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Kofi Annan - Center of the Storm

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Although Kofi Annan, has been described by friends and associates as soft-spoken, his carefully crafted words deliver a punch. Here are just some of the Secretary-General's most memorable quotes and speeches.

Quotes | Major Speeches

"A good leader must also be a good follower."
- Interview with The New York Times, Feb. 9, 1997

"I'm not one of those who believes that you have to pound the table or shout to be tough!"
- Interview with the BBC, Nov. 17, 1998

"Even though . . . I am by nature a conciliator. . . I can hold the line when issues or principle are involved."
- Interview with the BBC, March 21, 2001

"I am not afraid to dream. You first have to start with a dream. Build your castles in the air and give it foundation. Without a dream, you are not going to get anywhere."

"We are operating in a world which is quite brutal and there are some very wicked people around. Nobody denies that. But in the business I am in, we sometimes have to shake the hand of the aggressor, to lend them an ear, in order to save lives."
- Interview with The New York Times, December 29, 1998

"I'm here to do a job, and self is not involved, because we're dealing with much bigger issues, much more is at stake. To put my own ego or my own reputation at the center of it, I think, would be unconscionable, and would be a mistake.
- Interview with The New York Times, December 29, 1998

"You have to listen to not only what is being said, but what is not said -- which is often more important than what they say."


Quotes | Major Speeches

Opening Speech to 2002 General Assembly
In a speech to the General Assembly on September 12, 2002, Kofi Annan asked countries to pursue a multilateral path in resolving conflict and engage the United Nations to deal with threats to peace. Although no country is mentioned by name, this speech was interpreted as addressing the U.S. in its conflict with Iraq.

"When states decide to use force to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, there is no substitute for the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations."

Go to: for the full text.

East Timor's Independence
The Secretary-General congratulated the East Timorese on gaining independence on May 20, 2002 and promised continued UN support for the world's newest nation.

"As you now set out to shape your own destiny, you will face trials and challenges. Independence is not an end. It is the beginning of self-rule, which requires compromise, discipline, unity and resolve. While you have succeeded in one challenge -- winning your independence -- this only paves the way for many more."

Go to: for the full text.

Nobel Peace Prize Lecture
On December 10, 2001, Kofi Annan became the second Secretary-General to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, joining Dag Hammarskjöld, who received the award posthumously in 1961. The Nobel Committee recognized Kofi Annan, who shared the Prize with the UN, for "bringing new life" to the UN and for his ability to rise to new challenges such as AIDS and international terrorism.

"We must focus, as never before, on improving the conditions of the individual men and women who give the state or nation its richness and character."

Go to: for the full text.


Response To Sept. 11 Attacks
The day after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Kofi Annan addressed the General Assembly to condemn the terrorists' actions and to unite all UN members against terrorism.

"We are struggling, above all, to find adequate words of condemnation for those who planned and carried out these abominable attacks. In truth, no such words can be found. And words, in any case, are not enough....

All nations of the world must be united in their solidarity with the victims of terrorism, and in their determination to take action -- both against the terrorists themselves and against all those who give them any kind of shelter, assistance or encouragement."

Go to: for the full text.

Fiftieth Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Kofi Annan has often criticized countries that view calls for respect of human rights as an infringement on their sovereignty. In this December 10, 1998 speech at the 50th anniversary meeting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Annan called for a renewal of the commitment to defend human rights worldwide.

"Our mission is simple: to make every day matter in the fight to broaden the horizons of human rights until that day when no man is tortured, no woman is abused and no child is denied his dignity -- when all human beings enjoy their human rights."

Go to: for the full text.

Accepting the Post of Secretary-General
In his acceptance speech -- delivered in English and French on December 17, 1996 -- the Secretary-General called for a new United Nations with actively participating member states.

"Applaud us when we prevail, correct us when we fail; but, above all, do not let this indispensable, irreplaceable institution wither, languish or perish as a result of Member States' indifference, inattention or financial starvation."

Go to: for the full text.


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