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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 24, 1999




As the 20th century draws to a close, Americans are taking time to reflect on the institutions that have shaped our past and that hold great hope for our future. One of the most important of these institutions is the United Nations. A dream of peace rising from the ashes of World War II, the U.N. has made great strides toward fulfilling the goals of its founders by saving lives, enhancing the security of law-abiding nations, and improving living conditions across the globe. This year, in marking the 54th anniversary of the founding of the U.N., we celebrate not only the organization's many accomplishments, but also its potential to bring the family of nations together to work toward a more peaceful, democratic, just, and prosperous world.

Since the U.N.'s founding more than half a century ago, humankind has learned a great deal -- how to produce enough food for growing populations, how human activity affects the environment, how telecommunications can link the countries of the world into a single global community. But one of the most important lessons humanity has learned is one that Americans have always known: open societies are more just and open markets create more wealth.

Through the United Nations, America has access to a powerful forum where we can join with the other peoples of the world to raise awareness of these truths and to advance common interests and shared values. During the past decade, U.N. conferences have brought together nearly 50,000 people in Beijing to advance the rights and well-being of women; 47,000 in Rio de Janeiro to discuss ways to promote development while protecting the environment; and 30,000 people in Istanbul to seek solutions to urban problems.

In the last year alone, we have seen abundant evidence of the ways in which the United Nations benefits America and the world. The United Nations is the primary multilateral forum to press for international human rights and lead governments to improve their relations with their neighbors and their own people. As we saw during the Kosovo conflict, and more recently with regard to East Timor, the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing and mass murder can find no refuge in the United Nations and no source of comfort in its charter. It is the institution the international community turns to in pursuit of solutions to armed conflict. It is the primary vehicle for broad international cooperation in addressing the needs of refugees and of the tens of millions of people around the world who remain mired in abject poverty. The United Nations and its affiliated agencies also provide a powerful voice for upholding and furthering the development of the rule of law and standards of international commerce -- rules and standards that are crucial to global and economic stability and progress.

In acknowledging the far-reaching contributions of the United Nations to the international community, we must renew our commitment to work with our fellow U.N. members to advance international peace and prosperity and to champion human rights. In achieving these goals, the United Nations should make wise use of the international resources at its disposal; and the United States should meet its obligation to provide our share of these resources. By doing so, we can ensure that the United Nations will be an integral player in making the next millennium an era of unprecedented global peace, security, and prosperity.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 24, 1999, as United Nations Day. I encourage all Americans to acquaint themselves with the activities and accomplishments of the United Nations and to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies, programs, and activities furthering the goal of international cooperation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-second day of October, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-fourth.