Noble Prize: Nobody's Perfect

11/27/2001


"The route to global peace and cooperation goes by way of the United Nations," announced the Nobel Peace Prize Committee as it awarded the centennial prize to the United Nations and to its Secretary General Kofi Annan. It was a shared award; half a prize for each, as Annan humorously explained. Speaking at the annual correspondents' dinner, he said with a smile, "Nobody's perfect." The timing seemed to indicate recognition of past achievements and the expectation of a future role. It was a vindication for all those who devoted their careers and risked their lives for the organization.

The personal triumph of Kofi Annan was a welcome bonus. In fact, the timing of the award after a renewal of his term, and the complications of September 11, reflects his role in obtaining the prize for the organization. Clearly, the expectation is that the UN is to be a leading venue-if not the main venue-for the international struggle against terrorism. How that effort will be shaped remains to be seen. The Secretary General ensured that the UN will play a central role. Member states seem to be on the same wavelength. Now that expectations are high, the challenge is even greater. Clearly, the Nobel committee's centennial award was a timely vote of confidence in the UN as representative of an enduring universal framework.

Meanwhile, what about the million dollars? How will it be spent? Half belongs to Kofi Annan, the other half to the organization. During a meeting with heads of agencies, the Secretary General reviewed the appropriate channels for distribution.