Secretary-General Kofi Annan met today with 50 Jewish leaders from two dozen countries during their first-ever visit to the United Nations, encouraging them to continue to play a prominent role in such issues as fighting against anti-Semitism and campaigning for human rights.
“You have come here from many countries, and have diverse backgrounds,” he told the International Delegation of Jewish Leaders (IDJL), who hail from Europe, Latin America, Asia, North America and Australia.
“I hope you will leave here emboldened by the knowledge that the United Nations strives hard to be your friend and ally in the struggle for peace, human dignity and justice for all.”
In addition to Mr. Annan, the group was scheduled to hold a series of discussions Monday and Tuesday with several top UN officials on topics ranging from anti-Semitism and human rights to preventing genocide, the Middle East peace process and UN reform.
Today’s meeting builds on other efforts by Mr. Annan to reach out to the Jewish community. In March during a visit to Israel the Secretary-General participated in the opening of the new Yad Vashem museum on the Holocaust. Before that in January the UN General Assembly held a special session commemorating the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
And in June 2004 the Secretary-General hosted a first-ever UN conference on anti-Semitism, saying then he wanted Jews everywhere “to feel that the UN is their home too.”
David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), a co-organizer with the UN Foundation of the IDJL project, said, “It is very valuable for Jews to gain a sense of the UN’s current scope and reform process, and for the UN to gain a fuller understanding of the particular concerns, including increasing anti-Semitism, that challenge many of the Jewish communities around the world.”