UN Secretary-General's Message
United Nations Secretary-General's Message

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Statement by Kofi Annan
United Nations Secretary-General

12 October 1999

It is a very special honour for me to mark the Day of 6 Billion in the city of Sarajevo. I can think of few peoples with whom I would rather commemorate this milestone of hope for humanity.

The birth today of the 6 billionth person on the planet -- a beautiful boy -- in a city returning to life, to a people rebuilding their homes, in a region restoring a culture of co-existence after a decade of war -- should light a path of tolerance and understanding for all peoples.

Neither the awful war, nor the merciless siege of Sarajevo, nor even the inhuman policy of "ethnic cleansing" has succeeded in preventing this and so many other births in Bosnia. It is my hope that you will celebrate today’s birth by ensuring the rebirth of the tolerant and multi-religious atmosphere that once characterized Sarajevo and Bosnia. This should be our common gift to Baby 6 Billion.

On behalf of the United Nations, it gives me great pleasure to announce a gift of $50,000 to the maternity ward at Kosovo Hospital to help provide even better care and services to the people of Sarajevo.

The birth of Sarajevo’s Baby 6 Billion will resonate far beyond this city or country or region. The world at large is being transformed by a population growth that has seen the total population double within four decades. Half the world’s population today is under 25. There are over a billion young people between 15 and 24.

The challenge to feed and clothe and house this great mass of humanity over the next decades will be immense. The means are available. The question is whether we have the will. Of the 4.8 billion people in developing countries, nearly three fifths lack basic sanitation. Almost a third have no access to clean water. A quarter do not have adequate housing and a fifth have no access to modern health services.

The challenge on the Day of 6 Billion is to live up to the promise of our time to give every man, woman and child an opportunity to make the most of their abilities, in safety and in dignity. For the sake of Baby Mevic and all who will follow him, let us rededicate ourselves to this noble aim.


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