Press Releases

    SG/SM/8257
    4 June 2002

    ACCEPTING UKRAINIAN AWARD, SECRETARY-GENERAL CONGRATULATES COUNTRY ON PATH TAKEN SINCE INDEPENDENCE

    NEW YORK, 3 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on receiving the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise in Kiev, Ukraine, on 3 June:

    You have truly honoured me by giving me this order. I know that Yaroslav the Wise is one of your country’s most respected historical figures -- and I shall certainly wear his order with respect.

    Already in the 11th century, Prince Yaroslav represented values that have stood the test of history -- the codification of law, the encouragement of education and the arts, and the strengthening of relations with other countries. Today, one millennium later, we can see the same values come to the fore in modern Ukraine. This is a new chapter in the history of a country characterized by the richness of its traditions and the determination of its people.

    I arrived only yesterday on this first visit to Ukraine as Secretary-General, but even before that I had reason to be impressed by your country. Since independence, you have adopted a constitution that calls for a pluralistic political system, with protection of basic human rights and liberties. You have worked to establish friendly relations with your neighbours, and you play an active role in the international arena, including in the United Nations. You are confronting considerable environmental challenges with great courage. You have seen a dramatic rise in HIV/AIDS and have taken decisive steps to combat it -- as demonstrated by your decision, Mr. President, to declare 2002 the year of the fight against AIDS. You have worked hard to achieve reforms in education, in agriculture, in economic and social development. In short, you are making the transition from a command to a market economy, from a controlled to a democratic political system, with all the radical thinking that that involves.

    The experience of your country confirms that democracy means more than holding elections. That for democracy to prosper, it needs sustained and effective attention -- from the Government in power, from political parties, and, above all, from a dynamic and vigilant civil society. Such a vigorous approach constitutes the best guarantee of the fulfilment of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

    Equally, the work for democracy is not done in isolation. It is inextricably linked with the work for development. Democracy is much stronger when people can see that poverty is being reduced, that society is becoming more just, and that these gains can be sustained in the future.

    As your country continues courageously on this path, it will have the full support of the United Nations family. We will walk with you on your journey. And I will wear the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise as a token of our enduring friendship.

    Duzhe dyakuyu. Thank you very much.

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