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United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Statements

Deputy Secretary-General: Statements

New York, 1 April 2015 - Deputy Secretary-General’s Remarks for the unveiling of the parents circle-families forum peace square mural [as prepared for delivery]

I am very pleased to welcome you to the United Nations Headquarters.  It is a privilege for me to be here at the unveiling of this Peace Square Mural, in the presence of representatives from the Parents Circle – Families Forum, or PCFF.  I have greeting to you from my friend and colleague, the outgoing Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry.

This striking artwork has its origins in the anguish of the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict.  From the outbreak of war in July to the International Day of Peace in September – 70 nights in all – members of the Parents Circle – Families Forum held a vigil in central Tel Aviv.  Their tent served as a daily forum for dialogue. This structure came to be known as the Peace Square.

At a time of appalling violence, this Peace Square embodied the organisation’s core idea: by sharing their stories, Israelis and Palestinians can find an alternative to polarization and hatred.

The mural we unveil today was inspired by the powerful symbol of the Peace Square.  It is the work of bereaved families and friends, both Palestinian and Israeli.  Its very existence conveys a vital message: within both communities there is a hunger for reconciliation and a longing for peace.

I thank the Parents Circle-Families Forum for bringing this mural to the United Nations.  I commend your determination to bring the message of dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation to a global audience.  When this Peace Square Mural moves on to be displayed, I hope its meaning will be felt and embraced by many, many people around the world.

Art can reach the heart.  It can alter perceptions.  It can change attitudes. And change is sorely needed.

We must have faith in the power of dialogue, in the power of talking to each other and seeing each other.  This is what the PCFF stands for.   This is also what the United Nations stands for.  You have our heartfelt support and our lasting encouragement.  We must never give up; we must never lose faith in every human being’s equal worth.

Today, the situation in Gaza is not much different from the time when the Parents Circle-Families Forum was founded under heart-breaking circumstances after the first Intifada.

The conflict in Gaza last summer was the third war in six years.  The wounds are still raw and unhealed.  The situation remains volatile.  The cycle of violence has entrenched mistrust between Israelis and the Palestinians.

The United Nations has repeatedly warned that the status quo in Gaza is unsustainable and unacceptable. I reiterate the Secretary-General’s appeal to both parties to refrain from unilateral actions that could exacerbate an already tense situation.

Now more than ever we need dialogue.  We need tolerance.  We need faith in peaceful settlement of disputes.  Here, I want to underline the importance of the elements of Article 33 of the UN Charter: negotiation; enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement.  These are just some of the instruments we must use in our search for lasting peace.

Statements on 1 April 2015