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A letter from Nane Annan, wife of Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations

9 December 1999

Dear friends,

Only a few days remain before the beginning of a new millennium. I would like to invite you to join the United Nations and epals.com in two exciting projects. Both involve you. Both need your active participation.

In the first project, Thoughts on the Millennium, you are invited to send comments on the new millennium. Tell us what your concerns and worries are, what kind of world you would like to see in the new millennium and what role you think you can play in creating such a world.

In the second project, From words to deeds, we want you to think of actions that you would take within the next few months to make a difference in your own community and beyond. Use your imagination and creative energy to come up with projects that you could work on with your friends in school and in the neighborhood.

You are our bridge to the future. Your thoughts about that future give the leaders of today a road map to steer the world in a direction that you, tomorrow's leaders, would like. But more importantly, your actions can create a whole new culture of involvement. Everyone says the world has to change for us to survive in a better way. Your actions could show us how.

Many of us may find today's world quite chaotic. On the one hand, we are making so much progress in science and technology and are accumulating wealth as never before. On the other hand, a great number of people do not have such basics as food and shelter or medicine. The world grows enough food to feed everyone, yet every sixth person does not get enough to eat. Most of you may have the world at the click of your mouse, but nearly a billion people will enter the 21st century without being able to read a book or sign their name. Many of us will live longer and longer but every day, over 30,000 children die because they have not been vaccinated.

The United Nations has tried to change all that. It works for peace, human rights and sustainable development:

It works to end wars through dialogue.

It works to protect everyone's human rights.

It works to end discrimination against women, indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups in society.

It works to protect refugees fleeing for their lives.

It works to ensure that the 130 million children who are not in school can go to school.

It works to ensure that girls can go to school. Two-thirds of the children not in school are girls;

It works to protect the environment and to make sure that we have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe.

It works to combat poverty so that everybody can feed themselves and can realize their dreams.

But we are still far from creating a perfect world. My husband, Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations said not long ago that his dream was "to secure peace, to defeat poverty, to protect human rights and to widen the circle of freedom, so that no one, regardless of colour, nationality or belief, is denied the chance to lead a life of their own."

Is it merely a dream he is talking about? Maybe it is, but it's a dream we all share with the United Nations. However, it is not enough to say you share the dream. I believe change has to start within us and between us in our everyday lives. That is why we would like to hear from you what you believe needs to be done and what you are proposing to do in the next couple of months.

Nane Annan

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