SECRETARY-GENERALS SAYS UNITED NATIONS CAN HELP PAVE 'PATH TO PEACE', AS HE DEDICATES SEOUL PEACE PRIZE TO UN PEACEKEEPERS' SACRIFICE

SG/SM/6766
23 October 1998

SECRETARY-GENERALS SAYS UNITED NATIONS CAN HELP PAVE 'PATH TO PEACE', AS HE DEDICATES SEOUL PEACE PRIZE TO UN PEACEKEEPERS' SACRIFICE

23 October 1998


Press Release
SG/SM/6766


SECRETARY-GENERALS SAYS UNITED NATIONS CAN HELP PAVE 'PATH TO PEACE', AS HE DEDICATES SEOUL PEACE PRIZE TO UN PEACEKEEPERS' SACRIFICE

19981023 Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's address to the award ceremony for the Seoul Peace Prize, delivered in Seoul, Republic of Korea on 23 October:

Thank you for those generous words of introduction. Let me begin by expressing my deep gratitude for the high honour of receiving the Seoul Peace Prize on behalf of the United Nations. I am honoured to follow in the footsteps of such distinguished laureates as Juan Antonio Samaranch, President of the International Olympic Committee, George Shultz, former Secretary of State of the United States and Dr. Philippe Biberson of Médecins Sans Frontièrs.

I would like to dedicate this award to the memory of the more than 1,500 men and women who have given their lives in the cause of peace over the first 50 years of United Nations peacekeeping. For even as you commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of your Republic, we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of United Nations peacekeeping -- the fiftieth anniversary of the year when soldiers were sent on to the battlefield under a new flag and with a new mission -- a mission of peace.

It would be no exaggeration to say that this endeavour was without precedent in human history. It was an attempt to confront and defeat the worst in man with the best in man; to counter violence with tolerance, might with moderation, destruction with dialogue and war with peace. Ever since then, day after day, year after year, United Nations peacekeepers have been meeting the threat and reality of conflict, without losing faith, without giving in, without giving up.

Since 1948, there have been 49 United Nations peacekeeping operations. Thirty-six of those were created since 1988, the year in which United Nations peacekeeping was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Well over 750,000 military and civilian police personnel, and thousands of other civilians, from 118 different countries, have served in United Nations peacekeeping operations. Fourteen thousand peacekeepers are serving this very day.

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The Republic of Korea has steadfastly supported the mission of United Nations peacekeeping by sending your nation's brave men and women to keep the peace from Angola to Western Sahara to Georgia and to Jammu and Kashmir. And your government has showed its commitment to our broader peace initiatives by contributing $250,000 to the Trust Fund for Preventive Action last year. These actions honour not only the people of South Korea, but the United Nations itself.

The United Nations, forged from the battles of two world wars, was dedicated, above all, to the pursuit of peace and, in the enduring words of the Charter, to saving "succeeding generations from the scourge of war".

Undoubtedly, peacekeeping falls fairly and squarely within the spirit of that pledge. Yet you will search the Charter in vain for any specific provision for such operations. "Peacekeeping", from the start, has been an improvisation. To my mind, that is one of its great merits. It proved, and continues to prove, that the United Nations is not a static or hidebound Organization, but a dynamic and innovative one.

Indeed, peacekeeping has been one of many activities through which our Organization has shown its ability to adapt to circumstances, to find its way around obstacles, and to provide comfort no matter how difficult the task or how long it takes.

The evolution of United Nations peacekeeping -- from patrolling clearly marked buffer zones and cease-fire lines to the far more complex, multi- dimensional operations of the 1990s -- has been neither smooth nor simple. Often the expectations placed on peacekeepers have outstripped the resources given to them. Often the demands made of them have cruelly ignored realities on the ground.

Over the decades, we have had some unmistakable successes, such as Namibia, Mozambique, El Salvador and to this very day, in Guatemala. But, we have also found ourselves maintaining calm in some seemingly intractable stalemates, such as Cyprus and the Middle East.

And in some places -- Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia -- we found ourselves standing by, unable to act in the face of the most appalling crimes. There the limits of peacekeeping were graphically demonstrated. We learned, the hard way, that lightly armed troops in white vehicles and blue helmets are not the solution to every conflict. Sometimes peace has to be made -- or enforced -- before it can be kept.

We yield to no one in our regret and our pain over those calamities; the loss of life, the wanton destruction of towns and villages, the shredding of the very fabric of humanity which, in normal times and places, allows men and women of different ethnic origin to live peacefully side by side. We will

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forever measure our proudest achievements against the memory of those worst of days.

But, that does not mean we succumb to the fatalism of those who would rather stay at home when conflict rages and fellow human beings are suffering in a distant land. That is the cynic's answer and the coward's solution. It is not ours.

We cannot claim that peacekeeping has been the answer to every conflict. Still less, alas, that it has prevented the recurrence of genocide. What we can and do claim proudly is that, in the first half-century of their existence, United Nations "blue helmets" have saved tens of thousands of lives.

The mission of United Nations peacekeeping must continue. Too much remains to be done, too many innocents are dying even as we speak, for us to think of leaving the field now. Peacekeeping's promise, after all, was never to end war. But peacekeeping can help prevent, or at least delay, a recurrence of conflict.

And in the longer term, it can help build and consolidate, brick by brick, the lasting peace for which all peoples yearn. This task includes such fundamental labour as the repair of roads, schools and hospitals, as well as the establishment of regular police trained in upholding, and not abusing, human rights. It includes affirming the rule of law and the creation of democratic institutions, including but not limited to free elections.

Only then will the end of a conflict and a peace agreement sow the seeds of future stability that war-torn countries so desperately need. Only then will the values of good governance and transparent, responsive, constitutional rule find fertile ground in which to prosper. Only then can we look forward to the creation of an environment that would enable investment and growth in these societies. Only then can we be sure that the ways of war have truly been replaced by the workings of peace.

Isaiah's words -- "they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore" -- will never be more than an ideal for humanity. If, in their service, United Nations peacekeepers can help make that ideal more true than false, more promising than distant, more able to protect the innocent than embolden the guilty, they will have done their part.

The will to peace must exist among the peoples and the parties, but the path to peace is one that we -- the United Nations -- can help pave. The Seoul Peace Prize recognizes that we have done so for the last half-century, and emboldens us to believe that we can continue to do so in the century to come. * *** *

For information media. Not an official record.