Delivering the Nobel Lecture following the award ceremony, the Secretary-General said that in the 21st century the mission of the United Nations would be defined by a new, more profound, awareness of the sanctity of every human being, regardless of race or religion.
"This will require us to look beyond the framework of States, and beneath the surface of nations or communities," he said. "We must focus, as never before, on improving the conditions of the individual men and women who give the State or nation its richness and character."
At the award ceremony, the Secretary-General was joined by the President of the UN General Assembly, Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea, who accepted the Prize on behalf of the world body. With Mr. Han's agreement, there was a single Lecture, delivered by Mr. Annan.
"What begins with the failure to uphold the dignity of one life, all too often ends with a calamity for entire nations," the Secretary-General said, warning that a genocide begins with the killing of one man - not for what he has done, but because of who his is.
"The sovereignty of States must no longer be used as a shield for gross violations of human rights," he stressed, adding that it was important to start the new century from the understanding that peace belonged not only to States and peoples, but to each and every member of those communities.
"Peace must be sought, above all, because it is the condition for every member of the human family to live a life of dignity and security," the Secretary-General said. He added that from the vision of the UN's role in the next century flowed three key priorities - eradicating poverty, preventing conflict and promoting democracy.
“Indeed, those aims will seem very near, and very achievable – as they should,” Mr. Annan said at the conclusion of his Nobel Lecture. “Because beneath the surface of States and nations, ideas and language, lies the fate of individual human beings in need. Answering their needs will be the mission of the United Nations in the century to come.”
Earlier in the day, the Secretary-General and the General Assembly President, along with their wives, were joined by the Crown Princess of Norway at an open-air event involving thousands of school children at the seaside near Oslo’s City Hall. Mr. Annan and President Han then had an audience with His Majesty King Harald V of Norway.
Also today, some two dozen Nobel Laureates warmly welcomed this year's award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the United Nations and Kofi Annan.
"We look forward to a world in which the peoples, working in cooperation with governments, with full respect for international law, will enable the UN to fulfil its mission to save this and succeeding generations from the scourge of war," the Laureates said in a centennial appeal. They also called for the prompt establishment of the International Criminal Court, the non-violent pursuit of peace and the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction.
After the Nobel ceremony, the King hosted a reception for the Secretary-General and all the other previous Peace Prize Laureates at the Royal Palace.