ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN NORWAY, 8-12 DECEMBER 2001
On 10 December 2001, in Oslo, the United Nations and its Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in its Centenary year for their work towards trying to create a better organized and more peaceful world.
The Secretary-General and his party arrived in Norway on Saturday,
8 December and were met at the airport by the Chairman of the Nobel Committee, Gunnar Berge. Asked by a journalist what winning the Nobel Prize meant for the United Nations, the Secretary-General replied, “…it is a great encouragement. It is a message that we have made a contribution and that we should do more.” He added, “I think it also sends a message out to the rest of the world that this is a unique, indispensable Organization and that the Member States and the peoples of the world must use it. We are there for that and we want to work with them.”
On Sunday, 9 December, the Secretary-General met with the President of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor, who was one of his guests at the Nobel Ceremony.
He then conferred with Han Seung-soo, the President of the General Assembly, who would accept the Prize on behalf of the Organization. The two men then held a press conference.
In his opening remarks, the Secretary-General said he was humbled to share a pedestal with such “heroes of the struggle for peaceful change” as Martin Luther King, Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. Any achievements he could claim, he said, “were the fruit of remarkable team work and dedication on the part of many colleagues on the staff of the United Nations.”
Assembly President Han, in his opening statement, said that the United Nations is the kind of organization “whose achievements are cumulative, becoming increasingly apparent over time.” The encouragement that the Nobel Prize is meant to offer, he said, “will be especially welcome to the thousands of UN personnel who serve under extremely difficult conditions, often at grave physical risk to themselves.”
The Secretary-General and President Han then met with members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and staff of the Nobel Institute before attending a brief rehearsal for the Nobel Ceremony.
In the late afternoon, the Secretary-General went to the Oslo Synagogue, accompanied by his wife Nane and Norwegian Foreign Minister, Jan Petersen, and his wife, for a ceremony to light the first candle of Hannukkah. Members of the families of three Israeli soldiers and a businessman abducted in late 2000 by Hizbollah were also there, and afterwards the Secretary-General met with them privately. They expressed their gratitude for his efforts to obtain information
on the condition of the abductees and urged him to work for the return of any still alive or the return of the bodies of any dead for burial in Israel.
On returning to his hotel, the Secretary-General was greeted in the lobby by officials of Amnesty International Norway, who presented him with the results of a letter-writing campaign on the theme “no security without human rights”.
That evening, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan attended a dinner in his honour and in honour of the President of the General Assembly hosted by the Nobel Committee.
On Monday morning the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly, Han Seung-soo, and their wives were joined by the Crown Princess of Norway at an open air event involving thousands of school children at the seaside behind the City Hall.
In full sunshine, the children enthusiastically waved small flags and cheered the Nobel Laureates. The Secretary-General spoke to them briefly, saying that they are the leaders of the twenty-first century and should be open to each other and to the world.
The General Assembly President and the Secretary-General then had an audience with His Majesty King Harald V of Norway.
In the afternoon, the two men returned to City Hall for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. They were preceded into the Hall by about two dozen former Nobel Prize winners and were followed by the King and members of the Royal Family.
Gunnar Berge, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, after a welcoming address, presented General Assembly President Han with the Nobel medallion and certificate awarded to the United Nations, and then presented the Secretary-General with his medallion and certificate.
Under a prior agreement, General Assembly President Han agreed that the Secretary-General alone would deliver the Nobel Lecture.
Taking the podium, the Secretary-General began his speech saying, “Today, in Afghanistan, a girl will be born.” That child, he said, had a one in four risk that she would not live to see her fifth birthday. “Whether she does is just one test of our common humanity,” he asserted, “of our belief in our individual responsibility for our fellow men and women.”
If we remember this girl, he stated, then our larger aims -- to fight poverty, prevent conflict, or cure disease -- will not seem distant, or impossible.
Annan said the world had entered the twenty-first century through a “gate of fire” that did not recognise borders or nationalities.
“We have entered the third millennium through a gate of fire,” he said. “If today, after the horror of 11 September, we see better, and we see further -- we will realise that humanity is indivisible.”
“Indeed,” he added, “those aims will seem very clear, and very achievable -- as they should. Because beneath the surface of states and nations, ideas and language, lies the fate of individual human beings in need. Answering their needs,” he concluded, “will be the mission of the United Nations in the century to come.”
He also called for global cooperation in fighting poverty, ignorance and disease.
“Today, no walls can separate humanitarian or human rights crises in one part of the world from national security crises in another,” he added.
For the full text of the Nobel lecture, see press release SG/SM/8071.
In the course of the day, about 20 former Nobel Peace Prize winners signed an appeal for the prompt establishment of the International Criminal Court as well as the full implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “We call on the human family to address the root causes of violence and build a culture of peace and hope,” the appeal read. They presented the original copy to the Secretary-General.
After the Nobel ceremony, King Harald hosted a reception for the Secretary-General and all the other previous Peace Prize Laureates at the Royal Palace.
On Monday evening, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan, along with the General Assembly President and Mrs. Han, observed the traditional torchlight procession from the balcony of their hotel. They then attended the Nobel banquet, and afterwards, they opened the Ball.
On Tuesday the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan jointly received the Torstein Dale Norwegian Red Cross Prize for their humanitarian work. The Prize was presented by Thorvald Stoltenberg, the former Norwegian Foreign Minister. Also present was Jan Egeland, who on 1 January 2002 would head the Norwegian Red Cross. Over 200 representatives of non-governmental organizations attended the event, and the Secretary-General took a number of their questions (see press release SG/SM/8073).
The Secretary-General was then joined by representatives of some of the other principal organs of the United Nations for separate meetings with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Norway in connection with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the United Nations and the Secretary-General.
With Prime Minster Kjell Magne Bondevik, the discussion focussed on Afghanistan, the Middle East and the UN’s Millennium agenda. At a press encounter after that meeting, the Secretary-General stressed the importance of the upcoming United Nations Conferences in 2002, on Financing for Development in March and on Sustainable Development in September, for meeting the UN’s Millennium goals.
Asked about United States plans to try Osama bin Laden in a US military court if captured, the Secretary-General responded, “I am not referring to a military tribunal. It could be any criminal court. I wasn’t thinking of a military tribunal. I’m not an advocate for that.”
In the meeting with Foreign Minister Jan Petersen, the discussions also were on Afghanistan and the Middle East, but they touched on Iraq as well.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Secretary-General and his wife opened the Fifth Donors’ Conference for East Timor, called by Norwegian Minister of Development Hilda Frafjord Johnsen. The Secretary-General said that in East Timor there had been unprecedented cooperation of United Nations funds, programmes and agencies among each other and with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank. He urged donors to remain engaged “for the long haul” in support of sustainable development for East Timor. World Bank President, Jim Wolfensohn, also addressed the meeting as did East Timor’s new Chief Minister, Mari Alkatiri (see press release SG/SM/8074).
The Secretary-General then went to the Parliament, where he met with members of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Two issues dominated their agenda –- Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Following that, the Secretary-General was joined by Mrs. Annan for a song and dance performance by children at the Oslo School Project Show on War and Peace. He briefly addressed the children at the end of their programme.
On Tuesday evening he attended the Nobel Peace Prize Concert, with performances by Paul McCartney and a number of other popular singers.
The Secretary-General and his party departed Norway for Sweden in the morning of Wednesday, 12 December.
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