THE PRESIDENT OF THE FIFTY-EIGHTH SESSION
OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
AT THE GLOBAL PEACE AND TOLERANCE AWARDS 2003
OF THE FRIENDS OF THE UNITED NATIONS
Mistress of Ceremonies, Excellencies, Honorees, Ladies and
I am honoured to have been invited by the Friends of the
United Nations to address this special Awards Ceremony.
I believe it is especially meaningful that you have chosen
to commemorate World Tolerance Day on this date, December
10th, which is also Human Rights Day, the anniversary of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted unanimously
by the General Assembly in 1948.
all been moved by the death of the late High Commissioner
for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who with 21 other
United Nations staff members died on 19 August 2003 while
serving as the Secretary General's representative in Baghdad.
I believe that it is fitting that your organization has
decided to pay special tribute to his memory. Mr de Mello's
own dedication to advancing the cause of human rights, and
therefore of tolerance between peoples, was manifested in
his work on behalf of the United Nations.
de Mello's final mission, for which he and his colleagues
gave their lives - to help the people of Iraq reconstruct
their lives and their country - was a direct response to
the call made on us all in the Preamble to the Charter.
It is a call to save mankind from the scourge of war, and
to reaffirm faith in the dignity and worth of the human
person. The Charter goes on to list three of the prime means
for achieving these goals. The first of these is "to
practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another
as good neighbours." So, right in our founding document,
"tolerance" is given primacy as a way to achieve
the objectives and purposes of the United Nations. It is
deeply regrettable therefore, that far too often "tolerance"
is regarded as a mere "wishy-washy" word for a
rather passive virtue.
face of it, living together in peace with one another as
good neighbours would not seem to be an unbeatable challenge.
Indeed, it is far less daunting than achieving economic
justice or decolonization must have been in 1945. But it
has proven, if anything, to be even more difficult. Particularly
in recent times, intolerance in many parts of the world,
between ethnic groups and between the adherents of different
religions or political groupings, has grown to murderous
levels. It is reported that in the years since 1990, over
three and a half million people have died as a result of
civil wars and ethnic violence. This is more than 16 times
the number killed in wars between States in the same period.
instances of internal strife, of course, put unbearable
strain on resources and stifle the development of conditions
needed for urgent tasks like the eradication of pandemic
disease and the alleviation of poverty and hunger. In fact,
they exacerbate the problems. For too many of the world's
people, social progress and better standards of life in
larger freedom increasingly become seemingly unattainable
Charter charges us to employ international machinery to
promote the social and economic advancement of all peoples.
Each and every one of the fifty-eight years of our Organization
and our Specialized Agencies tells the story of our efforts
to devise and develop this machinery.
two Covenants on Human Rights, and international treaties,
among them Conventions on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Discrimination against Women, and on the Rights of the Child
as well as initiatives for people with disabilities, all
represent our collective effort to set standards. Member
States must accept and observe these standards.
our response to the sensitive issue of enforcement of the
standards we have set has been to establish oversight committees
for each treaty. The work that these Committees do in reviewing
the situation and making observations and recommendations
in their respective areas of concern, though limited in
scope, is invaluable. Notably, this approach has achieved
two distinct and significant objectives. It has, firstly,
focused attention on problem areas and secondly, has highlighted
obligations for which governments may be held accountable.
months since I assumed the Presidency of the General Assembly,
I have been struck by how many of the items on our agenda
relate to human rights concerns and, in particular, are
underpinned by issues surrounding tolerance and intolerance.
We have adopted many of the resolutions arising from these
issues year after year. Consequently they have assumed an
almost ritualistic quality.
We are currently exploring ways of making the General Assembly's
work more effective and efficient. As we do so, we are mindful
that we must seek to reach agreement on how we address these
issues so as to affirm their importance for the people we
represent. We, who are the United Nations, all have a stake
in this process.
then can we ensure the implementation of standards so as
to prevent the brutal conduct resulting from intolerance
that has characterized our time? How can we, as individuals,
as members of civil society, and not least as governments,
most effectively work to advance tolerance?
Universal Declaration of Human Rights which we commemorate
today as a key aspect of Human Rights Day, gives us a measure
of guidance. For it puts the issue of promoting tolerance
squarely in Article 26, which deals with education. Article
26 enjoins us that education "shall promote tolerance
and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups,
and shall further the activities of the United Nations for
the maintenance of peace."
While each year we proclaim our commitment to the Universal
Declaration, one needs no more than a quick reading of a
newspaper or a glance at the nightly television news to
show just how far we - all of us - have strayed from these
that our duties as individuals begin at home. Coming as
I do from a small island nation, St Lucia, I can say that
the tolerance that exists among our people was bought at
a bitter price. Rising above our long history of colonialism
and slavery, we have indeed learned to live together as
good neighbours. Tolerance, therefore, is a characteristic
we have learned by living example. Today, we are strong
advocates of education as an important and effective means
of promoting tolerance - in the classroom, in places of
worship, in the workplace and in the community. We believe
that tolerance is itself the key to peace.
organization of civil society you, the Friends of the United
Nations, have a responsibility to use your influence and
resources for the greatest impact in support of the organisation.
Your mission statement includes a commitment to the active
promotion of tolerance. I know you will not be silent where
you find shortcomings. I know that you will point to specific
areas and call for concrete action to help our United Nations
to find practical solution to problems of tolerance and
other violation of human rights.
saying goes, the struggle continues. Tonight, your Global
Peace and Tolerance 2003 Awards recognize stalwart workers
in the struggle for global peace and tolerance. I extend
my sincere congratulations to the honorees, former President
Wahid of Indonesia, Mr Aptsiauri of the Republic of Georgia,
and Dr Steckel of Milestones Project. I am especially pleased
that the Government and people of Bermuda, an Associate
Member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), are also being
honoured for their principled stance in respect of global
peace and tolerance. There are an abundance of challenges
for us all to meet. You, the honorees, are being recognized
for rising to that challenge.
hosts - the Friends of the United Nations - I would say,
continue to promote and strengthen friendship with this
organization. For today, more than ever, the United Nations
needs good friends. Let us devise concrete and achievable
ways to translate our friendship into action so that we
may play our roles in upholding the principles and purposes
and achieving the goals and objectives of the Charter.