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Thursday, November 18, 1999 Published at 00:25 GMT

Excerpts from Vaclav Havel's speech

Vaclav Havel: Looking forward while remembering the past

On the 10th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, Czech President Vaclav Havel urged the world to look forward but remember the past.

He said international institutions still needed to be reform to take into account the new shape of the world and that bold action was needed to combat "all types of evil" from nationalism to terrorism to nuclear weapons.

The following are excerpts from Mr Havel's speech, which was broadcast on Czech television.

"Ten years ago the Czechoslovak communist power brutally suppressed a peaceful demonstration of students who had decided to pay tribute to the memory of the student Jan Opletal, one of the first victims of Nazism.

"That intervention became the proverbial snowball that set off an avalanche.

"Shortly thereafter our squares filled with hundreds of thousands of people who made it clear that they had had enough of life without freedom.

"The regime that possessed every fathomable tool of power and controlled both the media and the entire economy began to crumble like a house of cards in the face of the peacefully, yet resolutely expressed will of the people.

"The excited days of nationwide solidarity, courage to make sacrifices, enthusiasm and boundless joy over the fall of the totalitarian regime are long gone.

Difficult decade

"The ensuing years have found us grappling with all the grievous consequences of the decades of communism in our country.

"Myriad difficulties emerged as we reconstituted and developed the system of political pluralism."

"It is only today, 10 years later, that we are becoming fully aware of the magnitude and multiplicity of the challenges which originated in these epochal developments.

"The bipolar division of the world collapsed, and there came a time for the building of an entirely new, more equitable world security, political and economic order, better befitting the new era.

"The present calls for a new perception of the contemporary world as a multi-polar, multicultural and globally interconnected entity and, for a consistent reform of all international organisations and institutions in order that they might reflect this new understanding and are able to meet the formidable tasks of the coming period in its spirit.

"Bold endeavours are needed to combat all the types of evil which have re-surfaced in all their breadth and depth as an aftermath of the collapse of the previous structures.

"I am speaking of

  • callous nationalism and hatred amongst different communities living on this planet
  • organised crime possessing hitherto unseen technological means
  • international terrorism
  • the spreading drug trade
  • the dehumanising effects of the fast growth of urban agglomerations
  • the danger that our civilisation will lose control over nuclear weapons

"I am speaking of widening social differences combined with a rapid population growth and with our inability to regulate the various sophisticated forms of the globalised market economy in order that this economy help to genuinely cultivate human life instead of confining it.

Remember the past

"I am convinced that the fall of communism meant not only the liberation of millions of oppressed and humiliated human beings but that, as a result of many different reasons, it has also become a major challenge prompting contemporary civilisation to undertake a renewed and profound self-reflection, to reconsider its direction and the threats it is facing, and to look for ways of generating or resurrecting a sense of responsibility for itself.

"The first concern in our thinking must be the future.

"If, however, such thinking is to have a solid foundation we must not forget the past either.

"Nor can we forget those to whom we owe all the good things which the past bequeaths to our future."

BBC Monitoring (, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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