FÉLIX HOUPHOUËT-BOIGNY PEACE PRIZE AWARDED TO PHILIPPINES PRESIDENT RAMOS AND NUR MISUARI

Dakar (Senegal), June 18 {No.98-133} - At the 1997 Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize award ceremony in Dakar yesterday, UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor launched “an urgent appeal” to all those involved in internecine conflicts wherever they may be, notably in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea), Guinea Bissau, and in Kosovo “that they relinquish the force of arms in favour of dialogue and reason.”

“Violence and force have failed, at the cost of innumerable human lives,” he declared as the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize was awarded to Philippines President Fidel Ramos and to Nur Misuari, representing the Moro National Liberation Front whose armed faction has long fought the Manila government.

The Prize was given to the two for their efforts in reaching the peace agreement signed September 2, 1996, ending three decades of civil war. According to Mr Mayor “taking power by force is anti-democratic and therefore unacceptable.” He said: “Violence can only beget violence. We must spare future generations from the scourge of destruction. Provided we have the will, we can change the future.”

The award ceremony, presided by Senegal’s President Abdou Diouf, Patron of the Prize, in the presence of Henri Konan Bédié, President of Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon’s Vice-President Didjob Di Ndinge, and Jean Foyer, former French Justice Minister and Vice-President of the International Prize Jury.

In his address, President Diouf expressed the wish that the force of national reconciliation unleashed by the laureates serve to expand the basis of concertation. “You have opened the doors to a better future based on peace and the desire to build together a united and solidary nation,” declared President Diouf whose contribution to the agreement - within the framework of the Islamic Conference Organisation, was praised by the laureates.

He urged “other armed groups to join the tide of national reconciliation started by President Fidel Ramos and Mr Nur Misuari.”

The impact of the two former enemies’ desire for peace was brought to the fore by President Bédié who noted: “The longer a war lasts, the harder it is to bring it to an end. The war-torn south of the Philippines archipelago, the island of Mindanao in particular, are no exception to this rule,” he said. “Border disputes, civil wars, guerrilla fighting, fundamentalism, potential hostility towards the West, clandestine immigration all have a common root: underdevelopment [...} It is in the vital interest of the whole world, South and North, that the race for ever more deadly and costly arms be stopped and that this uncontrollable proliferation, dangerous and ruinous, be checked.”

Both laureates stressed the beneficial effect of the Prize which opens new vistas for their country through the support of the international community. Long overlooked, Mindanao is now the object of particular efforts by the government which has launched numerous development projects backed by bilateral funding agreements with countries such as Japan, Canada and Spain, and multilateral bodies such as the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme.

Mr Misuari stressed his determination to work on the consolidation of peace. He appealed to other rebel movements to cease fighting and sit at the negotiating table. President Ramos, for his part, said that the new conditions created in Mindanao “now favour the settlement of conflicts through other means than those of mutual extermination.”

He noted that sustained efforts are being carried out in the South of the Philippines for the development of local populations. More than US$1 billion have been raised for the improvement of port and airport infrastructures, for overland transportation, telecommunications, water supplies, social housing, health, basic education and other social services.

The Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize, given this year for the seventh time, was created in 1989 through a resolution unanimously adopted by UNESCO Member States. It bears the name of the former president of Côte d’Ivoire, “the wise man of Africa,” in tribute of his action for peace in the world.

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