N I T E D N A T I O N S N
A T I O N S U N I E S
ANNUAL NOBEL PEACE PRIZE FESTIVAL
Augsburg College, Minneapolis, 13 February 2003
15TH ANNUAL NOBEL PEACE PRIZE FORUM
Concordia College, Moorhead, Maine, 14-15 February 2003
by Mr. Anwarul K. Chowdhury
Under-Secretary-General and High Representative
for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries
and Small Island Developing States
In the century since the first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded
- a century of savage bloodshed and loss, but also one of
extraordinary progress and vision - humankind's understanding
of peace has grown immeasurably. We have seen deep changes
in the nature of conflict and instability, as well as their
underlying root causes. That means we have had to adapt our
approaches to preventing and resolving conflict, and most
of all improve our understanding of what it takes to build
and maintain peace.
We have learnt that peace is a constant work in the making,
and that peace means far more than the absence of war. We
have learnt that peace means freedom from poverty, that it
means justice, human rights and education, that it means health
and good governance. Peace means giving human beings the opportunity
to lead a decent life.
We have also learnt that the work for peace is far too important
to be left only to politicians, diplomats and bureaucrats.
It is the work of a partnership that must engage everyone.
And it depends on all of us sharing the conviction that change
for the better is possible, and that each one of us can make
That is especially true of young people like you, who will
take over during this century. I am delighted that you have
already started thinking about what you can do to defend,
build and promote peace, without waiting for governments to
tell you what to do.
However you choose to do it, I hope you will always see the
United Nations as a valuable ally in the struggle for peace.
This is a crucial time in the life of the world organization.
We start the year with anxiety - over the prospect of war
in Iraq, over nuclear proliferation in the Korean peninsula,
and over what seems like violence without end in the Middle
East. Even Côte d'Ivoire, which used to be one of the
most stable and prosperous countries in Africa, is now caught
in the downward spiral of conflict.
The threat of global terror hangs over all of us. We don't
know where or when it will strike next.
The worldwide AIDS epidemic will claim many more lives this
year, and will then go on claiming more and more lives in
2004 and 2005. In southern Africa and the Horn of Africa,
as many as thirty million people face the threat of a food
crisis this year. And poverty everywhere is condemning mothers
and infants to premature deaths, sending them to bed hungry,
denying them clean drinking water, keeping them away from
Meanwhile, climate change is already here. It is one of the
reasons why we have so many storms, floods and droughts, causing
more and more humanitarian emergencies and tragedies.
And yet, I am still an optimist. We should not see this only
as an age of threats, but as one that a time that offers many
new and exciting opportunities. And the world has instruments
that are well-placed to deal with these problems, and foremost
amongst them is the United Nations itself. Nations working
together can make a difference. Nations upholding the rule
of law can advance the cause of a fairer world. And ours is
the first generation that can defeat poverty - if we put our
minds to it, and if we hold our leaders to the pledges they
made at the Millennium Summit in September 2000.
We must pursue with vigour our overriding mission to meet
the Millennium Development Goals and work for freedom from
fear, freedom from want, and protection of our planet's resources.
Our guiding motto must be to put people at the centre of everything
You all have an important part to play - by making your voices
heard; by raising awareness; by showing the will to overcome
differences; by building networks of concerned citizens; by
holding your governments accountable. Please think of this
as your commitment; we need all of you to be involved in this
undertaking. In that spirit, I wish you a most inspiring meeting.