In memory of Olof Palme
Statement by KOFI ANNAN commemorating the life of Olof Palme
Today, we commemorate the life and work of Olof Palme, a courageous leader and a visionary.
A statesman of the highest integrity, he was tireless in his pursuit of peace, justice, and democracy, both at home and abroad.
He stood against injustice where ever he saw it – from the war in Vietnam to repression in Eastern Europe and to apartheid South Africa.
Thirty years on, his legacy continues to inspire us through the work of the Olof Palme International Center and the Memorial Prize which bears his name. I was greatly honored to receive this prize in 2006 and to become a part of that legacy.
As we look back on the life of this extraordinary leader, I urge all of us to follow his example in the pursuit of the great ideals which he represented. He showed us that principled and determined leadership can shape a better world.
Geneva, February 2016
Rarely does the word “love” make an appearance in the lexicon of international relations and diplomacy; however, in Palestine, we actually love Sweden and, in specific, we have long harbored a deep and abiding affection for Olof Palme and his legacy. As champion of the oppressed, defender of the vulnerable, protector of the victim, and the voice of the silenced, Olof Palme has come to embody the undefeated conscience of humanity. His legacy in Palestine persists as the courageous pursuit of peace with justice; the undefeated spirit of resistance to colonialism, occupation, and apartheid; and the revitalizing empowerment of genuine and active solidarity with the long-maligned Palestinian people. He gave us recognition when we were ostracized by the powerful, and in that spirit Sweden has recently recognized the State of Palestine. He gave us hope in the dark days of exclusion, denial and negation, and Sweden still valiantly speaks truth to power on our behalf. He challenged the forces of power politics and subjugation to set us free, and Sweden remains our unwavering companion on our arduous quest for liberation and historical redemption. For all that and more, Olof Palme and Sweden have our undying gratitude and love.
February 6, 2016
PLO Executive Committee
DAW AUNG SAN SUU KYI
I would like to thank the people of Sweden for their commitment to supporting the rights of people across the world to live in freedom and dignity. On this 30th anniversary of the tragic and senseless assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme, his memorial fund is a proud legacy, an affirmation that humanity will ultimately prevail over violence and hatred, and that even the most intractable conflicts can, with courage and dialogue, be gradually healed.
I remember the audacity, the courage, and the generosity of Olof Palme when he decided to support our fight against racism all over Europe.
Olof Palme died thirty years ago, but his message of peace, fraternity and hope is still alive and more necessary than ever, because no one can kill ideas of such a giant among men. His legacy and his memory are an inspiration for each new fight.
French Minister of State for EU Affairs
”In Latin America the struggle to defend Freedom of Expression and all Human Rights has become a moral imperative for millions of men and women. Children talk about their rights and recognize the value of life and self-determination. Olof Palme is amongst us, his memory lives around the world. We have not solved the injustice he so brilliantly and honestly confronted, but we certainly have learned the power a rebel and responsible citizen can have to bring peace, one day at a time. We are Palme´s utopia. We must celebrate the ones that cleared the path for us to walk towards freedom.”
Mexico, February 2016
No elected leader has represented the compassion, commitment to justice and urgency of human rights in the world more than the extraordinary Olof Palme. Even his tragic death at the hands of a lost and tortured soul has not diminished his inextinguishable passion for protecting the most vulnerable and abused in our society. His life and legacy has created an enduring call to action that can’t be ignored or forgotten and that resonates around the world. I am deeply honored to be connected to his name and mission through the Olaf Palme Memorial Award.
Bryan Stevenson, Director
Equal Justice Initiative, Montgomery, Alabama
In 2011 I came to Sweden to receive the Olof Palme Prize together with Lydia Cacho. The sensation I felt was exactly the same I had back in 2008, when I was invited by the Nobel Academy: I felt like I was in a place that I wasn’t really familiar with but that felt like home nonetheless. And to me, feeling at home is not properly granted. Ever since I live under police escort, I am often more of a burden than a welcome guest to the countries I am travelling to. Each time I depend on the Embassies or on the decisions of the Home Office: they will let me know only a few hours before departure how my situation will be handled. Whether I will be free or I will have to wait for someone to pick me up at the airport and take care of my security all along. Whether my hotel room will be manned by policemen or not. Usually, the time that passes between my request and the response of the authorities is directly proportional to the bother, as a result of the fears related to handling a dangerous guest. Well, nothing like that ever happened to me in Sweden. I was always welcomed with open arms, with affection and deep sympathy by my editor, by the Olof Palme Foundation, by my colleagues and journalists, by the institutions and by readers. I’ve always felt at home because I was sensing that a certain idea of Europe as a community based on solidarity was still alive. And this idea was precisely the one that the Italian first europeanists Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi had theorized in the works I funded my education on. Olof Palme tried to embody that dream and with his experiences and his sacrifice he blazed the way in this direction for Sweden. I am sure that we must look up to Olof Palme’s lesson when we cope with the flows of migrants that seek asylum today: a policy of tolerance, of welcoming practices and inclusion, able to keep away violence and war. Without this embrace, our fate will be that of a silent war, fought without any declaration, and it is not a matter of choosing the right side of the barricade, it is a matter of tearing down the barricades. In his ”Prince” Machiavelli wrote: to build new castles means only new sieges. It was 1513.
It was a great honor and pleasure for me when I received the Olof Palme award for human rights.
Olof Palme had enough moral and political courage to support the nobelst causes of the twentieth century particularly Vietnam and Palestine. He opposed apartheid in South Africa . He was one of the most respectable figures in the World.