GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS TEXTS TO REINFORCE 'CULTURE OF PEACE' IN CONFLICT-RIDDEN WORLD

10 November 2003
GA/10207

GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS TEXTS TO REINFORCE 'CULTURE OF PEACE' IN CONFLICT-RIDDEN WORLD

10/11/2003
Press ReleaseGA/10207

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Plenary

59th Meeting (AM)

GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS TEXTS TO REINFORCE ‘CULTURE OF PEACE’

IN CONFLICT-RIDDEN WORLD

Also Elects 29 Countries to UNEP Governing

Council for Four-Year Terms Beginning 1 January 2004

Stressing the need to foster a culture of peace in a world where war and conflict continued to run rampant and international terrorism threatened the safety and security of all, the General Assembly this morning adopted, by consensus, two resolutions on the culture of peace.

By the text on the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World, 2001-2010, the Assembly invited Member States to continue to place greater emphasis on, and expand their activities to, promote a culture of peace and non-violence, and to observe 21 September, each year, as the International Day of Peace.

Introducing the resolution, the representative of Bangladesh said the world was rediscovering and realizing the values of peace, solidarity and understanding.  The “culture of peace”, which constituted a set of values, attitudes and ways of life based on freedom, justice, democracy, tolerance and respect for diversity and dialogue, should be promoted by all Member States, civil society groups and individuals.

By the terms of the text on the University for Peace, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to consider further ways to strengthen cooperation between the United Nations and the University, and to consider using the services of the University, as part of his conflict-resolution and peace-building efforts, and in the promotion of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.

Introducing the text, Costa Rica’s representative recalled that the proposal to create the University -– established in 1980 -– had been based on the premise that peace was not the result of fate, but was born in the minds of men.  That proposal recognized the necessity to overcome the axiom that, “If you want peace, prepare for war”, and instead emphasized the need to prepare for peace through education.  Real progress had been made in establishing a high-level academic programme with training and research aspects, and in expanding that programme from the University’s headquarters in Costa Rica to other parts of the world.

Also today, the Assembly elected, by acclamation, 29 candidates for vacant seats on the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), for a four-year term of office beginning on 1 January 2004.  The new members were the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Hungary, India, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somalia, Sweden, Turkey, Tuvalu, United Kingdom and the United Republic of Tanzania.

At the top of the meeting, the Assembly continued its consideration of support by the United Nations system of the efforts of Governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies.

The Assembly also decided to defer consideration of the “Question of the Comorian island of Mayotte” to its fifty-ninth session, and to include that item in the provisional agenda of that session, as recommended in the third report of the General Committee.

Similarly, the Assembly decided, after the necessary consultations, to defer consideration of the “Declaration of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity on the aerial and naval military attack against the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the present United States Administration in April 1986” to its fifty-ninth session.

Also addressing the Assembly today were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Republic of Korea, Guyana, Pakistan, Lebanon, El Salvador (on behalf of the Central American Integration System), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Jamaica and Kazakhstan.

The Observer of the Holy See also spoke.

In addition, the representative of the Philippines introduced a draft resolution on inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow, 11 November, to consider the report of the Fifth Committee on the appointment of members of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, and to elect members of the Economic and Social Council.

Background

The General Assembly met today to conclude its consideration of support by the United Nations of the efforts of governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies.

It was also expected to consider the third report of the General Committee; Declaration of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity on the aerial and naval military attack against Libya by the present United States Administration in April 1986; and the University for Peace; and culture of peace.  Further, it was expected to elect 29 members of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and take action on a draft resolution on follow-up to the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage.

For a summary of the report on support for new or restored democracies, see Press Release GA/10204 issued on 5 November.

Also before the Assembly is the third report of the General Committee (A/58/250/Add.2), in which the Committee recommends that the item, entitled “Question of the Comorian island of Mayotte” be deferred to the Assembly’s fifty-ninth session and that it be included in the provisional agenda of that session.

The report of the Secretary-General on the University for Peace (document A/58/430) provides details on the progress made in revitalizing the University, whose academic programme addresses the root causes of prejudice, hatred and conflict in a targeted, practical manner, strengthening resources of knowledge and expertise, which are urgently needed to promote peace and non-violence.

As part of a five-year programme of expansion and revitalization, a new academic programme has been designed, and is now being implemented at the campus in Costa Rica, including five new master’s degree programmes on peace and security issues and a number of short courses for mid-career professionals.  And, while an increasing number of donors have provided financial support to launch and sustain the innovative academic programme, its full implementation and global expansion depend on strong and continued financial support in the years to come.

By the terms of the related draft resolution (document A/58/L.16), the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to consider further ways to strengthen cooperation between the United Nations and the University and to consider using the services of the University, as part of his conflict-resolution and peace-building efforts and in the promotion of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.  It would also invite Member States, intergovernmental bodies, non-governmental organizations and interested individuals to contribute to the Trust Fund for Peace or to the budget of the University and to accede to the International Agreement for the Establishment of the University for Peace.

The note of the Secretary-General, transmitting the report of the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World, 2001-2010 (document A/58/182) says that, now more than ever, efforts to reinforce the commitment of nations and civil societies to a culture of peace must be strengthened.

The report states that the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and the events in Iraq this year have once again focused the international community’s attention on the manifold threats posed by acts of violence, not simply to human security, but to the very principles and values of the United Nations Charter.  Therefore, among its other recommendations, the report invites Member States to further develop their activities for the promotion of a culture of peace at the national, regional and international levels, and to provide information about such activities to UNESCO, through their national focal points for the Decade.

By the terms of the related draft resolution (document A/58/L.14), the Assembly would invite Member States to continue to place greater emphasis on and expand their activities to promote a culture of peace and non-violence, and to observe 21 September, each year, as the International Day of Peace, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 55/282, of 7 September 2001.  It would further emphasize the significance of the plenary meetings on the item planned for its sixtieth session, and, in that regard, encourage participation at a high-level, and decide to consider, at an appropriate time, the possibility of organizing those meetings, as close as possible to the general debate.

In addition, the Assembly had before it, a draft resolution on the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage (document A/58/L.11), by which it would invite UNESCO, in collaboration with States, observers, relevant United Nations bodies and other international and non-governmental organizations, to continue to intensify the implementation of programmes, activities and projects aimed at the promotion and protection of the world cultural heritage.  The Assembly would also invite Member States and observers, to continue to promote education and raise public awareness, so as to foster respect for national and world cultural heritage.

By the terms of a draft resolution on inter-religious dialogue and cooperation, (document A/58/L.13), the Assembly would decide to establish an Open-Ended Working Group to examine the contributions of inter-religious dialogue and cooperation, in strengthening the capacity of the United Nations to promote international peace and harmony.  It would also recommend that the Working Group explore the possibility of instituting a process and/or establishing a mechanism, within the United Nations system, with the objective of harnessing inter-religious dialogue and cooperation to strengthen the capacity of the United Nations to promote international peace and harmony.

Statements on Support for New or Restored Democracies

ANDREY A. NIKIFOROV (Russian Federation) said that the support of the United Nations for the consolidation of new or restored democracies constituted an important component of the Organization’s work, particularly in ensuring international cooperation and respect for human rights and freedoms.  Democracy, development, and human rights and freedoms, were all inter-related and mutually reinforcing.  However, when undertaking support for the building and development of democracy, the Organization’s approach must take into account the fact that there was no single, correct path to democracy.  If the Organization’s efforts only tried to foster one kind of democracy, they would be counter-productive, and could actually result in violations of human rights and freedoms.

Therefore, United Nations support, he said, must take into account the particularities of individual cases.  Reiterating that his country welcomed work for the consolidation of new or restored democracies at the intergovernmental level, including during the Fourth and Fifth International Conferences, he said such conferences must be open to the participation of all States, not reserved for a select few.  Otherwise the restrictions imposed would limit their effectiveness.  Given open participation, all members could share their positive experiences of democratic practices and values.

KIM SAM-HOON (Republic of Korea) expressed pleasure at the growing support for the promotion of democratization, evidenced by the wide and high-level participation in the Fifth International Conference of New and Restored Democracies, held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, this year.  With the action-oriented commitments that participants made at that conference, benchmarks had been clarified, for new and restored democratic societies to aspire towards.  As host of the second Conference of the Community of Democracies last November, his country welcomed the growth of the new and restored democracies process, and pledged to actively participate in the follow-up that came, within and outside, the United Nations context.  He believed the two movements could and should evolve, in a mutually complementary and reinforcing manner. 

The difference in approach -- the push of the new and restored democracies, and the pull of the community of democracies, held the promise of the two movements working in different, but convergent ways, to strengthen the democratic way of life around the world, for people everywhere to live with dignity, free of want, and in peace.  He reaffirmed that democracy and human rights were interdependent and inseparable.  He also reiterated his country’s commitment to the promotion of democracy and human rights at home and abroad, including through the efforts of the United Nations system to support governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies.

Mr. TORRINGTON (Guyana) said that at the heart of the promotion and consolidation of democracy was the quest to derive cohesive norms that allowed for the dynamic interaction and mutual reinforcement of democratic principles and perspectives at the international, regional and domestic levels.  He mentioned two particular aspects in the quest to overcome new challenges to greater democratization.  First, the entrenchment of democracy presented a challenge, in that it elicited governance of a more responsive nature.  While the second aspect, was revealed in the varied experiences of new and restored democracies, which have in recent times, subjected the mechanisms, role, significance and issues of participatory democracy to very close scrutiny.

The overarching lesson, he continued, was that democracy must be made more meaningful to those it served.  There was thus, a great need for democratic norms to be adapted to accord with local realities.  He was convinced that the international community was provided with an opportune juncture and rationale for more collaborative endeavour, in support of new and restored democracies.  It was also clear that there should be increased, not decreased, international and donor commitment and support for the gestation of democracy in the new and restored democracies, especially in situations of enhanced vulnerability.

Statements on Culture of Peace

Introducing the draft resolution on “the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World” (document A/58/L.14), SAMINA NAZ (Bangladesh) said the world was rediscovering and realizing the values of peace, solidarity and understanding.  As a concept, the “culture of peace” was a set of values, attitudes and ways of life, based of freedom, justice, democracy, tolerance and respect for diversity and dialogue.  With that in mind, Member States, civil society groups and individuals needed to dedicate themselves to promoting such a culture and to working for a campaign against all forms of violence, particularly violence against children.

The draft, which was based on last year’s text, incorporated a new preambular paragraph noting the prevention of armed conflict, as well as a mention, in another preambular, of gender equality in the list of efforts undertaken by the United Nations system and the international community, in furtherance of the culture of peace.  It was Bangladesh’s earnest hope, she said, that the text would receive the Assembly’s unanimous support.

MARÍA ELENA CHASSOUL (Costa Rica), introducing the draft resolution on the University for Peace, recalled that in 1978, the proposal to create such an institution had been presented to the General Assembly, based on the premise that peace was not the result of fate, but was born in the minds of men.  That proposal recognized the necessity to overcome the axiom that, “If you want peace, prepare for war”, and instead emphasized the need to prepare for peace through education.  Yet, it had not been until 1980 that, with the adoption of Assembly resolution 35/55, the University for Peace had been established.  That establishment also constituted the first international recognition of Costa Rica’s special vocation for peace.

Since that time, she added, the promotion of peace and security had become more important, in which regard the report of the Secretary-General was truly encouraging.  It showed that real progress had been made in establishing a high-level academic programme with training and research aspects, and in expanding that programme from the University’s headquarters in Costa Rica to other parts of the world.  The new, rigorous Master’s programme focused on the causes of conflict and dealt with them from a multidimensional perspective; a number of shorter courses were also offered.  Costa Rica remained grateful to donor countries and those institutions that supported the University, but reaffirmed the need for further resource provision to enable the University to fulfil its potential.

BAYANI S. MERCADO (Philippines), introducing the text on inter-religious dialogue, said more could be done to instil the culture of peace in the hearts and minds of people.  More efforts could be exerted to engage all concerned, including non-governmental actors, through positive and participatory processes, where differences were respected, dialogues encouraged and conflicts transformed, through non-violent means, for cooperation.  The promotion of the culture of peace demanded the participation of the entire international community.  One important sector of civil society that could be tapped into, in the pursuit of peace and development, was the religious community.  Religion was a powerful force in promoting peace, harmony and understanding, on account of its strong moral influence over the faithful.

In particular, he continued, inter-religious dialogue and cooperation would serve, as a collective tool to respect or bridge differences and help achieve positive outcomes, such as preventing or resolving conflict, and garnering support for key initiatives to advance the welfare of humanity, in support of the vision of the United Nations.  In that regard, his nation had rich experience, including the Bishops-Ulama Forum, where Catholic and Protestant Mindanao bishops and Muslim religious leaders, (Ulama), had engaged in inter-religious dialogue to affirm their common commitments to peace and understanding.  Their views were regularly presented to the Government.

Inter-religious dialogue was not a new phenomenon, he stated, adding that various religious leaders and their followers had long realized the importance of collaborating for peace, and inter-religious dialogues, at the international level, had been held.  The Millennium World Peace Summit had been held in 2000, and UNESCO, in a joint effort with the Government of Uzbekistan, had organized the International Conference on Inter-Religious Dialogue, also held that year.  Recently, the First Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions was held this year in Kazakhstan.  The potential for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation should be harnessed at the international level.  For example, inter-religious dialogue and cooperation could be one of the key mechanisms in assisting the United Nations in attaining its goals.

In his report, the Secretary-General indicated that religious organizations could play a role in preventing armed conflict due to the moral authority they carried in their communities, he noted.  Religious leaders could also be effective agents for development.  It was in that light that his delegation introduced the draft resolution contained in document A/58/L.13, which aimed to examine how inter-religious dialogue and cooperation contributed to the work of the Organization.

ZAHID HAMID (Pakistan) said the development of a culture of peace was integrally linked to the right of peoples to self-determination.  All people, including those living under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation, were entitled to exercise their inherent right to self-determination.  The attacks of 11 September 2001, and subsequent events, constituted a major setback in the search for global peace.  Misunderstanding and suspicion between different faiths and cultures had become accentuated and some had used that to serve their own interests.  Ethnicity, religion, culture, language and demeanour, must not be allowed to become a source of divisiveness; the clash of civilizations was a sure recipe for chaos.  The indivisibility of the human race must be affirmed.  Unity in diversity must be cherished.

Cooperation must be the paradigm for the century, and the promotion of understanding and harmony, among religions and cultures was the indispensable avenue through which, the veil of ignorance, misconception and prejudice could be lifted, he stated.  In his address before the Assembly, the President of Pakistan had outlined a concrete strategy to bridge the gulf between Islam and the West.  Tolerance, harmony, socio-economic emancipation, human resource development and the peaceful resolution of disputes, were essential ingredients of that strategy, referred to as, “enlightened moderation”.  The vision of moderation and cooperation already existed in the common vision and principles of the United Nations.  It was necessary, however, to collectively reaffirm the relevance and centrality of the Organization and the primacy of international law.

Under the Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, Pakistan had initiated the proposal for the promotion of religious and cultural understanding, harmony and cooperation.  Extensive open-ended informal consultation had been held on Pakistan’s draft resolution with a view to evolving a consensus text.  Significant progress had been made towards that objective, and it was the intention of his delegation to present that draft resolution to the Assembly in coming weeks.

IBRAHIM ASSAF (Lebanon) said the culture of peace was the underlying goal of the United Nations since 1945.  It was to end the culture of war that the Organization had been established and its Charter elaborated.  Furthermore, peace could not be defined as a negative -– i.e., the absence of conflict.  Peace was something positive and ongoing; it must be based on education and political will.  However, war and conflict were still rampant and terrorism still threatened today’s world.  Theories proclaiming the “clash of civilizations” and discrimination based on religion, among others, had emerged.  Yet, hope remained.

The University for Peace promoted higher education in those values necessary for the creation of a culture of peace, he continued.  The institution should be congratulated on its new Master’s programme and its work to establish additional educational programmes.  Those must be based on real dialogue and tolerance.  Lebanon, he said, could stand as a model for people coming together.  It was a country in which those of different religions lived together.

Moreover, there was within his country, he added, a clear vision of the future of the Middle East, which included the establishment of peace with Israel, given that State’s withdrawal from the occupied territories.  The Arab peace initiative had been marked by the desire for peace and recognition of the other.  It had also asked for recognition of the need to end the occupation.

Yet, for dialogue to be successful, he concluded, it must be understood that none had the monopoly on truth.  There must be a culture of listening to others, of listening to the drafts presented and truly understanding them.  The establishment of a culture of peace must be a long-term undertaking.

VICTOR MANUEL LAGOS PIZZATI (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, said the international community continued to face tremendous challenges to its efforts to maintain peace and security.  That made the declaration of a culture of peace for the world’s children, a moral imperative.  Despite obvious advances, there seemed to be fewer chances for dialogue, cooperation and the promotion of mutual respect.  Central America believed the creation of a true culture of peace would be a first and indispensable step along a long and difficult path, laying the groundwork of a culture based on dialogue, education and international cooperation.  Such a culture should also be based on the principles of the sovereignty of States, non-intervention and other ideals set out in the United Nations Charter.

There were many tasks yet to be completed, particularly in light of ongoing conflicts, deepening poverty, social injustice and weak democratic institutions in many parts of the world, which if not addressed soon, would continue the downward spiral for all cultures.  For their part, Central American countries worked hard to establish regional integration and cooperation.  But, such efforts must be globalized; the political will of the Central American States must be joined by individual and international efforts.  In that regard, the United Nations must continue to play a pivotal role.

KIM CHANG GUK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that while the ultimate human ideal was to achieve an independent and creative life of peace, harmony and mutual understanding for all, the world was still plagued by those whose ultra-nationalism, chauvinism and plans for domination sought to suppress the cultural traditions of others.  The promotion and achievement of a culture of peace hinged on the consciences of men, he said, recalling the UNESCO Constitution, which declared that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”.

He underlined the importance of education to ensure that the spirit of love for mankind was established early on.  Unfortunately, however, young generations continued to be imbued with ultra-nationalistic ideas.  Indeed, a “history of aggression”, by a country in his region, was being distorted and glorified as a history of “liberation”, with crimes such as occupation by force, massacres and forced sexual slavery and conscription being deleted from history books.  As a result, children of that country had an erroneous view of their past, particularly of why other nationals had come to settle in their country.  They now hated and rejected other nationals, he added.

“Only when the principle of sovereign equality and mutual respect is observed, can the culture of peace be properly established”, he said.  Owing to historical experience, the people of his country aspired to peace more than anyone else.  For decades, the Korean nation had suffered from aggression and plunder by outside forces.  The peninsula’s painful half-century of national division had also been imposed by outsiders.  Nevertheless, the children of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been nurtured as genuine human beings, who valued the dignity and honour of their homeland and were devoted to friendship and harmony among the world’s peace-loving peoples.

STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica) said it was the responsibility of governments to ensure there were institutional mechanisms that inculcated human standards and values necessary to overcome the violence and hatred persistent throughout the world, if a culture of peace was to be created and promoted.  Education was one such important medium through which that could be done, as it provided the means to promote empowerment, income generation and community development.  To that end, the work of UNESCO and the United Nations Children's Fund’s (UNICEF) to support peace education activities should be applauded and encouraged, in particular those aimed at children and young people.

He said meaningful progress also depended on the extent to which the family, as the basic unit of socialization, became involved in ensuring that the proper values were upheld and observed by each generation.  Equally, recognition of the important role of the mass media, in an era of advanced technology, was vital.  It was, therefore, imperative that freedom of speech was not used as a pretext for inciting violence and hatred, within and among societies -– a responsibility that lay with national governments and the international community.  Efforts to reinforce the commitment of nations and civil societies to a culture of peace and to intensify the implementation of programmes, activities and projects, which had been elaborated for that purpose, needed further strengthening. 

He expressed appreciation for the efforts of the United Nations and the international community in ensuring the maintenance of international peace and security through peacekeeping, peace-building, conflict prevention, disarmament, economic cooperation and the promotion of human rights, noting that those efforts had significantly advanced the objectives of creating a culture of peace.  However, he observed that there were manifold threats posed by acts of violence not simply to human security, but to the principles and values of the Organization’s Charter, as events in Iraq had demonstrated. 

CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer for the Holy See, said that the reasons given to justify conflicts should be duly addressed before, during, and after, they occurred.  The necessity to impose an armed defence to dissuade the other party from becoming an enemy should be prudently and carefully weighed against an equal necessity to reach out to the other party, beyond any resumed or alleged enmity, always leaving the door open for all possible peaceful solutions.  Consequently, when those who bore the responsibility and the obligation to defend peace and order were called upon to decide whether or not to take up legitimate defence, their decision had to be subjected to rigorous conditions, given within the moral order, because such actions could be justified only when all peaceful means of resolving the crisis had been proven to be impractical, ineffective or impossible.

Unlike the culture of war, the culture of peace entailed an ethical approach to life, he said, explaining that peace was the fundamental duty of everyone.  However, it was built on mutual trust, which could be achieved only with justice and fairness.  Peace demanded the correction of violations, the redress of abuses, the rehabilitation of victims and the reconciliation of the aggrieved parties.  The strategy of building trust meant overcoming all obstacles that impeded works of justice with a view towards peace; only in such a climate of peace could a culture of peace take root and flourish.  If development was the new name for peace, then war and the proliferation of weapons should be considered the major enemies of the development of peoples.  By ending the arms race, a true disarmament process could begin, with agreements based on authentic and workable safeguards.  The reallocation of economic and other resources from the arms race to humanitarian needs such as, basic health care, education for all and the strengthening of the family would promote and strengthen a culture of peace.

SERIK ZHANIBEKOV (Kazakhstan) said that ensuring effective interaction between the world’s religions and cultures was extremely important, especially at a time of conflict.  Re-establishing dialogue between religions could be implemented in meetings of leaders of different religions, such as the Forum that was recently held in his nation.  The resolution on inter-religious dialogue had been prepared with the outcome of the Forum in mind, and a report of the conference was currently available.  His nation supported efforts of the international community to foster a culture of peace and dialogue between religions. 

Action on Drafts

The Assembly then adopted, without vote, two draft texts, respectively, on “the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and non-violence for the Children of the World” (document A/58/L.14), and on “University for Peace” (document A/58/L.16).

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For information media. Not an official record.