News of Norway, October 12, 2001
Nobel committee chair Gunnar Berge made the announcement in Oslo on October 12. "Today, the UN is central to the work for freedom and security in the world, and in the international mobilization to meet the economic, social, and environmental challenges of the world," Berge stated. Berge said that, on the award's centennial anniversary, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wished to emphasize that the only possible road toward peace and cooperation must work through and with the United Nations.
He also noted that Kofi Annan had devoted almost his entire career to the UN. As Secretary General, he has brought new life to the organization, facing formidable challenges such as the spread of HIV/AIDS and an increase in international terrorism. However, at the same time, Annan has focused on institutional changes within the UN and has worked to more efficiently use the organization's resources.
"It is fantastic to receive the Peace Prize, especially when we are trying to handle a difficult conflict. And it is a considerable recognition of the UN," Secretary General Annan commented during a BBC broadcast.
"Usually, when I am awaken this early, it is with a message of bad news. That was certainly not the case this time." Upon announcement of the prize, Annan received a standing ovation from his staff when he arrived at the UN building. In his speech, he underscored both the recognition as well as the challenges that come along with the receipt of this prestigious award. "But we will rise to meet these challenges," Annan declared, reminding those present that the organization recently lost ten of its staff members during conflicts in Georgia and in Afghanistan.
Annan, who is from Ghana, is the seventh Secretary-General of the UN, and
the first Secretary-General to be elected from the ranks of UN staff. He began
his first term on January 1, 1997. On June 29, 2001, the General Assembly
appointed him, by acclamation, to a second term of office, which will begin
January 1, 2002 and end December 31, 2006.
Annan has previously declared that he wants the United Nations to be the center of a global coalition against terrorism. Geir Lundestad, secretary to the Nobel Peace Prize committee and director of the Nobel Institute, said the committee members chose this year's winners on September 28, 17 days after the terrorist attacks in Washington and New York. "Of course, the committee was very aware of that event," he said.
UN agencies (including the UNCHR and UNICEF) or people connected to the international staff of the UN, have won the prize several times previously, but it has never before been awarded to the UN itself. The first Nobel Peace Prize, given one hundred years ago, went to the International Red Cross. Last year, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung won the Prize for his reconciliation efforts with North Korea. More than 30 laureates will attend the centenary celebrations in Oslo on December 10 when the 2001 prize will be presented to Annan and the UN.
Former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (who was still in power at the time of the announcement) stated that the United Nations and Annan are laureates that will have a unifying effect. "This is an important point given the current situation," commented Stoltenberg. "The Nobel Committee could not have made a better choice for its award of the one hundredth Nobel Peace Prize. And this is even more applicable in the wake of the difficult international situation we are facing today. The award of the prize is an acknowledgement that we need a strong and effective UN if we are to win the struggle for peace and security as well as the fight for social justice and against poverty," said Stoltenberg.