15 October 2004

Sports can be an important boot camp for teaching children the lessons of peace, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's wife, Nane, told a forum on "Peace through Sports," in which student-athletes from three war-torn areas where the world body has peace missions took part by videoconference.

"Sport allows young boys and girls to play and use their energies to the fullest, fostering team spirit and competition on friendly terms," Ms. Annan said at the event at UN Headquarters in New York organized by the Department of Public Information ahead of the International Day of Peace, which will be observed on Tuesday.

"Sport teaches children about working together to reach a common goal, and solving conflicts peacefully through agreed rules. This is true for all children, no matter which country they are from, but especially for children growing up in the shadow of war and destruction, poverty and destitution," she declared, saying "a special hello" to the young people participating from Afghanistan, Kosovo and Sierra Leone.

"I have read the most heart-warming stories about how football returned to Afghanistan, how sports have reunited young players in countries torn apart by civil war. I have visited cramped refugee camps and know what the possibility of playing sport, whether football, basketball or volleyball, would mean for young people who may have pent-up traumas and emotions, and what coaching would mean for children deprived of a guiding hand," she added.

The athletes from Afghanistan, Kosovo and Sierra Leone engaged in a televised discussion with student- athletes from the United States gathered in the auditorium. Nane, a citizen of Sweden, is a distinguished jurist and an accomplished artist. Since the election of her husband she devoted herself full time to serve U.N. dignitaries.