NEW YORK, NY—Prominent ECPC member, H.E. Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury led the main panel discussion at the 2019 U.N. High-Level Forum on The Culture of Peace, held on September 13, 2019. The session, "The Culture of Peace: Empowering and Transforming Humanity", featured nine high-level speakers who addressed five essential components that characterize the ongoing global effort to advance The Culture of Peace: education that fosters free thought, democracy that embraces diversity, youth empowerment, refugee and women`s rights. Together, they explored The Culture of Peace concept as one that unites peoples of the world while also promoting diversity and respecting differences. They unanimously agreed that the times in which we live demand a heightened call to action.
(Illustration designed by the United Nations Branding and Graphic Design Unit, Department of Public Information, New York, 2019 for the UN High Level Forum on The Culture of Peace on the occasion of 20th anniversary observance)
UN Web TV | United Nations High Level Forum on The Culture of Peace - 20th Anniversary Convened by the President of the 73rd Session of the General Assembly
Keynote: His Royal Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Asantehene (King, Ashanti people of Ghana) Solidarity Message: H.E. Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, 2011
UN Web TV | Panel Discussion - The Culture of Peace: Empowering and Transforming Humanity
▼Highlights from the presentations made by the nine high-level panelists are captured below.
Chair and moderator
H.E. Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury is Founder of the Global Movement for The Culture of Peace, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh (1996-2001), and former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations (2002-2007).
H.E. Miguel A. Moratinos, High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
H.E. Nada Al-Nashif, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences
H.E. Gabriela Cuevas Barron, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
H.E. Jacqueline O’Neill, Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security
H.E. Mrs. Adela Raz, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations
H.E. Francisco Rojas Aravena, Rector, University for Peace
H.E. Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Chairman of the Foundation for a Culture of Peace and former UNESCO Director-General
H.E. Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Talk 1. 20 Years of Movement Towards A Culture of Peace
Chairman and moderator, H.E. Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury welcomed audience members to the afternoon discussion. He highlighted that the 2019 High-Level forum coincided with the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace. He gave a brief history of how this historic UN declaration and program of action emerged in the aftermath of the Cold War. He recalled his involvement as chair during the nine-months of open-ended negotiations that led to the agreement and adoption of the declaration. He was pleased to present the 20th anniversary commemorative edition of said document whose scope he saw as transcending boundaries, cultures, societies and nations.
Ambassador Chowdhury explained that The Culture of Peace as a concept that is beyond “peace”, which is for diplomats or politicians, a concept that means every individual is a key actor who needs to seek non-violence and peace on a daily basis. He emphasized the importance of a peaceful, respectful way of relating to other people that is without aggression, neglect or prejudice. He stated the importance of the eight action areas of The Culture of Peace as being reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), determined by the UN to tackle the global challenges we face in pursuing a better and sustainable future for all.
Ambassador Chowdhury pointed out three key avenues of global movement for The Culture of Peace:
Education systems that not only prepare students to lead fulfilling lives but also to become responsible citizens of the world
Women as crucial to maintaining development and peace
Empowering and recruiting children and youth into The Culture of Peace
Ambassador Chowdhury explained the long-term nature of the ongoing movement for The Culture of Peace and quoted the former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, Kofi Annan:
“Over the years, we have come to realize that it is not enough to send peacekeeping forces to separate warring parties. It is not enough to engage in these building efforts after societies have been ravaged by conflict. It is not enough to conduct preventive diplomacy. All of this is essential work, but we want enduring results. We need, in short, the culture of peace.”
He then spoke of peace as something that is inside all of us, somethings that needs to be nurtured and promoted by all to flourish. He reflected on Nobel Peace laureate Leymah Gbowee`s speech on the importance of solidarity, delivered that morning before the General Assembly and echoed the role of peace in creating happy, satisfied societies.
Early childhood development advances The Culture of Peace
Ambassador Chowdhury concluded by acknowledging that the theme of the 71st Session of the 2017 United Nations High-level Forum on the Culture of Peace, “Sowing the seeds of The Culture of Peace: Early childhood development is the beginning” had been prompted by the vision and goals of the ECPC in parallel with the vision of the United Nations Declaration on the Culture of Peace, and SDGs. ECPC Chair, Rima Salah, PhD spoke during the 71st Session main panel discussion on the transformative power of early childhood development (ECD) in building and promoting a ‘Culture of Peace’, emphasizing that children and families be put at the center of all U.N. efforts for peace.
Talk 2. Embracing a Plan of Action that Establishes Peace over Security
In his opening remarks, H.E. Miguel A. Moratinos, High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, expressed gratitude to H.E. Federico Mayor Zaragoza, former Director-General of UNESCO who founded The Culture of Peace program. He condemned the violent and terrorist attacks happening globally against different religious groups including Jewish, Christian and Muslim people, and the surge in hatred and xenophobia. He offered a plan of action that would follow five principles:
Respect for all
Responsibility to build bridges of communication and understanding
Diversity and accepting differences
Dialogue as a tool for better communication and engagement with one another
Solidarity to support one another, especially at times of sorrow and trouble
Mr. Moratinos described the necessity of a paradigm shift that sees peace as the way to security and not the other way around. He spoke about going beyond tolerating others: respecting others and defending the citizenship rights of minorities. He underscored the need for listening to one another to create an alliance that can uproot hate and division, for a united humanity having many diverse cultures. Mr. Moratinos talked about his recent experience at the 10th Congress of Religions for Peace in Lindau, Germany where 800 religion leaders from 100 countries came together. At the end of the congress, a sculpture was built to designate the site as a ring of peace. Mr. Moratinos ended his talk by inviting everyone to join hands together and make lasting rings of peace that will protect humanity:
“Let's create rings for peace ourselves, so that we are together naturally and support peace, but also press the ring for peace as an alarm bell to remind ourselves the seriousness of the situation, and the urgent need to work collectively to sustain our culture of peace.”
Talk 3. Need for Multi-disciplinary, Evidence-based Peace Building Efforts to Counteract the Rise of Hateful Political Rhetoric
H.E. Ms. Nada Al-Nashif, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, spoke about the birth of UNESCO and the realization of peace in the world as humanity`s greatest wish after two world wars:
“Since wars begin in the minds of men and women, it is in the minds of men and women that the defenses of peace must be constructed. UNESCO has therefore been entrusted since the beginning with building a peace which is more than absence of conflict and violence.”
She reflected on the rise of racism, discrimination, polarization and the related global decline in peacefulness according to the 2019 Global Peace Index. Ms. Al-Nashif spoke about the rise of excessive populism and the endangerment of cultural diversity, refugee rights, universal values and fundamental freedoms. She emphasized the need for empathy to craft an inclusive and sustainable future. She pointed out that these efforts are falling behind and underlined the need for a better connection with real world challenges: “So beyond declarations, there is a need for real tested and tried experiments on the ground.”
She explained that peace building efforts need to embrace the politically contested nature of peace, be inclusive and nationally owned, understand structures, institutions of the region and tackle grievances before they escalate into full-fledged violence. She mentioned research initiatives and a publication that came out last year, The Long Walk of Peace: Towards a Culture of Prevention. This publication suggests that peacebuilding needs to be multidisciplinary and work through different tracks involving all stakeholders. She spoke of the next research initiative which will target the compilation of a compendium on innovative practices in interreligious dialogue and its role in conflict resolution and peace. She concluded,
“We must be honest and practical and evidence-based about the areas in which we have more work to do if we are to step up to the challenge of responding better, and I mean with greater relevance, with greater agility and with much more courage.”
Talk 4. Parliaments as Hubs of Plurality, Social Justice, Representation and Peace
Senator Gabriela Cuevas Barron, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, addressed the audience in Spanish and spoke of the importance of parliaments for The Culture of Peace. She pointed out that the political plurality in a parliament and diversity in gender, religion and ethnicity allow different opinions to be expressed. She underlined that understanding such plurality enriches decisions of societies and makes them fully inclusive. As a contrast, she spoke of hateful voices that seek to incite xenophobia, supremacist propaganda and make them into something politically acceptable or even politically beneficial. She emphasized that members of parliaments and politicians need to learn from mistakes made during the last century and prioritize tolerance and democracy to move towards peace and development.
Senator Barron spoke of a huge responsibility on the part of parliaments to set an example by using inclusive dialogue. She then pointed out the gender and age inequality in parliaments:
“…for every 100 members of parliament, only 24 are women…if we look at parliaments, for every 100 members of parliament, only 2.2% are under 30 years old. Three quarters of the countries in the world have laws which prohibit candidatures from people who are under 30, whereas this makes up a huge proportion of the population of the planet as do women. If we truly want to have spaces for plurality, representation, and inclusion, then it is crucial that there'd be commitment by all countries to generate spaces.”
She criticized powerful leaders who claim there could be national solutions to global and regional problems to win elections. She underscored the need for multi-laterality and defending plural representative spaces for empowering leadership and transforming the planet. She reminded the audience that 2030 is the deadline of the Development Agenda and concluded,
“We have just a little over 10 years to transform our global reality, to make this planet into one which is more inclusive and more just. But one of the most important requirements is that it is a planet at peace.”
Talk 5. Culture of Peace: Tackling Racial Injustices and Gender Biases
H.E. Ambassador Jacqueline O'Neill, the world's first Ambassador (Canada) for Women, Peace, and Security, expressed her gratitude for Ambassador Chowdhury for his great contributions to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and The Culture of Peace efforts overall. She reflected on the indigenous issues in her homeland, Canada and the importance of striving towards reconciliation with indigenous peoples as a testament of the country`s success and vitality. She spoke of the negative biases towards women regarding their leadership skills and the need for female representation at the highest levels of political negotiations, security and peace efforts. She remarked that the pursuit of peace needs to be as well funded as the pursuit or the conquest of war.
“We must understand and challenge and confront our biases, and value very different models of leadership, and hold them up in our communities. Part of the solution of enabling these different models is through sufficient funding. So civil society, especially at the grassroots level, is constantly scrambling to fund our next project”.
Ms. O’Neill provided an example of different funding sources and spoke of the Women Deliver Conference hosted in Vancouver in June 2019. She shared how they worked with the philanthropic community, with the private sector, with for profit and not-for-profit organizations to mobilize new resources.
Talk 6. The Importance of Women, Youth and Freedom of Press in Conflict Zones
H.E. Ambassador Mrs. Adela Raz, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, talked about the continuing violence in her country, ongoing efforts for political settlement, and the strengthening of democratic institutions and reforms. She spoke of the Women’s Economic Agenda and how transformative it can be to recruit women as active agents of the Afghan society.
Ambassador Raz pointed out that freedom of the press is important to establish a culture of peace. She continued,
“Our media is run by our youth and in contradictory to a lot of countries where there is a concern of extremism and usually youth are the most vulnerable. For us, it's the other way around. Actually, our youth are more liberal, more open-minded, more connected to the outside world. So, there is a greater confidence in our younger generation and luckily our media is run by them.”
Ambassador Raz made a distinction between culture of peace and peace and pointed out the role of state-sponsored terrorism in creating conflict. She gave the example of a temporary ceasefire that enabled thousands of Taliban soldiers to come back into the cities without any violence and showed the tolerance that exists in the Afghan society.
Talk 7. Crucial Role Education Needs to Play in Raising Agents for Peace
H.E. Francisco Rojas Aravena, Rector of the University of Peace, underlined how central education is to promote peace through tolerance, peaceful coexistence and understanding in a multicultural atmosphere. He spoke of new global challenges that worsen inequality, exclusion, sectarianism, xenophobia, violence and the unprecedented environmental crisis. He pointed out that the SDGs and culture of peace actions are crucial in resolving these issues, and that the use of language as well as education are essential.
Dr. Aravena spoke of the 2,000 graduates of the University for Peace who are now new agents of peace. He explained that programs on international law, human rights, gender, peacebuilding and responsible management for sustainable economic development seek to contribute to a change in humanity towards the universal values promoted by the Charter of the United Nations. He referenced Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Ouided Bouchamaoui,member of the University for Peace, who highlighted that education generates confidence, confidence generates hope, and hope generates peace.
He concluded by expressing gratitude for Federico Mayor and quoted him,
“The reason for force must be replaced in everyone's mind by the force of reason. The culture of war and imposition must be replaced by the culture of peace and dialogue. This is why we're here with a high level of empathy to renew this path towards building a Culture of Peace. If we want peace, we must work for peace.”
Talk 8. Investing in Human Rights, Education and Dignity over Military Spending
H.E. Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Chairman of the Foundation for a Culture of Peace and former UNESCO Director-General, expressed his agreement with Minister Moratinos` earlier remarks on peace as being a daily personal behavior.
“What we must try is that every human being behaves in such a way that progressively we can make the transition from a culture of imposition, domination, to a culture of conciliation, mediation, word.”
Dr. Mayor pointed out that billions of dollars are invested in military expenditures every day while thousands of persons die of hunger and extreme poverty during the same 24 hours. He continued,
“What kinds of security is this? Is the security for the territories? No. It's the security of power. And now we must change.”
He continued to emphasize the five priorities for human beings that should be more important than any gross national product: food, water, health, environmental care and delegation. He pointed out that education is the key to determine such priorities. He explained that real education is different from specializing in a field:
“What really matters in an educated person is to be free. Freedom. Freedom is the most important faculty that has the human beings, to be free. To be able to decide by yourself. Never, never act at the dictate of any body, or any kind of dogmatism, or any kind of fanaticism of supremacy”.
Dr. Mayor reiterated the importance of concepts mentioned by previous speakers such as multilateralism, diversity and gender equality. He recounted a meeting he had with Nelson Mandela and quoted him on the relationship between women and peace:
“…and women will be the corner stone of the new era…because women only exceptionally utilize force, while men only exceptionally do not”.
He concluded by emphasizing the need for reason and dialogue for The Culture of Peace.
9. Conclusion: Building Bridges of Peace and Solidarity
Meet María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President-elect of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA)
H.E. Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, expressed her appreciation to each panelist for their important contributions. She spoke of her personal conviction that the United Nations and its culture of peace efforts need to be made relevant to all people everywhere, no matter what their race, age, gender and socioeconomic status are.
She concluded, “So we have come a long way since 1999, we have much further to go and I invite you all to build bridges of peace and solidarity and to create an enabling environment for inclusion, equality, and education. We must never forget that the culture of peace begins in our hearts and minds and with our words and actions every day of our lives.”