Kofi Annan receives Red Cross award in Oslo

Published: 11 December 2001 0:00 CET

On December 11, the day after receiving the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his wife Nana received the "Torstein Dales" memorial prize from Norwegian Red Cross President, Thorvald Stoltenberg. The award, a bronze sculpture of a pigeon, is named after a former President of the National Society and is given in recognition of outstanding humanitarian work.

Mr. Stoltenberg underlined that the prize was awarded to both Mr. Annan and his wife "because together, they are a strong humanitarian team". Nana Annan is a Swedish-born lawyer. Kofi Annan said the prize was "a great encouragement to continue his work."

The ceremony took place during a meeting in Oslo, jointly organized by the United Nations and the Norwegian Red Cross, during which Kofi Annan and his wife met with 240 representatives from 80 different Norwegian volunteer organizations. Mr. Annan answered questions from the audience around the theme of global human rights.

Accepting the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, Kofi Annan referred to the United Nations as a "universal, indispensable instrument of human progress." Commenting on the necessity for cooperation at the global level, he went on to say : "When States undermine the rule of law and violate the rights of their individual citizens, they become a menace not only to their own people, but also to their neighbours, and indeed the world. What we need today is better governance- legitimate, democratic governance that allows each individual to flourish, and each State to thrive."

In Oslo, Juan Manuel Súarez del Toro, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, participated in ceremonies which marked the awarding of the 2001 Nobel Peace prize. "Poverty and inequality are root causes of conflict and obstacles to peaceful development. The Red Cross Red Crescent struggles for peace every day. Through our network of millions and millions of volunteers in 178 countries around the world, we address the conditions that create and maintain conflict," he said.

One hundred years ago the first Nobel Peace Prize was co-awarded to Henry Dunant, the founder and first volunteer of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and to Frederic Passy, French economist and pacifist who co-founded the Interparliamentary Union in 1889.

During the past century, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement received three other Nobel Peace Prizes. In recognition of its work during the two World Wars, the International Committee of the Red Cross received it in 1917 and 1944. The International Federation (then known as the League) received it jointly with the ICRC in 1963 in recognition of the Red Cross Red Crescent's consistent work in favour of people and peace.

To celebrate the centenary of the Nobel Peace Prize, thirty laureates met in Oslo and shared reflections and discussed issues related to peace. Rigoberta Menchú, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Joseph Rotblat, José Ramos Horta, Lech Walesa, Elie Wiesel as well as representatives of international organisations such as the International Federation, ICRC, UNICEF, UNHCR and ILO among others, shared their thoughts on lessons from the last century on how to build peace and security. The discussions took place in a series of forums over three days.

Themes included nuclear disarmament, anti-personnel mines, respect for human rights and development. Didier Cherpitel, Secretary General of the International Federation, highlighted where the International Federation, National Societes and volunteers contribute significantly to strengthening civil society, to improve disaster preparedness, to ensure post-conflict development and to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

"Economic exploitation creates vulnerability. Inequalities in terms of trade, in people's access to labour markets, to health and education, influence their possibility to make a livelihood. The consequences are on the agenda of the International Federation," pointed out Didier Cherpitel in the Nobel Prize Symposium. There are many examples of Red Cross Red Crescent action in favour of peace, people and democracy. Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers continue to provide humanitarian services to the most vulnerable in every kind of scenario, he said.

"We have seen this from Sarajevo to Kabul, from El Salvador to Perú. Just last month, we honoured in Geneva the only senior leader of the Cambodian Red Cross to have survived the Khmer Rouge period. Madame Phlech Phiroun not only survived but went on to become President of the Cambodian Red Cross which has helped the country to
emerge from a very dark hour in its history," said the Secretary General. "It is millions of ordinary decent men and women like her who are the unsung heroes of our Movement and without whose participation it would be impossible to resurrect civil society and restore humanity in a country where it had all but been extinguished."

Mr.Cherpitel went on to the subject of what he called "One of the greatest catastrophes facing mankind", the HIV/AIDS pandemic with 40 million people infected. Development strategies must address HIV/AIDS, he said: "If the world can be made a kinder, gentler place for People Living with HIV/AIDS; if we can break the silence around the pandemic; if we can fight against the stigmatisation of people living with HIV/AIDS, then the world will become a safer place. Fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS will help us to restore human dignity and tolerance in many parts of the world," added Cherpitel.