any nation, if poverty and pollution are destroying another. We have learned that sustainable development is a calling not for only one people or region, but a calling for all.

"The Earth is not ours", an African proverb teaches. "It's a treasure we hold in trust for future generations." By convening here this week, you have shown that you are worthy of that trust. Emboldened and inspired, I urge you to return home recommitted to our earth, and determined to honour the faith of future generations.

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