The General Assembly this afternoon proclaimed the period 2001 to 2010 as the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World, as it concluded its consideration of a culture of peace.
By adopting without a vote the text on the Decade, recommended by the Economic and Social Council, the Assembly called on relevant United Nations bodies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), religious bodies and groups, educational institutions, artists and the media to actively support the Decade for the benefit of every child of the world.
The Assembly also invited the Secretary-General to submit, in consultation with Member States, relevant United Nations bodies and NGOs, a report to the Assembly at its fifty-fifth session and a draft programme of action to promote the implementation of the Decade at local, national, regional and international levels. Also, the Assembly invited Member States to take the necessary steps to ensure that the practice of peace and non- violence is taught at all levels in their respective societies.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, Alhaji Buhari Bala, said that the transition from the ways of confrontation to a culture of peace was a necessary prerequisite for meaningful socio-economic growth and sustainable development in any society, rich or poor, strong or weak, developed or developing. Unfortunately, instead of peace, the African continent had witnessed intractable conflicts and civil wars, which caused death, and destruction of lives and property.
Many speakers stressed that peace went beyond the absence of war. The representative of Mozambique said the achievement of a culture of peace demanded an enduring commitment to sharing a country's assets, while transcending particular and localized interests. Tolerance and reconciliation should not only be matters of concern among politicians and political elites, but also among families, communities and societies in general.
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Statements were also made by the representatives of the Philippines, Syria, Uzbekistan, Cote d'Ivoire, India, Sudan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Peru. The observer for the Holy See also spoke.
The representatives of Israel, Lebanon and Syria made statements in the exercise of the right of reply.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 12 November, to elect 18 members of the Economic and Social Council.
Assembly Work Programme
The Assembly met this afternoon to continue its consideration of a culture of peace and to take action on a related draft resolution.
Before the Assembly is a note by the Secretary-General (document A/53/370 and Add.1 and Add.2) transmitting a report containing a draft declaration and programme of action on a culture of peace. The proposals and suggestions in the report are the result of extensive consultations conducted by the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) with other representatives of the United Nations system.
By the terms of the draft declaration on a culture of peace, the Assembly would proclaim the declaration so that governments, civil society and institutions at all levels might be guided by its provisions and promote a global movement for a speedy transition from a culture of war and violence to a culture of peace and non-violence. The report also contains a draft programme of action outlining efforts to put into practice the values, attitudes, traditions, modes of behaviour and ways of life enunciated in the draft declaration.
The first addendum to the report contains a decision taken by the Executive Board of the Economic and Social Council inviting Member States, the United Nations and others to celebrate the International Year for the Culture of Peace in the year 2000. The second addendum contains a note on a meeting of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) during which the executive heads of all United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund agreed to work, within the framework of the ACC, to support the Year for the Culture of Peace.
By the terms of the draft resolution (document A/53/L.25), recommended by the Economic and Social Council, the Assembly would proclaim 2001-2010 the international decade for a culture of peace and non-violence for the children of the world. The Assembly would also call on the relevant United Nations bodies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), religious bodies and groups, educational institutions, artists and the media to actively support the decade for the benefit of every child of the world. It would also invite Member States to take the necessary steps to ensure that the practice of peace and non-violence is taught at all levels in their respective societies, including in educational institutions. (For further details see Press Release GA/9499, issued today.)
LETICIA R. SHAHANI (Philippines) said the challenge of promoting a culture of peace should be placed at the centre of the United Nations agenda. The principal task of the Organization was to link the various peace efforts throughout the world and to promote a global movement for peace.
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Census-building and joint actions were the strengths of the United Nations. While it was essential that the Organization and Member States cooperated with civil society in putting a culture of peace in place, governments must take the lead. They, more than any other institution in society, could effectively mobilize the resolve and the resources to sustain progress in building the concept.
CARLOS DOS SANTOS (Mozambique) said a culture of peace would not take root and could not produce the results aspired to unless governments and political and social actors undertook more vigorous action aimed at promoting human development, particularly in the fields of education, health and housing. On the other hand, communities and nations must also demonstrate their genuine willingness to embark on open and constant dialogue, tolerance and reconciliation as a means of problem-solving, and to abandon the culture of violence, hatred and revenge.
He said peace went beyond the absence of war. It demanded an enduring commitment to sharing a country's assets while transcending particular and localized interests. Tolerance and reconciliation should not only be matters of concern among politicians and political elites, but also among families, communities and societies in general. A culture of peace must be borne by all citizens as a unitary value, encompassing the ideas of peace and non-violence disseminated and transformed into an intrinsic part of the collective conscience of the people.
He said there was need to deepen "our collective understanding" of the concept of a culture of peace. It was a set of values, attitudes and behaviours and ways of living and acting. It was based on respect for life, the dignity and rights of humans and rejection of violence, including all forms of terrorism. It was also based on commitment to the principles of freedom, justice, solidarity, tolerance and understanding among all peoples.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said a culture of peace recognized the right of peoples to self-determination and meant more than merely the absence of war. There could be no peace with continued foreign occupation. The world needed peace education based on the renunciation of occupation, and focusing on cooperation and mutual support to close the gap between the wealthy and the poor. He asked how there could be talk of a peace culture when foreign occupation had not been ended and the poor grew poorer.
If the essence of a culture of peace was intervention to prevent the outbreak of armed conflict, then the international community had to discourage Israel from pursuing its policies -- which were contrary to a culture of peace -- and withdraw from the occupied territories, he said. The right of peoples to defend their land and sovereignty had to be an integral part of the peace culture. Syria felt that issues such as foreign occupation and nuclear weapons should have been included in the draft declaration and programme of action.
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ALISHER VOHIDOV (Uzbekistan) said that building the culture of peace should receive its due place among the priorities of the United Nations. Implementation of the programme of action for the culture of peace should imply coordination of efforts in that area. That programme should be complemented by national strategies. The UNESCO declaration on the culture of peace adopted at the 155th session of the Executive Board of UNESCO, which had taken place in Tashkent this month, reflected the main tasks facing humanity for the new millennium.
Regional and local conflicts, religious extremism, terrorism and illegal arms trafficking continued to pose a threat to regional and global stability and security, he said. To combat those threats, he believed it would be useful to increase interaction with the countries of Central Asia within the framework of the international programme, "UNESCO Bridge". Attaching great importance to the restoration of national culture, Uzbekistan believed that national heritage and self-awareness could not be separated from the common cultural heritage and universal values of mankind. The UNESCO had also contributed to the creation of an international institute for Central Asian studies in Samarkand, which revealed to the world the still unexplored history of the region.
PIERRE YERE (Côte d'Ivoire) said that his country was associated with the launching of today's debate. Almost, four decades ago, the concept of a culture of peace had been proposed by Côte d'Ivoire's first President, Felix Houphouet Boigny, which was enshrined at the International Peace Conference, organized by UNESCO in Yamoussoukro, in 1989. His country had had the courage to suggest dialogue as the way to settle disputes, at a time of liberation struggles and internal conflicts.
Training programmes for politicians and dialogue between politicians and civil society must be set up, he said. That was how the concept was applied in his country. He also cited the international Felix Houphouet Boigny award for peace research, created by UNESCO in 1989. Recipients of the award include Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and the International Court of Law in The Hague. The objectives of building a culture of peace outlined in the resolution would be achieved through education, science and communications which promoted peaceful behaviour.
ALHAJI BUHARI BALA, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, said that transition from confrontation to a culture of peace was a necessary prerequisite for meaningful socio-economic growth and sustainable development in any society, rich or poor, strong or weak, developed or developing. Peace was a basic human right that must be guaranteed to all, without discrimination as to gender, race or religious belief. Unfortunately, instead of peace, the African continent had witnessed intractable conflicts and civil wars, which caused death, and destruction of lives and property.
It was noteworthy that in executing its mandate, the United Nations now brought regional organizations on board in a cooperative effort, he continued.
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He hoped that the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) would continue to work closely together in their collective efforts to bring lasting peace and sustainable development to the continent. The success story of the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) clearly demonstrated that such regional initiatives stood a greater chance of success if promptly supported by the Security Council. He urged the United Nations not to relent in its efforts to provide ECOMOG with the support that it required. He also drew attention to the increased cooperation between the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The international community had a duty to create a global consensus and evolve the culture of peace in the minds of the people of the world.
A.C. JOSE (India) said the section on aims and strategies in the draft declaration was weak. The first point described the objective of a culture of peace as one of contributing to the prevention of violent conflicts. That was a partial and negative definition. The goal of a culture of peace was more positive and comprehensive and should aim at a much deeper level of human endeavour corresponding to the term "culture". One of the objectives of the draft programme of action had been defined as linking activities for the building of a culture of peace with such priorities as human rights, democracy, development, equality of women, tolerance and free flow of information.
If developing the culture of peace was viewed as the creation of a new culture, those activities would themselves constitute means of realizing it, he continued. There was hardly anything in the draft declaration on the means to be adopted for realizing the goals and objectives of the culture of peace. A full section in the draft declaration and the draft programme of action on the means to realize those goals would substantially strengthen the document. The role that development, economic cooperation and economic interdependence could play in contributing to a culture of peace also needed to be more fully explored.
In addition, he said, certain imbalances in the draft programme of action must be redressed because there was an attempt to put excessive emphasis on what was not directly within UNESCO's competence. That kind of emphasis made it a mechanical quick-fix process, rather than a process of changing an attitude of mind or pattern of behaviour. Such an emphasis detracted from the impact of ideas, which were fundamental parts of attitudes and patterns of behaviour. Finally, the draft left out some important positive ideas. Those ideas included, among others, the role of constructive pluralism, the search for common ethical values, the concepts of non-violence, measures to deal with poverty, deprivation and marginalization and the issue of governance.
ELFATIH MOHAMED AHMED ERWA (Sudan) said his country understood the concept of a culture of peace and wished to pay tribute to the huge role played by UNESCO in its promotion. The Sudan was a country disturbed by
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insurgency, and was fully aware of the social and economic effects of promoting a culture of peace. It had established close cooperation with UNESCO and had held two symposiums in 1995 and 1996 to encourage the peace process and national dialogue.
The peace process had begun with the holding of a conference for peace dialogue, he said. The conference had recommended the need to establish peace, and delegations had extended the olive branch to neighbouring countries. The campaign for peace in the Sudan was an attempt by its people to guarantee peace for future generations. The Khartoum peace accords demonstrated the application of a culture of peace in Sudan. Some of the points brought out in that agreement were the principles of freedom of faith, non-repression based on religion and sharing of wealth.
LIDIJA TOPIC (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said that considering her country's past, building a society which integrated tolerance, peace and love was a high priority. Her delegation strongly supported the recommendations in the report, hoping that such an action-oriented vision would contribute to the global spread of a culture of peace, and a democratic world without violence. It also supported those goals to enable its participation in the global community's efforts in building a more just society which would spare future generations from the scourge of war.
Those fears had already been inscribed in the young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, she said. She hoped those fears would be replaced by the awareness and comfort of a culture of peace. Finally, she proposed the integration of the positive spirit of the culture of peace as an overarching theme of the Millennium Assembly.
FERNANDO GUILLEN (Peru) said that his Government had introduced today's topic to the Assembly in 1995 and welcomed the objectives of the draft declaration. He believed it was especially relevant in the post cold-war period during which the Organization had been stretched beyond its limits by unexpected conflicts. Respect for human rights, the reassessment of the right to development and democracy, the importance of women's status and the rights of the child, were all reflected in the draft. The concrete measures proposed in the plan of action were neither political nor expensive, and the ideals contained within the programmes were already within grasp.
A follow-up system based on the Economic and Social Council's recommendations, such as educational campaigns and school programmes where hatred would not be taught, would be welcome, he said. A great deal more could be done in education through regional centres to promote disarmament and peace. He cited the memorial project in Senegal as an example of cultural relations dear to Peru. In sponsoring reconciliation, two proposals were important: developing a clear consciousness of peace through the mass media; and ensuring that the item was put on the Millennium Assembly's agenda.
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RENATO R. MARTINO, observer for the Holy See, said that peace was far more than the absence of war and violence; it required the establishment of social conditions which recognized the inherent worth of every individual. The peaceful coexistence of different races and cultures was one of the most pressing issues facing humanity today, which must be addressed in a spirit of open dialogue and collaboration.
Building a peaceful society required overcoming all forms of totalitarianism and promoting and assuring the active participation of minority groups in civil society, he said. In his 1997 World Day of Peace Message, Pope John Paul II had pointed out that the one must learn to read the history of other peoples without bias, striving to understand the point of view of the other. Truth also meant recognizing things for what they truly were: hatred was hatred; murder was murder; and massacres were massacres. Political or ideological motives and manipulations could not serve as an excuse to not do so. Justice would facilitate the long and painful process of reconciliation among peoples, as new seeds of conflict were sown when the truth was obscured or vengeance dominated. The media had a special responsibility to communicate what was happening in today's world.
The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the resolution by which it proclaimed 2001 to 2010 the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World.
Rights of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply CHAIM SHACHAM (Israel) said that it was regrettable that in today's discussion the Assembly had been subjected to inappropriate remarks by representatives of Lebanon and Syria. In keeping with the spirit of today's discussion, he wanted to clarify his country's position with regard to the achievement of a peaceful resolution between Israel and Lebanon.
Israel had no aspirations regarding Lebanon other than the achievement of peace, he continued. Israel hoped to establish a future of lasting peace for this and the next generation. However, there were organizations inside Lebanon which launched indiscriminate terrorist attacks against Israel, and which caused untold suffering and loss of lives. The children in northern Israel had to spend days in the bomb shelters, waiting for the next mortar-bomb or rocket salvo to explode. It was necessary to re-double efforts to build the culture of peace between the two nations. Israel had stated, on many occasions, that it stood ready to implement Security Council resolution 425 (1978) by which it called on Israel to withdraw from land it had occupied in southern Lebanon, within a framework that ensured the implementation of all its elements, including the stated goals of restoring international peace and security and assisting the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority. However, until such a satisfactory solution was found, Israel had no choice but to exercise its right to self-defence.
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He said that in view of the recent signing of the promising Wye River Memorandum between the Israelis and the Palestinians, now was an opportune time to engage in constructive discussions on the establishment of the necessary security arrangements in southern Lebanon as an important first step in the full implementation of resolution 425 (1978) and to re-engage in direct peace negotiations on both the Syrian and Lebanese tracks; talks which were initiated in Madrid in 1991 and which had been suspended for some time.
He reminded Syria that those talks had been convened on the basis of an agreement which had been accepted by all sides, including Israel and Syria. That document clearly stated that the negotiations were taking place on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), which defined principles for lasting peace in the Middle East. Consequently, a statement that his Government had rejected those resolutions was inaccurate. He urged Syria to re-engage in direct, bilateral peace negotiations with Israel on the basis of the Madrid formula and with no prior conditions, so that the two sides could achieve peace which had evaded them for so long.
HASSAN KASSEM NAJEM (Lebanon), also in right of reply, said that the Security Council had condemned the occupation of Israeli forces. Israel had referred to the "baseless references" made in the morning. The truth was that the forces of occupation had not believed in any law, values or human rights. Some examples were actual facts: in the town of Qana, Israeli forces had massacred innocent civilians, including women and children. That attack, which was later called "the grapes of wrath", was directed against the people of Lebanon. The holiness of the sight where Christ had performed his miracles meant nothing to the forces of occupation. Israel daily committed aggression against peaceful villages and violated human rights of the people of Lebanon. Israeli forces of occupation had rejected the implementation of resolution 425 (1978), calling for immediate and unconditional withdrawal from the south of Lebanon. The occupation forces had engaged in bombardment and invasion, but they had not succeeded and would not succeed, because Lebanon would not tolerate the occupation. Resolutions of international legitimacy and the principle of land-for-peace should be implemented.
Branding the Lebanese people as terrorists because they rejected the forces of Israeli occupation was wrong, he continued. Did Israel believe that the world did not see how those forces inflicted devastation on Lebanon, disregarding all the relevant resolutions? he asked. What Israel called terrorism was valid resistance guaranteed as a right by international laws and norms. Lebanon was fighting for the unconditional withdrawal from all occupied territories. By today's remarks, Israel wanted to divert international attention and avoid withdrawal from the occupied territories. That was an open attempt to prolong its occupation and aggression. The international community had a right and a duty to know the facts about the suffering of the people of Lebanon.
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FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that his delegation was not surprised by the response of the Israeli delegation, because the Israeli Government did not believe in a culture of peace. The most dangerous enemies to peace were those that pretended to promote such a culture. In spite of relevant Security Council resolutions and the success of the Madrid peace conference, the Middle East region was still living on the brink of disaster due to the Israeli rejection of the peace process and its shirking of its duties agreed to under the Madrid peace process. Millions of children and Palestinian people who had suffered due to the Israeli occupation called out to the world to support the peace process. He called for the establishment of a just and comprehensive solution based on relevant resolutions.
It would be a mistake to view a culture of peace as mere statements, he continued. Instead, a commitment was necessary to eliminate the root causes of war and violence. Was there any greater danger to peace than the Israeli occupation of the land of others for more than 30 years and the displacement of millions of women and children? he asked. Was the build-up of Israel's nuclear arsenal and its rejection of a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone, the embodiments of a culture of peace or one of war? Until this moment, the Israeli Government had continued to reject negotiations, as they had for more than two and a half years. Syria saw a need to resume negotiations from the point at which they had stopped.
Mr. SHACHAM (Israel) said it was clear to all that disagreements existed between Israel and Syria, and between Israel and Lebanon. Yet, there was an agreed upon framework -- the Madrid framework -- with which to work with. He suggested that the disagreements be worked out by returning to that framework.
Mr. MEKDAD (Syria) said he was not attempting to prolong the dialogue, but wanted to put forth the actual truth. Syria believed in the principles of the Madrid peace process, but the current Israeli Government was the one placing conditions on its resumption, because it wanted to go back to square one in the talks and eliminate past achievements. He confirmed that Syria was ready to immediately start the peace process from where it stopped.
Mr. NAJEM (Lebanon) said he had to once again reply to the representative of the occupying Power. The occupying forces had to apply the relevant resolutions and withdraw from all occupied territories. On all the other tracks, Lebanon was ready for negotiations starting from where they stopped. However, Israel did not respect its commitments under the Madrid peace accords, the conditions under the relevant Security Council resolutions, or the land-for-peace principle.
SUBHAS CHANDRA MUNGRA (Suriname), Acting-President of the Assembly, said that an additional draft resolution containing on the draft declaration and programme of action on the culture of peace would be submitted at a later date.
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