Welcoming Address by Horst Köhler, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, at the Peace Pole Dedication with the Goi Peace Foundation

December 19, 2002

Washington, D.C., December 19, 2002

Mr. & Mrs. Saionji, distinguished guests, dear colleagues:

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the IMF on the occasion of the dedication of the Goi Peace Foundation's Peace Pole. I am greatly honored that the Goi Peace Foundation chose to present our institution with this potent symbol of the importance of world peace.

The principles espoused by the Goi Peace Foundation of reverence for life and nature, the respect of cultural and religious diversity, and the importance of spiritual values, are indeed ours as well. When the IMF was created at the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, the Second World War was not yet over. But those sitting around the table in New Hampshire in 1944 were determined not to repeat the mistakes that contributed to two world wars in the first half of the 20th century. In the era of peace that they yearned and strived for, cooperation, dialogue, and mutual trust, within a rules-based system, were to replace the distrust and unilateral economic policies of the 1930s, in particular.

The IMF's Articles of Agreement, our founding charter adopted at that historic conference, reflect the deep-seated conviction that an institution dedicated to the promotion of international monetary cooperation and the balanced expansion of international trade, can encourage economic stability - as a critical building block of a durable peace among nations. I am strongly convinced that this task remains as important today as it was in 1946.

Mrs. Saionji's focus on Children as Peacemakers reminded me of an historic speech given by Václav Havel. When Eastern and Central Europe emerged from over 40 years of often brutal repression, the dissident playwright Václav Havel became President of Czechoslovakia. In his inaugural address, he expressed wonderment and surprise at the enthusiasm of the young people who took to the streets and toppled the creaking dictatorship. "Where did young people who never knew another system get their longing for truth, their love of free thought, ... their civic courage?" he asked. Havel's answer was that "People are never merely a product of the external world - they are always able to respond to something superior, however systematically the external world tries to snuff out that ability".

The universal yearning for peace and the shared values across cultures is also well-illustrated by the eminent theologian Hans Küng, who recently prepared an exhibition, which we hosted here at the IMF, entitled "World Religions, Universal Peace, Global Ethic". The exhibition illustrated vividly how much common ground exists between the major religions and philosophies of the world. I share the universality of Hans Küng's message. As we try to harness the global forces of change to ensure the benefit of all world citizens, I believe that guidance provided by fundamental ethical principles, principles common to all civilizations are important, yes, essential for an international institution such as the IMF. Economics and finance do not exist in a vacuum, but are expressions of human endeavor. Decisions are taken by people, affecting other people, sometimes on the other side of the globe. It is our responsibility, as human beings, to ensure that those decisions always rest on a solid ethical foundation.

Let me conclude by commending the Goi Peace Foundation for its dedication to universal peace. We share your commitment, and through our work we will continue to strive to make the world a more stable and peaceful place.


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