Sharing the pain of all who suffer, and the joy of all who hope

av Kofi Annan, ,
Arbeiderpartiets landsmøte
Landsmøtetale | FN, Globalisering, Demokrati, Fattigdom

Prime Minister,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Gro, thank you for that wonderful introduction, and thank you for the warmth of your welcome.

 It is a real pleasure to be at this convention, and to share the podium with Gro Harlem Brundtland and Jens Stoltenberg - two champions of international cooperation and good personal friends.

Gro, 20 years ago, you said that humankind had come to a crossroads.

The challenges of environment and development were such that a whole new era of international cooperation was needed.

"Our Common Future" - known to the whole world as the Brundtland Report - presented compelling evidence that humanity had to chart a new course. 

The report did not paint a picture of doom but presented a strong message of hope:

Never before had we the opportunity and resources to eradicate poverty, and protect the global resource base for future generations.

We know the drill with reports on international development. Far too often, they're issued to great fanfare and over time make the ignominious journey from press conference to a forgotten corner of a bookshelf, to the dustbin.

But once in a while, a report emerges that truly captures the imagination and changes everything.

The Brundtland Commission report changed everything.

Instead of gathering dust, it gathered momentum and opened a whole new era of thinking.

The report didn't just launch a concept; it launched a movement.

In the eyes of many, Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar took quite a risk when he asked a young woman from Norway to take on such a Herculean task, and I know you were reluctant to accept.  

But having already become Prime Minister at 41, your talent, courage and leadership qualities were already evident.

As Chair of the Commission, all of Gro's skills came into play.  

As a diplomat.

As a negotiator.

As a consensus builder.

As a visionary. 

At the end of the day, Gro presented a consensus document and a milestone in the history of the United Nations.

The Brundtland report led to the UN Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the Earth or Rio Summit of 1992.   

This was the world's first televised UN Conference. At Rio we adopted the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Biodiversity Convention, the Rio Principles and Agenda 21. 

There is a straight line from the Rio Summit to the Biodiversity Convention to the Kyoto Protocol, all the way to an "Inconvenient Truth".

That line starts with Gro Harlem Brundtland.  All that's missing is the Academy Award!

Gro Brundtland changed the climate. She quite literally changed the climate for the better - the climate of awareness, the climate for dialogue, the climate for action. 

1997 was also the year when I took office as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Although we had already been colleagues for decades, I made an unsuccessful attempt to persuade you to come and join me in New York. 

I remember vividly our meeting here in Oslo when I lost - understandably - the competition for your attention to your family and to your grandchildren.

But a year later, you moved on. In January 1998 you became the first woman to win an election to become head of a UN Specialized Agency.

As Director-General of the World Health Organization you were a passionate advocate for action on global public health challenges.

We will not forget how you spoke out when the SARS-crisis struck. And we will also remember your courage and conviction for taking on the powerful tobacco industry.

Under your leadership, health became a top priority for the international community, one that successive Norwegian Governments have continued to prioritize as part of their international policies.

Gro, I am honoured to pay tribute to you today for your lifetime achievements and contributions to our international community. 


Norway has punched above its weight in many fields of international affairs. Many outstanding Norwegians have made their mark on the United Nations - Gro Harlem Brundtland, Thorvald Stoltenberg, Kjell Magne Bondevik, Terje Roed-Larssen, Jan Egeland, and of course Trygve Lie.

As the seventh largest contributor in real terms to the United Nations system, Norway sets a solid example of international solidarity.

Seen from the perspective of the office that I just left, I commend all of you for strengthening the hand of the United Nations in pursuit of world peace and development.

By setting examples you help bring us all closer together, and reduce the risks that might drive us further apart.


One of the greatest challenges we face today is to ensure that globalization benefits countries, communities and families everywhere. 

We must develop a genuinely new world order of peace and freedom, as envisaged in the Charter of the United Nations.

We must improve the protection of the rights and dignity of individuals, particularly women.

And we must stand up to the challenges of climate change which affect the poorest and disenfranchised most. 

We must pay particular attention to Africa.

Africa is in great danger of being excluded from the benefits of globalization, and has seen some of the most protracted and brutal conflicts.

In the decade that I served at the helm of the United Nations, I was fortunate to see progress in many areas.  But events have presented us with new challenges - and old ones have re-emerged in new form, or with a sharper bite.

In the economic arena, globalization and growth have continued. Some developing countries, notably in Asia, have played a major role in this growth, enabling hundreds of millions to escape poverty.

But the benefits of growth have been unevenly distributed. Unemployment, particularly among young people, remains high in many countries.

At the level of international development policy, the debate has advanced. Moving from rival models to a universally agreed development agenda with targets.

I am proud of the role the United Nations has played in this regard.

The Millennium Development Goals, adopted in 2000, now permeates all our work, with goals such as halving the proportion of people in the world who do not have clean water to drink;

making sure all girls, as well as boys, receive primary education;

slashing infant and maternal mortality;

and stopping the spread of HIV/Aids.

All developing countries have committed to placing the MDGs at the centre of their national development strategies.

At the same time, it is vitally important that donor countries and multilateral organizations provide support to these countries by increasing debt relief and foreign aid. 

While there is some progress on debt relief, and encouraging promises to increase aid and investment, more can be done to ensure the "global partnership for development" becomes a reality. This is particularly true in the area of trade.

Some countries, notably the Nordic countries, have continually delivered on their promises, passing not only the 0.7 per cent target for aid, but pushing forwards towards the 1 per cent target set for themselves.

I salute the efforts of Jens Stoltenberg and his government to improve the quality and quantity of aid.


But even in those countries that are the staunchest supporters of the UN, there will always be critical voices, and questions about what the UN has done to secure peace and prevent the ravages of war.

Today there are fewer inter-state conflicts than there used to be.  Many civil wars have ended.  But in far too many parts of the world - especially the developing world - people are still exposed to brutal conflicts, fought with small but deadly weapons.

And communities in all parts of the world are threatened by weapons of mass destruction and terrorism which spread fear and insecurity.

This creates an environment where divisions between people can grow; where those who hold different beliefs or cultural traditions are labelled as "alien".

A climate of fear and suspicion is constantly refuelled by the conflict in the Middle East. No other conflict carries such a powerful symbolic and emotional charge among people far removed from the battlefield.

As long as the Palestinians live under occupation and are exposed to daily frustration and humiliation; and as long as Israelis are blown up in buses and in dance-halls; passions will remain inflamed.

As long as the Security Council is unable to end this conflict by bringing both sides to accept and implement its resolutions, the United Nations will fall short of what it was created to do.

And our best efforts to resolve other conflicts will be resisted, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan, whose peoples need our help just as badly, and are entitled to it.

But let us not forget the many signs of hope. More governments today are elected by, and are accountable to those whom they govern. 

War criminals are being brought to justice.  And the United Nations has taken important steps to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and other crimes against humanity.

And yet, every day reports reach us of new laws broken; of heinous crimes to which individuals and minority groups are subjected.

Sadly, once again the biggest challenge comes from Africa - from Darfur, where the continued spectacle of men, women and children driven from their homes by murder, rape and the burning of their villages makes a mockery of our claim, as an international community, to shield people from the worst abuses.

And this is happening at the very time when, more than ever before, human beings throughout the world form a single society.

Many of the challenges we face today are global. They demand a global response, in which all peoples must play their part.

I deliberately say "all peoples" because it was clear to me ten years ago that international relations are not a matter for States alone.  They are relations between peoples, in which so-called "non-state actors" play a vital role.

All stakeholders must play their part in a true multilateral world order, with a renewed, dynamic United Nations at its centre.


I remain convinced that the only answer to a divided world must be a truly United Nations.  Climate change, HIV/AIDS, fair trade, migration, human rights - all these require global action, agreed and coordinated through this most universal of institutions.

What matters is that the strong, as well as the weak, agree to be bound by the same rules, to treat each other with the same respect.

What matters is that all peoples accept the need to listen; to compromise; to take each other's views into account.

What matters is that they come together, not at cross purposes but with a common purpose.

And that can only happen if peoples are bound together by something more than just a global market, or even a set of global rules.

Each of us must share the pain of all who suffer, and the joy of all who hope, wherever in the world they may live.

Each of us must earn the trust of his fellow men and women, no matter what their race, colour or creed, and learn to trust them in turn.

That is what the founders of the United Nations believed in.

It is what I believe in.

It is what the vast majority of people in this world want to believe in.

From peacekeeping to peace-building, from human rights to development and humanitarian relief, I was lucky enough to have shouldered responsibility when ambitions for the United Nations sometimes seemed limitless.

When the time came to study how the UN could perform better in the field of development, environment and humanitarian assistance, it was natural to ask Jens Stoltenberg to co-chair the High Level panel to revamp the way the UN system delivers assistance to countries.

And this he did with skill and flair, in the best international tradition of this country.

Jens it is in the interest of the international community that you stay with these issues, even if they are difficult to reconcile with your responsibilities in Norway.

It is sometimes necessary to push some big rocks to the top of the mountain, even if others slip from our grasp and roll back. 

The international community needs the unwavering support of people and countries who care and share.

I am with such people here today. It fills me with hope for our common future.

Thank you very much.

Utskrift frå VIRKSOMME ORD
Institutt for informasjons- og medievitskap, Universitetet i Bergen