Synopsis of the UN High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace

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Statement at the closing of UN High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace on behalf of the President of the UN General Assembly

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency, Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, I want to thank you for participating in this High-Level Forum.

Our discussions today were very rich. They brought many aspects and issues to the table. And, I will not be able to summarise them in a few minutes.

Instead, I will focus on three areas – which I think came to the fore.


Photo from the Culture of Peace Initiative

I. Sustaining Peace

First, we talked about the state our world is in, when it comes to peace.

And a lot of it was far from positive. Many of you pointed to the changing nature of conflicts. From more interstate violence…… to the proliferation of non-state and terrorist actors.

Others talked about the devastating effects of conflicts in their own countries.

So, we heard about a lot of pain and suffering. But we also listened to many messages of hope. In particular, on the topic of Sustaining Peace.

It was clear that there is wide support for this new approach. And we heard that it can be a credible pathway to a culture of peace.

For example, in Liberia. The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country has now closed its doors. And Liberians have turned peace from an objective into a tangible part of daily life.

Also, Colombia was flagged as another example. This country was home to armed conflict for over five decades. But, now, a culture of peace is growing stronger every day.

These achievements were made possible through hard work and sustained investment

– by national actors, regional partners and the international community.
Our discussion showed that the potential of Sustaining Peace is huge. We are already harnessing some of it. But a lot remains untapped.

Many of you argued that certain tools should be used more by the United Nations

– from good offices and mediation support ……to longer-term peacebuilding partnerships. And you pointed to gaps at the regional and national levels.
So, we still have work to do.

II. Coherence Across Pillars

Secondly, I think we acknowledged something important today. Which is: if we want to achieve a culture of peace, we need to look beyond, just, peace.

Many of you stressed the vital role played by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Ms. Rigoberta Menchu told us that inequalities and exclusion can destroy the conditions needed for a culture of peace to thrive. And we heard about how poverty eradication, and inclusive growth, can increase the chances of peace taking hold.

Today’s Forum also placed major emphasis on education. I want to repeat a line from the Constitution of UNESCO, which was quoted today: “Wars begin in the minds of men”.

Of course, wars begin in the minds of both men and women. So, the sooner we can promote peace, in the minds of both men and women, the better. And that means starting from the first days of a child’s education.

Climate change also featured in our Forum. Some of you raised the warning flags. And you told us that the effects of climate change can spark or worsen conflict.

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Question(s) related to this article:

What is the United Nations doing for a culture of peace?

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We also talked about finance. We heard that too much money is flowing towards securitisation and armaments. But not enough is being used to stop conflict at its roots – and invest in drivers of peace. Other delegations argued that illicit financial flows pose a threat to peace and security. And we heard resounding calls for more predictable financing for Sustaining Peace.

Human rights form another issue which came up, again and again, today. We heard speakers and delegates from all over the world call for a human-rights-based approach to both peace and development.

Almost every delegation flagged gender equality as a priority. A culture of peace cannot exist without it. That was clear, before this Forum. But our discussions today have reaffirmed it. Some women are actors of conflict. And many, many others are agents of peace. But all must lead, participate and be counted.

Moreover, an emphasis was placed on young people. Some of you stressed that the vast majority of young people are passionate about peace. So, yes, we do need more action, to prevent young people from joining terrorist groups or mobilising for violence. But we also need far more support for the young people who are out there, on the ground, working for peace.

III. Partnerships

A third theme today was partnerships.

Governments shared some best practices. These ranged from support to the United Nations peacebuilding activities to efforts for national reconciliation or inter-religious dialogue.

Moreover, regional actors featured strongly. We heard a lot about the efforts of regional organisations – from ASEAN and the EU to the African Union- in supporting peacebuilding on the ground.

And we learned about innovative efforts, led by the United Nations, to create partnerships for peace.This includes exciting work by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund to partner with other UN entities and national actors. But we also heard calls for more coherence, across the UN’s work. Various delegations also argued that the ongoing reform of the UN’s Peace and Security Pillar is crucial to creating a culture of peace.

And, there were calls for broader partnerships. Some of you said that the private sector should play a bigger role. Many stressed that think tanks and academic institutions, like the Peace and Justice Institute, are crucial in providing data and research.

And we heard how the media can help to spread messages of peace – particularly among children and young people.

So, in essence, we all agreed that we cannot achieve a culture of peaceon our own.

Conclusion

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I want to thank you all again for taking part in this Forum. Particular thanks must go to Ambassador Chowdhury – for his commitment to this issue.

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.

And, as we look towards it, I want to mention one other message that came from our Forum today.

It was one of humanity.

Today, we all acknowledged our differences.

The understanding of a culture of peace differed from delegation to delegation – and person to person.

There was no uniform definition. Because, there are differences between us – whether based on religion, culture, language, or politics. But they do not need to hold us back.

Humanity can be the foundation of a culture of peace. It can be the bedrock.
Our differences and diversity, however, can give it colour.

So, we look to the 20th anniversary, next year, let’s focus more than ever on our humanity.

Because, it is our guarantee that a culture of peaceis possible.

Thank you.

(Thank you to Anwarul Chowdhury and the GMCOP for sending us this speech)

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