Press Releases

    SG/SM/8361
    AFR/471
    ENV/DEV/696
    4 September 2002

    WITH SPIRIT OF COMMUNITY, COMMITMENT, PARTNERSHIP,
    "WE CAN CHANGE THIS WORLD FOR THE BETTER",
    SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS EVENT IN SOWETO

    NEW YORK, 3 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at an event organized by Dr. Jane Goodall in Soweto on 2 September:

    Thank you, Jane, for those wonderful words. Not all of you may know that Jane is one of the United Nations peace messengers who carries the message of peace around the world for all of us, and I am very happy to team up with her today to do this.

    Dear young friends, my wife Nane and I are deeply honoured to be here with all of you today and to be able to join you.

    We would like to thank the wonderful gumboot dancers. I could not read the message you had given us but some of us in the audience did. I also want to thank the children for the message I received from the Children’s Earth Summit, and the membership certificate Nane was given by Roots and Shoots.

    All these are fine demonstrations of your understanding that wherever we come from, we are all citizens of this planet; and that we all have a shared duty to make it a healthy and peaceful place to live.

    As all of you probably know, the fate of our planet is being discussed at the highest level here in Johannesburg this week. Just a few miles away, in a big conference hall, governments are meeting in what is called a world summit.

    But the place where we are gathered right now is also a world summit in its own right.

    That is so not only because we are standing on the summit of a mountain, and not only because this Soweto Mountain of Hope has become known worldwide as living proof of what is possible to turn destruction into hope, and barrenness into beauty. Most of all, it is so because you -- as young people gathered here from all over the world, united in a common cause -- represent the best hope we have of building a better future for our planet. As we stand here on the summit of Somoho, I would like to remind the delegates at the other summit of an old African proverb, which says: "The Earth is not ours. It is a treasure we hold in trust for future generations and their children."

    You, as young people, represent those future generations. I am extremely happy that you are starting already to think about what kind of world you want this to be -- without waiting for governments to tell you what to do.

    As the Somoho experience tells us, we can change this world for the better, if we all get together in a spirit of community, commitment and partnership, and if we all understand that whatever we give to this earth -- good and bad -- it will come back to us. That is the message the United Nations is trying to get out to people everywhere. To do that, it needs the support of young people like you. No one understands that message better than Dr. Goodall. That is why, as I mentioned earlier, I am so proud and grateful to have you as one of my Messengers of Peace.

    We went to the "Cradle of Humanity" yesterday with my wife Nane, Jane Goodall, President Mbeki and others and it was a wonderful reminder that we all come from the same source. We are all Africans and we all share a common ancestry. And that should remind us that what unites us is much greater than what divides us.

    So my dear young friends, wherever I go in the world, whatever challenges lie ahead, it is always my encounters with young people like you that convince me that there is reason to hope. And wherever I go after this, I shall always treasure the memory of this encounter with all of you, on the Soweto Mountain of Hope.

    So I want to thank you for what you have done and for the inspiration you have given me and my wife Nane and to all the United Nations team. So long live your "Mountain of Hope" and may the message spread from here that hope must always be kept alive.

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