The United Nations honored the late international peace activist Ralph Bunche Thursday, 100 years after he was born.

In 1950, Ralph Bunche became the first African-American, and first person of color of any origin, to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr. Bunche devoted much of his professional life to international service. He was a leading advocate of decolonization and served as an adviser on Africa in the U.S. Department of State.

From 1946 to 1971, he was an integral figure at the United Nations, where he worked to resolve the Palestinian conflict and oversaw U.N. involvement in the Congo when it first gained independence from Belgium.

Dr. Bunche organized the first U.N. peacekeeping force, and helped negotiate the first armistice agreements between Israel and the Arab states.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says Dr. Bunche made an impact on the United Nations that continues to reverberate today.

"We should all strive to recapture that spirit today. As we continue Bunche's efforts to rouse the world from complacency and indifference, we should do as Bunche did and ask what each one of us can do to build a safer and better world for all people," he said.

On the 100th anniversary of Ralph Bunche's birth, the United Nations joined with New York City politicians to commemorate Dr. Bunche's contributions with a U.N. commemorative postage stamp.

Congressman Charles Rangel says Dr. Bunche stood up against racial inequality during a period when it was unpopular to do so in the United States. He says Dr. Bunche remains a key figure in the history of American civil rights.

"There were people like Ralph Bunche who had the courage when it was not popular to come forward and to show that America could lead. I think that by paying homage to him today, we pay homage to ourselves for being here, and remind ourselves how much more we have to do," he said.

The Ralph Bunche Centenary Committee will commemorate Dr. Bunche's legacy for the next 12 months with lectures, documentary showings and educational exhibits.