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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
The UN's proudest hour
Kofin Annan
Kofin Annan says the award comes at a difficult time
By United Nations correspondent Greg Barrow

The Nobel peace prize award is one of the United Nations' finest moments and for Secretary General Kofi Annan a personal tribute to his role at the very head of this organisation.

The Nobel Prize committee in Oslo, said it had made the award in recognition of the UN's and Mr Annan's work for a better organised and more peaceful world.

United Nations
Founded 1945
50,000 employees
189 state members
More than 30 agencies
Secretary General Kofi Annan since 1997

In the early hours of the morning in New York, Mr Annan was woken from his sleep and told.

A few hours later he came out of his Manhattan residence and described the award as "a wonderful feeling, and a great encouragement for us and the organisation".

It also comes as a welcome boost at a time once again when the world faces a troubled future.

The UN and the secretary general have tried to place themselves at the very centre of the new struggle against global terrorism and Mr Annan said this was a great responsibility at a difficult moment.

UN agencies have won the Nobel peace Prize before, and a former Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjoeld received the honour posthumously in 1961.

But it is the first time, the prestigious award has been given to a current secretary general and the UN as a whole.

Centenary award

There was widespread speculation that it would head in the direction of the UN on the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The fundamental principles of peace, tolerance, justice and a high regard for human rights are central to the United Nations charter drawn up at the end of World War II.

It is not the UN's fault that the world has rarely measured up to these lofty ideals.

The UN withdrew its peackeepers despite warnings
The genocide in Rwanda was a notable UN failure

As an organisation it has tried, and sometimes it has failed.

But the fact that it has never given up, appears to have made it, and the office of the secretary general, worthy recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The shortcomings of the UN are numerous.

Two notable ones were its failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda, and its inability to stop brutal ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

But against this, are the success stories like the recent efforts to nurture democracy in East Timor.

As always, there will be critics who object to this award but to those who work under the blue flag of the UN, this is a welcome tribute.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Greg Barrow
"It is perhaps his finest hour"
Professor Chris Hill, London School of Economics
"Kofi Annan is a very popular person"
See also:

15 Apr 00 | Africa
UN admits Rwanda genocide failure
04 Sep 01 | Africa
Rwanda warms to UN chief
10 Oct 01 | Americas
UN walks a fine line
04 Sep 00 | World
UN in a new millennium
12 Oct 01 | Europe
The Nobel Peace Prize
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