Statement by the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson at the opening of the High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace“Sowing the Seeds of the Culture of Peace: Early Childhood Development is the Beginning”
7 September 2017
Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr. Betty Williams,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Welcome to today’s High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace.
Mahatma Gandhi told us,“If we are to teach real peace in this world, we shall have to begin with the children”.
These prescient words resonate with us today as we search for solutions to the complex global security challenges confronting our world.
We read daily of protracted wars and conflict besieging communities; of the growing scourge of terrorism and violent extremism; and of the worst refugee and humanitarian crisis since World War II. Our capacity to respond is being put to the test.
At the same time, the world is undergoing global changes at an unprecedented pace, with exponential technological advancement, unchecked population growth, widening inequality, and the realities of climate change. These changes are putting huge pressure on our resources.
To meet these challenges and sustain peace will require the very best of humanity. Fostering a culture of peace requires all of us –individuals, nations and international organisations – to work together to promote understanding of our common humanity. We must promote intercultural respect, strengthen interreligious understanding, and inspire people’s hopes for the future. Above all we must unite for peace.
I say to you once more that implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is the most effective way to sustain peace. Through the 2030 Agenda we will eradicate poverty, increase inclusive prosperity, protect human rights, strengthen the rule of law, and build effective and accountable institutions for peaceful and just societies.
As I have said before, every individual can make a difference. Building a culture of peace requires every one of us to take steps to recognise and counter internalised prejudices, and to avoid day-to-day tensions that might foment disunity in our communal lives.
This is the practice we must nurture in our children and grandchildren, so that we foster a long-term culture of peace across our world.
To build the next generation of agents of peace, we have to teach our children the values of peace, tolerance, equality and respect. They should be under no illusions as to the self-destructiveness of the alternative.
We must equip them with the skills and education they need to peacefully resolve disputes; to confront injustice and intolerance; and to reject all forms of discrimination and hate.
To do so successfully, we must teach these values at a foundational level, through early childhood education.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
I close with that famous message from Nelson Mandela, ‘No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.’
I wish all of you the best in your discussions today on how we make best use of our tools – education, human rights, rule of law, and sustainable development – to teach the culture of peace.
More than ever we need and value the positive deliberations and outcomes of this High-level Forum on the Culture of Peace.
I thank you for your attention.