Press Releases

    SG/SM/9588
         15 November 2004

    ‘Each of Us Is His Brother’s Keeper’, Says Secretary-General at International Rescue Committee Dinner

    NEW YORK, 11 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the International Rescue Committee Freedom Award dinner honouring General Romeo Dallaire in New York, on 10 November:

    Thank you for the opportunity to be with you this evening. The International Rescue Committee is a model partner of the United Nations, and I am glad to be able to express to you in person my gratitude for the many ways in which you help us to help victims of conflict and other emergencies throughout the world.

    The IRC and the United Nations share a commitment to humanitarian action. We also share tremendous admiration for the man you are honouring tonight, General Romeo Dallaire. The United Nations has only rarely witnessed the moral strength and military courage he displayed during the catastrophe that swept over Rwanda 10 years ago. While the genocide showed us the very worst of humanity, Romeo showed us some of the very best. He has paid a terrible price for that, in terms of personal distress and self-doubt. But even that is tribute to his deep humanity. As soldier, peacekeeper and humanitarian, and above all as a fine example of what it should mean to be a human being, he richly deserves tonight’s recognition and award.

    Not content to bear witness about the past, Romeo has been a leading advocate of more resolute action today to stem the violence in Darfur, where the number of people fearing for their future continues to grow. I have been pressing the Government of Sudan to fulfil its responsibility -- a basic and sacred responsibility of every government -- to protect its own people. I have also emphasized that, however we define what is happening legally, the awful events there require a robust international response. While the African Union has taken the lead in improving security and finding a political solution, let us not take the soft and soothing line that this affair concerns Africans alone. The victims are human beings, whose human rights must be sacred to all of us.

    The lesson is clear. Each of us is his brother’s keeper. In the face of massive violations of human rights and humanitarian law, whether in Sudan, Rwanda or elsewhere, the world cannot be silent. Even if there is little stomach for action among those who could make a difference; even if what we say might expose their indifference; we still have a duty to speak out. We all have an obligation to be more than passive bystanders, to get involved, to hold leaders accountable, and indeed to carry out the mission enshrined in your own committee’s name: to rescue those who need rescue.

    In these difficult times for the world community, I thank you for your support and for your practical idealism. I look forward to strengthening our partnership in Sudan and other crisis zones. I am also eager to hear your voice in the debate leading up to next September’s General Assembly summit, when I hope some bold decisions can be taken about our collective pursuit of international peace and security and about how to strengthen the United Nations for the challenges ahead.

    In closing, let me also offer congratulations to tonight’s other honourands for their contributions to making the world a safer, more just place.

    * *** *