Press Releases

     

    SG/SM/9048
    5 December 2003

    DAUGHTER OF WALT DISNEY, FOUNDER OF “ROOTS OF PEACE” PRAISED BY SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR THEIR GENEROSITY,
    COMMITMENT TO ANTI-LANDMINE CAUSE

    NEW YORK, 4 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following are Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks at a luncheon hosted by Diane Disney Miller and Heidi Kuhn, founder of the Roots of Peace, in Los Angeles, 3 December:

    Thank you Heidi [Kuhn].  It is ok to dream.  It all begins with a dream.  Now you tell us to follow it up with a toast then action.  So hopefully we’ll be hearing lots of toasts around the world followed by action.

    Mrs. Disney Miller, and also your three children who are here with us this afternoon,

    Thank you for your commitment and contribution to this great cause.

    My wife and I are delighted to be with you today.  And I’m sure I speak for all of us in saying I feel privileged to be in this magnificent new hall -- this masterpiece of urban renewal and architectural excellence.

    It strikes me that this hall is also a metaphor for renewal of the spirit and resonance of our common humanity.  It is a fitting tribute to Walt Disney, whose work touched the hearts of millions.  I believe Walt Disney’s ability to communicate with people of all continents came from his understanding of universal human values -- values he described as "just what most of us are probably thinking every day ... the right to live and raise my family under the flag of tolerance, democracy and freedom".

    Today, I am especially grateful to one member of Walt Disney’s family -- his daughter and our gracious co-host, Diane Disney Miller, who is so generously and consistently committed to supporting demining efforts in Afghanistan.

    I am equally thankful to Heidi Kühn, who founded the Roots of Peace in 1997.  I recall that day in your house when Nane and myself joined others at the beginning of your efforts.  We are really very pleased to see how it has grown.  We toast a lot at the UN, so let’s hope each toast leads to some action.  Heidi, your astonishing energy and enthusiasm, and the success of your organization in helping to eliminate landmines and creating lands of peace and prosperity, provide an inspiration to us all.

    Today is a special day in more ways than one. It marks the sixth anniversary of the opening for signature of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention.  Under the auspices of that landmark treaty, millions of mines have been destroyed, and many wonderful partnerships have flourished, such as the one between the United Nations family and the Roots of Peace.

    Today also marks the International Day of Disabled Persons -- a day of tribute to the men, women and children everywhere who strive to lead full and dignified lives regardless of disabilities, so many of which have been caused by landmines.  Some of the most powerful advocates of demining and mine awareness are individuals who were themselves disabled by landmines.  I salute every one of them for their courage.

    I also salute the people of the world and civil society without whose support and action we would not have had the Ottawa Convention and we would not have begun to contain landmines.  Can you imagine if we had not had this convention?  What would we be dealing with today?  At least today we know the problem is not going to grow.  And what we need to do is to lift these mines and you heard how expensive that is.

    And today, the United Nations launches its Portfolio of Mine Action Projects for 2004 -- a catalogue of projects for demining, awareness-raising and physical and economic rehabilitation for mine survivors in 36 countries around the world.  I understand you are being given copies of the Portfolio, and I hope you will take a few moments to look at it later.

    Above all, I hope you will remember the bottom line about these abominable devices:  landmines cannot discriminate between the footsteps of a soldier and those of a child.  And neither soldier nor child should ever be exposed to the inhumane effects of these redundant weapons.

    I have seen at first-hand the devastating consequences that landmines can bring when they lie buried silently in the ground, years after the actual fighting has ended, waiting to kill and maim.  A single landmine -- or even the fear that there might be one -- can hold a whole community hostage.  It can prevent the cultivation of an entire field, prevent children from walking to school, rob a whole village of its livelihood.

    This threat remains for decades as ordinary people try to go about their daily lives.  Many landmine victims were breadwinners.  Now they need help for rehabilitation and reintegration.  It is a tragedy for them, and a serious obstacle to their country's development.

      So, ladies and gentlemen, the challenges are enormous.  But there are powerful reasons to hope.

    Production of new mines has dropped dramatically.  International trade in anti-personnel mines has virtually stopped.  Fewer mines are being laid.  The number of new victims is down.

    Governments, business and civil society have understood how crucial it is to help people and communities clear mined areas and then make productive use of the land.  This is what Roots of Peace has done so well in collaboration with the vintners of California -- transforming mines into vines or grains in Croatia and Afghanistan, and now in Cambodia and Iraq.

     

    One of my most memorable experiences was landing at Kabul airport almost two years ago, in one of the most heavily mined areas in the world, and being greeted by a demining honour guard representing 7,000 Afghan deminers. Those deminers have now cleared enough land to allow hundreds of thousands of Afghan people to return to lives free of the threat of mines and unexploded bombs.

    A world without mines is still far away.  But it is not an impossible dream.  More and more governments agree that mines have no place in the civilized kind of society we want to live in, and build for our children, in the twenty-first century -- the kind of society in which Walt Disney spoke of raising his family.  More and more individuals like you are supporting the work for a world free of mines, working in partnership with the UN through groups like the Roots of Peace.

    I hope many more of you will follow that example.  Mine action is just one of the many issues on the UN’s agenda where we need to work in partnership with individuals and organizations from civil society and the private sector.  I recall that on my very first day in office I told the General Assembly that alone I can do nothing.  But reaching out and working in partnerships with individuals, groups like yours and civil society, private sector foundations and universities we can achieve a lot.  Whether you join us in that struggle, or the fight against AIDS, or protection of the environment, or any of our other causes -- I look forward to welcoming you to the United Nations family.

    * *** *