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ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
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EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA
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LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN
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In New York, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan launched the Year in the name of the entire United Nations system. Ringing the Peace Bell -a traditional ceremony which takes place yearly on International Peace Day, at the opening of the General Assembly -Mr Annan declared: "Let us all join in working for a culture of peace and in implementing the programme of action adopted yesterday by the General Assembly. And let us make sure that the message of the bell of peace is heard as far and wide as possible, today and throughout this year."
The Secretary-General also addressed the afternoon ceremony at UNESCO. In a video message, he stressed that "the culture of peace is an idea whose time has come. For the United Nations," he said, "there remains no higher goal, no deeper commitment and no greater ambition than preventing armed conflict." He added: "true peace is far more than the absence of war. It is a phenomenon that encompasses economic development and social justice. It means safeguarding the global environment and curbing the global arms trade. It means democracy, diversity and dignity, respect for human rights and the rule of law; and more, much more." His remarks include the following:
Why a Culture of Peace? Because war, violence, poverty and prejudice are the daily experience of millions upon millions of people throughout our world - as they were when the United Nations was founded, and as they were when our bloody century began.
Over the years we have come to realize that it is not enough bot send peacekeeping forces to separate warring parties. It is not enough to conduct preventive diplomacy. All of this is essential work, but we must also act at a deeper level. We need, in short, a culture of peace.
It may sound sometimes as if a culture of peace does not stand a chance against the culture of war, the culture of violence, and the cultures of impunity and intolerance.
Peace may indeed be a complex challenge, dependent on action in many fields and even a bit of luck from time to time. It may be painfully slow process. And it may be fragile and imperfect when it is achieved. But peace is in our hands. We can do it.
In that spirit, it gives me great pleasure to officially launch the International Year for the Culture of Peace on behalf of the United Nations, UNESCO and the entire United Nations system. Let us all join in working for a culture of peace. And let the message of this Peace Bell be heard far and wide today and throughout the year.
The address of this page is http://www.culture-of-peace.info/annexes/14Sept1999/page1.html.