Preventing the Scourge of War
By Kofi A. Annan, Secretary-General, United Nations

The principal mandate of the UN - "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" - remains as valid today as when those words were written into the UN Charter more than half a century ago. Today, around the world, the march of human progress continues to be plagued by conflict, violence, hatred and greed. The Culture of Peace is an idea whose time has come.

For the UN, there remains no higher goal, no deeper commitment and no greater ambition than preventing armed conflict. But 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 much more. These pillars of peace are interrelated. Gains in one area can bring progress in another. Setbacks, of course, are just as contagious.

For there to be peace among nations, there must also be peace within them, among groups and individuals. The Charter of UNESCO says it best: "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed." This is no small project. In fact, it is a comprehensive enterprise, a global mission that requires a transformation in our thinking, massive amounts of political will and resources, and the solidarity of all humankind.

All of us - young and old, rich and poor, governments and civil society alike - must do our part. The founding of the UN itself was a start. Let us pool our efforts and make good on its great potential. Peace is in our hands. The culture of peace can be ours.

Source: Message to launch the international year of the culture of peace. Paris, September 14, 1999.