19 September 2003 Secretary-General Kofi Annan rang the Peace Bell at United Nations Headquarters in New York today to mark the annual International Day of Peace, cautioning that for some, the direst threat to peace was terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, while for others it was poverty, disease, deprivation and civil war.
"This year, the International Day of Peace, and the Peace Bell we will ring to mark it, take on added poignancy and purpose. A month ago, almost to the hour, an act of unspeakable brutality struck our friends and colleagues in Baghdad," Mr. Annan said before striking the bell three times in the West Court Garden on the front lawn of the Secretariat building.
"Today, we ring this bell for them, for their families and loved ones," he added in reference to his top envoy for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and the 21 others killed in the terrorist bomb attack of 19 August. "We ring it for the people of Iraq, whom our colleagues were working to assist. We ring it for the people of every nation who need our prayer for peace."
Standing at his side as rang the bell, a gift from Japan cast from the pennies donated by children from 60 nations, were five UN Messengers of Peace: former world boxing champion Muhammad Ali, author and journalist Anna Cataldi, film actor and director Michael Douglas, wildlife researcher and conservationist Jane Goodall and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel.
In a message released ahead of today's ceremony, Mr. Annan underlined the global scope of peace and its varying ingredients.
"In some parts of the world, the dominant threats to peace and security are seen as new and potentially more virulent forms of terrorism, the proliferation of non-conventional weapons, the spread of transnational criminal networks and the ways in which all these things maybe coming together to reinforce one another. But for many others around the globe, poverty, disease, deprivation and civil war remain the highest priorities," he said.
"Our challenge is to ensure we have the rules, instruments and institutions to deal with all these threats – not according to some hierarchy of 'first order' and 'second order' issues, but as a linked set of global, cross-border challenges that affect, and should concern, all people. The divisions of the past year have raised doubts about the adequacy and effectiveness of those rules and tools," he added.
Speaking at the ceremony the President of the General Assembly, Julian Robert Hunte of St. Lucia, noted the conflicts of war, poverty, deprivation and deadly diseases besetting the world, adding: "We should, however, let nothing cloud our message. We must remain undaunted in our search for lasting peace."
For the first time this year, students participated in a pageantry of flags representing the 191 UN Member States. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Syrian Golan Heights and the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) joined in the Headquarters observance via satellite.
Following the ceremony, the annual student observance was held with the five Messengers of Peace sharing experiences with young men and women visiting from Kuwait and Rwanda, and by videoconference from Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.
Other ceremonies were held at UN outposts throughout the world, including cultural and sports events in the name of peace. In Somalia the UN called for a suspension of all fighting; in Lebanon, the world body was giving eco-tourism awards to rural and urban planners; in Guatemala, it was to inaugurate a children's park; in Burundi, local leaders were meeting in round tables on how to reach lasting peace; in Bougainville in the South Pacific weapons were to be destroyed.