– As delivered –
Remarks by H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly
7 September 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for joining today’s High-Level Forum on Culture of Peace. My sincere appreciation to the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh for its support in co-organising this meeting.
Allow me to begin by stating upfront that peace is much, much more than the absence of conflict. Peace is a conscious effort by each of us, each moment, to talk, to listen, and to engage. It is a sustained effort to understand and overcome differences.
This is what we mean by ‘a culture of peace’.
It is one thing to reject violence, it is an entirely different thing to make the deliberate effort to adjust our cultures and behaviours to avoid the occurrence of violence in the first place.
When I entered office last year, I made it a top priority for me and my team to work to re-open the United Nations to in-person engagement. The reasons for this precisely reflect the values and principles of a culture of peace: the need for dialogue and debate, for negotiation and nuance, for empathy and understanding. An online discussion or engagement will never capture these delicate details. There is an inherently human element that is needed to achieve this level of understanding and, in so doing, to build a peaceful, just, equal society.
In the same spirit, the global pandemic has arguably brought humanity closer together. Rarely have we been so united against a common challenge. We must build on this shared sense of grief and anxiety, and work together to not only tackle COVID-19 but all other challenges that stand in our path.
These challenges are many and it would be tone deaf to not acknowledge the pain being suffered by our brothers and sisters globally. I saw this for myself when I visited Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh and spoke to the Rohingya refugees there. We see this today in Afghanistan. People are scrambling to find safety and security amidst so much uncertainty.
Excellencies, dear colleagues,
As we undoubtedly prepare to support the people of Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, we will need to draw upon our shared sense of humanity, of empathy, of compassion, to go the extra mile and provide necessary humanitarian support. A culture of peace is a commitment to never turning a blind eye to those most vulnerable.
I would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge the preventive tools that exist and for which the UN is well positioned to support Member States. Elements such as conflict early warning, fact-finding missions, early deployment of peacekeepers when needed, and of course humanitarian assistance, are all vital to maintaining and supporting a culture of peace, particularly when combined with development efforts that empower communities and ease tensions.
At the General Assembly, our every effort, our every decision, must be built on the prevention of conflict and the protection and empowerment of people everywhere.
I look forward to a productive discussion today on this important topic and I thank you.