2 October 2016

Deputy Secretary-General Stresses Importance of Solidarity, ‘Togetherness’, in Remarks for International Day of Non-violence

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks on the International Day of Non-violence, in New York today:

I am honoured to join all of you to celebrate the life and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, and appropriately, mark the International Day of Non-Violence on his birthday today.

I was personally moved by the inspiring invocation by Sudha Ragunathan.  There are three important messages to all of us that I picked up:  “Non-violence is the highest virtue”; “May the sunlight of compassion and unity spread”; and “Let us destroy ignorance and fear”.  This day captures the spirit of what I believe is the most important word in the twenty-first century; that word is “together”.

Togetherness may sound like a distant destination in today’s troubled world.  After all, we see so much of division and polarization around us in many parts around the globe.  Human rights and humanitarian law are under assault.  Women and children are on the front lines of conflict.  Extreme poverty and inequalities cause suffering, as well as tensions in our societies.  Intolerance and discrimination widen the rift between different parts of our populations.  Radicalization and violent extremism are on the rise.

Facing these threats, we must stand up against violence in all its forms — and we must do it together.  This call is also part of the historic United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Let us recall that we are committed to promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, as well as access to justice, respect of human rights and human dignity.

We know that a culture of non-violence fundamentally begins with respect for our fellow human beings.  But, it does not end there.  To nurture peace, we must also respect nature, life on Earth.  That is why we welcome that on this International Day of Non-Violence, our Indian hosts and friends have placed the protection of the environment in the centre of this Day.

In all he did, Mahatma Gandhi reminded us of our obligation to respect all living things.  He reminded us of the need for responsible stewardship of our common Earth.  “Earth provides enough to satisfy everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s greed,” Gandhi said once.  So, we must be aware and respectful of our common resources.  We must every day practise sustainability.  Gandhi also challenged us to “be the change we wish to see in the world”.  We should always try to close the gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be.

India is setting out to do just that.  The country is embarking on a sustainable development pathway.  Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi calls it “development without destruction”.  This strategy includes strong, multilateral cooperation on climate change.

Today, that commitment is reflected in a truly momentous way.  Today, India has deposited its instruments of ratification of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, as we just witnessed.  There is no better way to commemorate the great Mahatma Gandhi and his legacy of peace for people and planet.

On behalf of the Secretary-General, I warmly congratulate India for its seminal decision and for its climate leadership.  We thank you for building on and strengthening the momentum we now see from all corners of the globe.  India’s ratification moves the world an important step closer to the historic Paris Agreement’s entry into force at record speed before the end of this year.

The Secretary-General commends and thanks India, and urges all countries to complete their domestic processes for ratification.  We must bring the Paris Agreement to a living reality as soon as possible for the sake of future generations and the health of our planet.  This is essential if we are to build a world which is more safe, more healthy and more peaceful.

This is the mission for our common humanity.  Let us commit ourselves to this noble and necessary pursuit, and let us walk the walk together.

For information media. Not an official record.