Secretary-General Says Education Integral to Spreading Peace, Deepening Democracy, Urging Champions of Democracy to Make Voices Heard in Classrooms and Beyond

14 September 2011

Secretary-General Says Education Integral to Spreading Peace, Deepening Democracy, Urging Champions of Democracy to Make Voices Heard in Classrooms and Beyond

14 September 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Says Education Integral to Spreading Peace, Deepening Democracy,

Urging Champions of Democracy to Make Voices Heard in Classrooms and Beyond


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the International Day of Peace Observance with Kyung Hee University, 14 September, in New York:

My warmest welcome to all of you here in New York, as well as all those joining us through video-link from Kyung Hee University.  I also want to thank you for your participation in the United Nations Academic Impact initiative.  Thank you for coming together to mark the International Day of Peace and for uniting under the theme “Give Peace Another Chance”.  What a fitting tribute as we mark the thirtieth anniversary of International Peace Day, which was inspired, in large part, by the vision of Dr. Young Seek Choue.

I was a front row witness to his work.  More than 30 years ago, I was Director of the United Nations Division in the Korean Government.  I will never forget how passionately Dr. Choue worked behind the scenes — day in and day out — to realize his vision of an International Day of Peace — my deepest admiration and respect for him.  I thank you for organizing the round-table discussion on how to deepen our efforts to build peace through “Higher Education and Human Dignity”.

This is a particularly fitting time for us to join forces.  We have just begun a new session, the sixty-sixth session, of the United Nations General Assembly yesterday.  World leaders are now gathering here to forge the way forward.

People’s eyes are turning to the United Nations — just yesterday, I had a wonderful conversation with people around the world, particularly young people, on Twitter and Facebook.  That was quite interesting and I was very encouraged by their strong commitment to work with the United Nations.  They were asking me what the United Nations can do for their future — for many poor people, sick people — and how we can help prevent violence against women.

This year, we meet at a particularly crucial moment as we face an increasingly complex set of realities across the spectrum of our work.  I believe we are at a pivot-point in history.  The old world is gradually, but undeniably, changing and the contours of a new world are just beginning to take shape.  This is no time for business as usual.  Our times demand something different.  We need big thinking and bold action.  To make the most of this moment, we must come together for our common future — to promote sustainable development; to invest more in prevention; to help societies in transition, to expand our partnerships for action.  In so many ways, all of these efforts move us further down the road to peace.

Peace is at the heart of our mission at the United Nations.  It is what we strive for each and every day.  We renew that pledge on the International Day of Peace.  And people around the world join us by committing to non-violence and to harmony among all peoples and nations.  The theme of this year’s observance is peace and democracy:  make your voice heard.  Democracy is a core value of the United Nations.  It is crucial for human rights.  It provides pathways for resolving differences.  It gives hope and voice and dignity to people.  But democracy does not happen on its own, as if by accident; it has to be nurtured and defended.

This has been a remarkable year for people seeking to shape their societies and futures.  In North Africa, the Middle East and beyond, men and women stood up with courage and determination to seek their democratic rights and build a better future.  We have a moral and political obligation to help those people in transition — so that they can realize their dream, so that they can realize their genuine aspirations — to live in a world of greater freedom and greater participatory democracy.

Students in particular were on the frontlines of this struggle, inspiring the world with their commitment to peaceful protest and solidarity.  We saw evidence, yet again, that democracy is a universal model.  It is yearned for by all peoples and alien to no culture.  The challenge now is to turn the democratic ideal into a working reality.

Higher education can play a vital role as we work together in common cause to consolidate those gains, to strengthen institutions, to fight repression, to promote good governance.  The power of education is integral to spreading peace and deepening democracy.  When people participate in the democratic process and become engaged, they build peace, day by day, year by year.

And so I urge all champions of democracy and peace throughout the world to make your voices heard in the classrooms and beyond.  Let us work together:  for social justice; for a clean environment; for women’s empowerment; for justice and for peace.

Once again, thank you for your commitment to the cause of peace.  Thank you for giving your time, for giving your energy and for giving peace another chance.  I thank you very much.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.