Press Releases

    SG/SM/8413
    4 October 2002

    ROLE OF UN IS ‘TO PLACE SAFETY AND WELFARE OF HUMAN BEINGS AT CENTRE OF EVERYTHING THAT WE DO’, SECRETARY GENERAL SAYS

    NEW YORK, 3 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by Secretary General Kofi Annan at the inauguration today of Lee Bollinger as President of Colombia University in New York:

     

    It is always a special honour to visit this great university. Any institution of learning is of importance to the United Nations, but Columbia is doubly so.

    Not only do we depend on you, as we do on any university of your calibre, to instil a global outlook in young people and, at the same time, explore new ideas that can advance and inspire the work of our Organization.

    In the case of Columbia, I feel that you are also a sister institution to the United Nations. There is so much affection we share for our wonderful host city -- which I am sure all of us have grown to love even more in the past year. There is so much we have in common -- from the multicultural, interdisciplinary nature of our work to the many nationalities represented in our institutions. And there is such direct cross-fertilization between us -- whether through research, knowledge or individuals. Indeed, two deans of your school of international affairs have gone on to serve as senior advisers to the United Nations Secretary-General -- the first, to Dag Hammarskjöld, and the second, to me. And I am delighted that Jeffrey Sachs, my Special Adviser on the Millennium Development Goals, is now the Director of the Columbia Earth Institute.

    President Bollinger, as you take up the reins at Columbia, I feel the mutually enriching relationship between our institutions can only grow stronger. I retain warm memories of giving the commencement address at Michigan three years ago, and I know from your time there how deeply you feel that whatever the subject, any education must look beyond national frontiers. That is crucial if we are to prepare young people to take on the challenges of our globalizing world.

    I know how much you strive for an integration of knowledge, bridging the unfortunate divide between science and the humanities that is far too prevalent in education today. Whatever our chosen field, such an integrated approach is essential. Without it, we limit not only ourselves, but also the collective progress of humankind.

    You have understood -- if I may quote your own words -- that "it is the role of the university to think about what it means to be human". And it is our role, at the United Nations, to place the safety and welfare of human beings at the centre of everything we do.

    Last but not least, Mr. President -- your lifelong crusade on behalf of the First Amendment, your call for eternal vigilance in defence of freedom of expression, makes you a natural and powerful ally of the United Nations in its mission to promote human rights and respect for the rule of law everywhere.

    So I look forward to building even more on the partnership between the Columbia family and the United Nations family. I am confident that under your leadership, Mr. President, our partnership is in very safe hands indeed.

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