Citation by Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the presentation of the Peace of Westphalia Prize to His Excellency Kofi A. Annan in Münster

11.10.2008 - Speech

Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General, has been awarded the Peace of Westphalia Prize. Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier delivered the citation. Steinmeier paid tribute to Annan, describing him as one of the most outstanding diplomats of our time. The Peace of Westphalia Prize has been awarded for the last ten years, the first occasion being the 350th anniversary of the Peace of Westphalia in 1998.


– Translation of advance text –

Kofi Annan,

Your Beatitude Gregory III,


Honourable Members of Parliament,


Ladies and gentlemen,

I have many reasons to be thankful for this invitation.

You cannot imagine what the first reason is. It is my long-standing love of legal and constitutional history. Unfortunately, I have very little time nowadays to pursue this interest. However, I do remember that the section on international law is among the newer chapters in the thick volumes on legal history. Perhaps it would never have been written without the diplomatic masterpiece we are commemorating today. The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 is not only the nucleus of modern international law but, even more so, a peaceful order which still influences Europe today, 360 years after it was concluded. The extent of its influence is reflected by the fact that I, a Calvinist from Lippe, am delivering a citation here in Catholic Münster.

Secondly, I'm pleased to have this opportunity after my stint in Lower Saxony and occasional visits to Osnabrück to see the Hall of Peace in Münster.

Thirdly – and this is the most important reason – I want to thank you for your choice for this year's award. You are not only honouring a personal friend and wonderful human being, but also one of the outstanding diplomats of our time, the Nobel Peace Prizewinner Kofi Annan, who served as UN Secretary-General for many years.

I could not have imagined a more worthy candidate for the Peace of Westphalia Prize.

Europe was re-measured at the end of the Thirty Years War. The Peace of Münster and Osnabrück marked a monumental turning point for Germany, indeed for the whole of Europe. Following thirty years of self-destruction, it created the national and international framework for religious tolerance, thus removing one of the key triggers of the violence which had plagued Europe since the Reformation. And it reinforced the idea that international law is the basis for the peaceful co-existence of states which enjoy sovereign equality. This peaceful order thus showed the way forward, and has continued to do so until the present day.

Particularly as we Germans have not always been known for our keenness to foster world peace, this remains our outstanding contribution towards the history of international law. And we're rather proud of that.

Even if history doesn't repeat itself, we can, indeed we must, learn from it. What, therefore, are the key lessons to be learned from the Peace of Westphalia?

First of all, a durable peace order must tackle the root causes of the conflict, ranging from hard political and economic factors to the “softer” ones such as – central in Münster and Osnabrück – religious tolerance.

For us today, that means that we have to address, for instance, access to water and natural resources, basic sanitation and the effects of climate change, if we are to resolve or – even better – prevent conflicts.

Secondly, durable peace can only be achieved if all parties are involved. As demonstrated by the Peace of Westphalia, a balance of interests is essential. The situation in the Middle East, in the Sudan and Somalia remind us of this every day!

Today, the world is being re-measured once more. It is seeking a new order. Our task is to avert a return to the old bloc mentality, to thinking in terms of axes and categories such as “them” and “us”. With its emphasis on the sovereign equality of all states, the order established by the Peace of Westphalia created a basis on which we can work together today on a truly global scale. If we want to resolve the manifold conflicts about resources, access to food, water and health care, we need a global responsibility partnership which brings everyone on board.

No name is more synonymous with this concept and its implementation than that of Kofi Annan. You have always been guided by the principle that the suffering of people anywhere in the world concerns us all. Your entire life's work shows how keenly aware you are that the global responsibility partnership needs truly global institutions. It needs the United Nations.

The world finds itself in the midst of tremendous changes. We have to tackle these changes with effective institutions, first and foremost the United Nations.

In order to live up to this task, we have to make the United Nations more representative. It has to react to events more quickly and become more efficient. Reform of the United Nations is a Herculean task. Kofi Annan, the man we are honouring today, advanced this reform process with commitment and passion during his term of office in the face of much resistance. For that he deserves our profound thanks.

It isn't easy to adequately honour Kofi Annan. For merely listing his achievements in resolving conflicts, from the former Yugoslavia to Iraq and Kenya would exceed the time normally allocated for a citation. I therefore want to concentrate on two aspects which go beyond current events.

You were born in Ghana while it was still under British colonial rule, studied in Komasi, Geneva and Boston and then worked for WHO. Long before you became Secretary-General you pointed out that the disorder in the world is no coincidence. Disregard for human rights, absence of the rule of law, corrupt institutions – these are the basic evils which have existed since time immemorial and which you have worked with tireless commitment to overcome.

Without respect for human rights, without good governance and solid institutions based on the rule of law, there can be no security. You highlighted this connection early on. And you played a key role in developing the concept of the responsibility to protect on this basis.

For Kofi Annan this was never an empty legal term! Kofi Annan has always regarded this concept in very practical terms because he knows that responsibility can only be shouldered under the right conditions. There are not sufficient capacities and capabilities anywhere in Africa to guarantee protection. Kofi Annan was not content to merely espouse a theory. He built up the Kofi Annan Peacebuilding Centre in his beautiful home country Ghana, in its bustling capital Accra. African soldiers and police officers from all over Africa are trained and prepared for peacekeeping operations there, for example in Darfur or Somalia. For Kofi Annan is also a man of action!

Kofi Annan, your efforts at the beginning of this year to resolve the crisis in Kenya were an even more remarkable example of creative and successful crisis management and prevention. We remember the outbreaks of violence which followed the elections. Kofi Annan was called upon to help when other efforts failed.

Together with the leaders of the parties to the conflict, you withdrew for a week deep into the Kenyan bush – without cars, without advisers, without journalists, without mobile phones. It was said that lions waited in front of the lodge in which the negotiations took place. That made it impossible to leave! The outcome was Africa's very first grand coalition. I sent my Minister of State in the Federal Foreign Office to tell you about Germany's experience with a grand coalition. I sometimes wish he had brought back a few lions to Germany to help us with our grand coalition.

Kofi Annan did what Nelson Mandela had advised him to do: retire from retirement!

Maintaining and creating peace and security all over the world: Kofi Annan has devoted his life to carrying out the United Nations mandate. For that I want to express to him my own personal thanks, as well as the thanks of us all.

However, I would also like to congratulate the jury and board of the Peace of Westphalia Prize on their choice: such an honour was long overdue in Germany.

And it gives no-one more pleasure to accept this Prize in the presence of young people from the Malteserjugend. Although I'm not responsible for this citation, I also want to express my respect and congratulations to you. Thank you very much!

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