By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS (IDN) – A High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace, which took place on September 6, had an explicit message to the world at large.
The Forum underlined the importance of peace at a time when Ukraine, a sovereign nation-state, is being annihilated by Russia, one of the world’s major nuclear powers and a permanent member of the Security Council. (P14) ITALIAN | JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF | KOREAN | TURKISH
At the same time, a rash of military conflicts and never-ending civil wars in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Ethiopia, Libya and Myanmar are crying out for peaceful resolutions and political stability.
This year’s Forum is taking place at a time “when the world is experiencing persistence and proliferation of violence and conflicts in various parts of the world,” according to a “Concept Note” from the UN.
“These are adding to the existing practices of discrimination, and intolerance, including those based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or another opinion, national or social origin, access to the property, disability, birth or other status, many of which have exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It was on 13 September 1999 that the UN General Assembly adopted, by consensus and without reservation, its pioneering resolution 53/243 on the Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace.
Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, who is credited for his pioneering initiative at the UN General Assembly for the adoption of the landmark Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, told IDN that for two decades and half, “my focus has been on advancing the culture of peace which aims at making peace and non-violence a part of our own self, our own personality”.
This has now become more pertinent amid the ever-increasing militarism, militarization and weaponization that is destroying both our planet and our people, he pointed out.
“Often, I am asked how the UN is doing in the implementation of the Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace”.
“I believe that the Organization should own it and internalize its implementation throughout the UN system”, said Ambassador Chowdhury, who is also credited for the 1998 proclamation of the ‘International Decade for Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2010)‘.
He said the UN Secretary-General should prioritize the culture of peace as a part of his leadership agenda. He should make good use of this workable tool that the UN possess in the culture of peace programme to advance the objective of sustainable peace.
“Not using the tool of the culture of peace is like a person who needs a car to go to work and has a car… but with a minimal interest in knowing how to drive it.”
“One lesson that I have learned from my advocacy is that to prevent our history of war and conflict from repeating itself; the values of non-violence, tolerance, human rights and democratic participation will have to be germinated in every woman and man – children and adults alike,” said Ambassador Chowdhury, who was a former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN
In his address to the Forum, Abdulla Shahid, the outgoing President of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly, defined the Culture of Peace as “a set of values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation among individuals, groups and nations”.
“From this, we understand that a sustainable peace does not endure merely through the absence of violence or conflict. Rather, it requires our communities making continuous efforts to understand one another and to overcome differences through dialogue and respect.”
Towards this end, a culture of peace promotes a shift of behaviour within and between different layers of societies, ranging from states and communities to families and individuals, he noted.
“The principles of cohesion and inclusivity underlying it are especially important in today’s complex world filled with borderless challenges—such as pandemics, climate change, disinformation and economic uncertainty.
Each of these challenges has cross-cutting repercussions affecting the likelihood of conflict,” Shahid declared.
Speaking on behalf of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Ambassador Sovann Ke, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations, said the Forum’s theme reflects the enduring value of the culture of peace amidst the global challenges ranging from climate crises to COVID-19, to regional conflicts to food insecurity, among others.
He said the principles of justice, equality and inclusion must be at the core of national and international efforts to sustaining peace and advancing peacebuilding initiatives.
In the context of SDG Goal 16 on “promoting peaceful and inclusive societies,” ASEAN believes that there can be no meaningful development without these core principles.
Fifty-five years ago, the Founders of ASEAN envisioned an Organization at the forefront of an evolving, rules-based regional architecture that promotes “regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter.”
With over 630 million people, ASEAN embraces a culture of peace as a core value of a politically cohesive, economically integrated, socially responsible, people-oriented and people-centred community.
ASEAN firmly believes that regional organizations and the United Nations have unique and complementary capacities to address key issues for the common good.
Strengthening a Culture of Peace is the path to advancing peacebuilding efforts, he declared.
In a statement before the Forum, India said, a Culture of Peace is the foundation for a global order of peace and tolerance. It is the prerequisite to build inclusive and tolerant societies.
“This is of greater significance in our efforts to advance peacebuilding in post-conflict and conflict-affected situations. The UN Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace has provided an effective blueprint for multilateral action to promote solidarity and understanding.”
In today’s world, where intolerance, hatred, violence and terrorism have almost become the norm, the need to reaffirm our abiding commitment to promote a culture of peace has become more relevant than ever before, said the statement.
The current pandemic has underscored the interconnectedness and interdependence of humankind like never before. Such testing times call for enhancing mutual support, compassion and cooperation.
“At a time when we face increasingly widening divisions and fissures between the Member States, we urge for strengthened international efforts to foster a global dialogue on the promotion of a culture of peace, and reaffirming that inter-religious dialogue should be inclusive, broader and encompasses all religions and faiths”.
“Peacebuilding efforts, which adhere to the principles of democracy, pluralism, compassion, cultural diversity, dialogue and understanding form the basis of a Culture of Peace.”
India’s fundamental approach to peacebuilding efforts is anchored in respect for national ownership and the developmental priorities of member states.
In today’s world, intolerance, hatred, violence, and terrorism have almost become the norm.
In its “Concept Note”, the UN points out that the consequences of conflicts as well as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to, inter alia, economic downturn, social instability, rise in inequalities, and increased governance challenges and have been posing serious global as well as national challenges to peace and security.
All these, along with pre-existing vulnerabilities, have left poorer segments of society, especially those living in post-conflict and conflict-affected countries, more susceptible to violence and insecurity.
“In order to tackle this, there is no alternative to investing in peacebuilding and sustaining peace, with a view to build a common vision of a society, ensuring that the needs of all segments of the population are taken into account.”
Such vision encompasses activities aimed at preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict and addressing root causes. At the same time, there is an urgent need to eliminate discrimination and inequalities and promote social cohesion and inclusive development to ensure no one is left behind.
As elaborated in the UNGA resolution on the culture of peace, the empowerment of people to address the challenges in a peaceful and nonviolent way is an essential component.
The values promoted by the concept of the Culture of Peace are defined by its Declaration and Programme of Action through eight specific areas of actions, which include education, sustainable economic and social development, human rights, equality between women and men, democratic participation, understanding, tolerance & solidarity, freedom of information and communications, and advancing peace and security through disarmament and peaceful resolution of conflicts. [IDN-InDepthNews – 09 September 2022]
Image credit: United Nations