Keynote Speech by Mr. Abhimanyu Singh

UN International Day of Peace Ceremony

Keynote  Speech

Mr. Abhimanyu Singh

Director and Representative

UNESCO Beijing Office

Office of the Representative to DPR Korea,

Japan, Mongolia, PR of China and Republic of Korea

Respected

Madam Chairperson Maria Ying-Matthews,

Consul General Mr Ralte,

Senator Wong,

Peace Ambassador Mr Michael Wong,

distinguished guests,

ladies and gentlemen.

It is my great honour to attend this event to share with you the impressions and hopes of the United Nations in China for this year’s International Day of Peace. I am here today wearing two “hats”; both as a representative of the United Nations family in China, and as Director and Representative of the UNESCO Office in Beijing. I would like to express our gratitude to the Peace International Foundation for inviting me to attend this important event.

Today, as a number of violent conflicts still continue in different parts of the world, it is time to renew efforts to stop the tragedy of war and conflict. Peace can be built only through action, and not with passivity.

The UN continues to lead efforts towards achieving global peace. As we have done every 21st of September since 1981, the UN Secretary General and the United Nations community make a global call to observe this International Day of Peace and to promote one of the most fundamental of human rights: the Right to Peace. Weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons continue to present one of the greatest threats to humanity. The use of such weapons has devastating consequences for they are the most powerful tool for destroying life. These weapons pose a serious threat to a world that wants and seeks peace. In recognition of this threat, the Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. Ban Ki Moon, has made a global call for states to react to the tragedy of war by taking part in a joint concrete action: disarmament.

This call is directed first to States and State leaders to join efforts in a global partnership for peace, imploring them to choose peaceful paths for resolution of international conflict.

Second, it is a call to all international organizations to strengthen their commitment to the promotion of peace and stability. With their capacity to act as tools for peace, build bridges between states and peoples and facilitating intercultural dialogue, international organizations are in a unique position to reinforce a system of collective security and to make the world a safer place.

But promoting peace is also the task of individuals. Indeed, it is the responsibility of all of us to take action in supporting a global movement for the construction of a Culture of Peace based on the universal values of respect for life, justice, solidarity, human rights and equality between men and women.

The 20th century left us a legacy of war and conflict among nations. Unfortunately, the 21st century started in a similar way. However it is not a time to despair, for the dream of having a better and safer world has not vanished. A reflection of the tremendous human cost of war and internal conflict has moved civil society to express, more vividly than ever, its desire for peace. Further, despite the ongoing conflicts, there are many examples of nations that have chosen the path of peace to resolve their disputes.

Peace is at the core of the work of the United Nations. Since its inception, the UN has been committed to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war“. In accordance with this commitment, countless efforts have been made to keep and promote peace and to prevent conflict. For example, as we speak, there are thousands of UN peacekeepers far away from their homes, risking their lives in many different locations to ensure that conflict ceases and does not recur.

And yet we need to do much more to achieve peace for all. Peace is much more than the absence of war. Through years of experience in many countries around the world, the UN has understood that peace can only be achieved through a framework of justice, freedom and tolerance.

In order to address the complex task of promoting a Culture of Peace globally, the UN General Assembly proclaimed the period 2001-2010 as the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World. The Culture of Peace promotes a change of thinking, based on values and attitudes that reject violence and promote dialogue and negotiation for the resolution of conflict.

The result has been positive, as many steps have been taken to promote a transition from a culture of war to a culture of peace. As a Representative of UNESCO, the leading agency in promoting a Culture of Peace, I am personally involved and committed to this task. Let me share with you some of the things the UN is doing collectively.

As Mahatma Gandhi famously stated: “If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children”. To this end, the UN is contributing its knowledge and experience to the creation of educational curricula, materials and text books that promote peace. Extensive work has also been done building awareness and capacity among teachers to improve their skills in acting as active agents of peace. Ensuring education for all is helping to spread this culture of peace, especially in those countries deeply affected by war.

As Peace cannot be achieved without justice, reduction of poverty and inequality is also one of our major challenges. In this regard, the UN is making efforts in promoting sustainable economic and social development, reducing inequalities and contributing to poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.

The overriding principle in our path to peace must be the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United Nations has established numerous internationally approved instruments to protect the rights of all, but especially the most vulnerable, aiming at eliminating all kinds of discrimination, inequality between women and men, and advancing the values of tolerance and solidarity.

However, globalization and the emergence of new challenges and threats to humankind has made the need for dialogue among peoples ever more topical. In this context, I am pleased to announce that the UN General Assembly endorsed UNESCO’s call for 2010 to be the International Year of Rapprochement of Cultures, which will involve activities on interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace throughout next year. The International Year of Rapprochement of Cultures provides an important opportunity for the UN to further encourage “Alliance of Civilizations” and “Dialogue among Civilizations”.

To conclude, the UN is supporting the Culture of Peace among nations, working for international peace and security, mediating in conflicts, acting to stop violence and encouraging confidence-building measures and efforts for negotiating peaceful settlements.

The Secretary-General’s call urges all states to engage in a comprehensive negotiation towards disarmament, increasing the transparency of national nuclear programs and providing assurance to non-nuclear States that they will not be the subject of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.

Today, I am sure I can speak for all of us in stating our strong support to the UN Secretary General for his message of peace to all nations and all peoples. Ultimately, we have no choice but to take the path of peace.

Let me finish with a powerful message from one of the greatest peace activists of our time, Mahatma Gandhi: “The cry for peace will be a cry in the wilderness, so long as the spirit of nonviolence does not dominate millions of men and women”.

Thank you.