Press Releases

    SG/SM/8263*
    13 June 2002

    Secretary-General Receives Honorary Doctorate from University of Geneva

    NEW YORK, 12 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the statement delivered 7 June by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, during the ceremony at which he was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by the University of Geneva.

    It is for me a great honour to receive this doctorate honoris causa. Let me offer my heartfelt congratulations to the eminent persons you are honouring along with me. I believe I am speaking on behalf of all of us when I tell you how proud I am to receive this honour.

    In honouring me, it is the United Nations you are honouring. I thank you for this recognition and for your support for our global mission of peace and development. I appreciate it most deeply.

    Universities have always played a key role, helping, through their teaching and research, to shape the world in which we live. Today, more than ever before, we need your dynamism and your capacity for innovation if we are to find solutions to the many problems that beset mankind. And we are counting on you to prepare the leaders of tomorrow to deal with a complex world that is so different from the world I knew as a student here in the early 1960s.

    Scientists tell us that our natural universe is actually so small, and that all its parts are so closely interconnected, that the flapping of a butterfly wing in Amazonia can trigger a violent storm on the other side of the globe. We call this principle the "butterfly effect". Obviously, it applies also to the universe of human activity, with all its consequences, both good and bad.

    Our policies, our priorities, our personal choices must be adapted to these new realities. We can no longer think and act "locally", as if only our own community's interests were important. Our vision and our action must be global.

    This poses a huge challenge for universities. For they must prepare young people for a world whose outlines are still vague -- a world in flux, ambiguous and interdependent. The leaders of tomorrow must be ready to think out of the box and work with all players in society, demonstrating a degree of flexibility commensurate with the challenges to be met.

    That is why I encourage you to strengthen the ties that you have developed with other academic institutions and with the international organizations here in Geneva. I believe that together we can achieve the dream of a fairer and more peaceful world to which all peoples aspire.

    I thank you.

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    * Delayed for translation of text originally delivered in French.

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