United Nations Sunday
at the Cathedral of St John the Divine
Address by H.E. Mr. Jan Kavan
President of the 57th Session of the General Assembly
New York 15 September 2002
Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with sincere pleasure that I join you here today on this
pious and joyful occasion. I would like to thank the congregation
of Saint John the Divine for the invitation. I would also like
to applaud your activities in support of the United Nations.
Earlier this week, I assumed the post of President of the United
Nations General Assembly. I am deeply honored to become part of
the organization and to be given the opportunity to contribute
in my humble way to the promotion of its principles and purposes.
During my political career I have been a witness to the strong
influence of the ideals and principles upon which the United Nations
was founded. The United Nations has without a doubt significantly
contributed to the acceleration of the political changes that
took place in Central and Eastern Europe, namely through the United
Nations conventions on human and civic rights. For me, the ideals
of the United Nations have been an important source of inspiration,
during the more than twenty years that I spent in forced exile
working towards a change of the regime in my own country. I realized
how important it is to persist in the efforts to uphold these
ideals and not to become disheartened by obstacles or by the lack
of immediate results.
The United Nations was born from the destruction, death and distress
of the Second World War. It was created with a vision that such
horrifying crimes against humanity may never be repeated. The
Member States have resolved to join their efforts in maintaining
friendly relations, promoting economic and social advancement,
solving humanitarian problems, and respecting human rights and
The organization has made tangible progress in its quest to fulfill
these ideals, becoming instrumental in defining policies and assisting
to bring about measurable change. Nonetheless, destruction, death
and distress are still everyday reality for too many people in
the world. I believe that this does not imply that the United
Nations has failed to deliver. In my view, it testifies to the
complexity of the evolving and emerging challenges to peace, security,
prosperity and sustainable development. In today's world, there
remains an urgent need for a focused and committed resolve to
tackle these problems, wherever and however they are manifested.
We live in an increasingly interdependent world. We are on the
way from rural to a global village in which nothing happens in
isolation. By the same token, no meaningful solution to our challenges
can be pursued in isolation. We need to engage in a concerted
effort to bring about security, not only in its traditional political
and military sense, but also economic, social, health, and environmental.
We have started to refer to the objective of these concerted efforts
as "human security." I see the role of the United Nations
in the years ahead as a leader to promote this concept.
Human security is a people-centered principle. It is a principle
that recognizes that people are granted security not only by the
peace of arms, absence of tensions or violent crime, but also
by socio-economic well-being, social justice, observance of human
rights, application of national and international law, access
to food and health care, education, and by sustaining the environment.
Its realization weeds out people's basic insecurities and vulnerabilities.
It improves the quality of life, widens opportunities for inclusion
and participation in decision-making processes, and opens opportunities
for personal fulfillment and enjoyment. It goes hand in hand with
good and democratic governance.
At the turn of the millennium, the United Nations has set for
itself several specific goals and targets that upon implementation
will alleviate poverty and hunger, provide universal primary education,
empower women, improve health conditions by combating the HIV/AIDS
pandemic, treat preventable diseases, reduce child mortality and
improve maternal care, ensure environmental sustainability and
develop partnerships for sustained economic growth. The task of
realizing these commitments is enormous. It presents the organization
with perhaps the greatest challenge it has ever faced and all
of us with the urgency to demonstrate unqualified resolve and
I believe that in carrying out our work, we can be inspired by
the values that are central to the Christian tradition. I see
these values as transcendental, common to a multitude of faiths
and religions, and pertinent to our everyday lives. For by love,
understanding, and tolerance we bring greater peace, amity, and
harmony to interactions with each other. By honoring freedom and
dignity of every human being we break free of subjugation and
empower ourselves to make our own decisions about our destinies,
to grow, and to realize our potential. By respecting the equality
of every human being we overpower oppression and discrimination,
be it religious, ethnic or social. And by forgiveness and reconciliation
we confront evil, overcome past injustices, and set on a course
of building sound relationships.
By embracing these values, we embrace a more hopeful future.
Allow me thus to be hopeful that upon being cognizant of the burdens
faced by many people of this world, we will also be active in
easing them for the advancement of entire humankind.
Expressing my deepest appreciation to all of you who have gathered
here, let me affirm my belief that the United Nations will fulfill
the hopes that the world has placed upon it.