General Assembly Adopts Three Resolutions on Culture of Peace, Highlighting Need to Foster Interreligious Dialogue, Moderate Social Media

GA/12226
12 December 2019
Seventy-fourth Session 45th Meeting (AM)

General Assembly Adopts Three Resolutions on Culture of Peace, Highlighting Need to Foster Interreligious Dialogue, Moderate Social Media

The General Assembly today adopted three resolutions on the culture of peace, highlighting the need to foster interreligious and cultural dialogue, temper social media and bolster education in efforts to prevent future clashes between and within societies.

Introducing a draft on “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace”, the Philippines’ representative said the resolution aimed to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue in achieving peace and stability as well as strengthen constructive dialogue across divergent divides.  The resolution also stresses the important role the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United National Alliance of Civilizations play in promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue at all levels, he said.

Bangladesh’s delegate, introducing a text on “Follow‑up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace”, noted that it welcomes the High‑level Forum on Culture of Peace held on 13 September 2019, the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action.  The Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace continues to find relevance across the three pillars of the United Nations in addressing contemporary global challenges, he said.

A final text designates 20 July as World Chess Day, marking the date in 1924 when the International Chess Federation was established in Paris.  Introducing that draft, Armenia’s delegate observed that the game can transcend national boundaries and break down racial, political and social barriers.  Armenia, he added, has one of the highest numbers of chess grandmasters per capita in the world, having embraced chess as an academic subject in schools.  “One of the most important and enduring lessons that chess can offer is teaching respect,” he said.

Addressing the drafts, delegates warned that clashing cultures are a growing reality in numerous societies, with antisemitism resurfacing and Islamophobia becoming more pervasive.  Libya’s representative pointed to waves of violence, displacement, death and destruction due to increases in violent extremism, terrorism and hatred.  “It is sad to see flagrant and daily violations of human rights,” he said.

They also observed that the international community today is facing more complex challenges undermining the culture of peace than in the past, including religious tensions and violence.  Kuwait’s representative observed that violent extremism is used as a mode of expression on social networks, stressing that the international community must ban content inciting extremism and terrorism.

Also arguing that social media platforms can threaten the culture of peace, Saudi Arabia’s delegate emphasized that using digital messages constructively can achieve the opposite result.  Echoing that sentiment, Ecuador’s representative emphasized that the more such media are used to disseminate hate speech the more people must use positive digital missives to counter them.

Several speakers emphasized the importance of quality education and dialogue as tools to forge peaceful understanding between countries and societies.  Interreligious and intercultural dialogues with faith leaders, civil society and academia are important for building intellectual and moral solidarity, India’s delegate said.  Home to a significant number of practitioners of practically every major religion in the world, his country is a narrative of conversations between different civilizations, he said.

The Assembly decided to postpone action on a draft titled “Investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him,” noting that it contains a programme budget implication.  Adoption of the resolution will take place once the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) has considered the matter later this month.

The Assembly also decided to reschedule its consideration of the “Report of the Credentials Committee” and “Election of members of the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission” from Monday, 16 December to Wednesday, 18 December.

The Assembly had before it two reports of the Secretary‑General on "A world against violence and violent extremism," (document A/74/195) and "Promotion of a culture of peace and interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace (document A/74/476).

Also speaking today were the representatives of Sweden, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Thailand (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Venezuela, United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Cuba, Morocco, Panama, Pakistan, Brunei Darussalam, Azerbaijan, Canada, Nicaragua and United States, as well as an observer for the Holy See.

The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m., on 12 December to consider the reports of its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).

Introduction of Draft Resolutions

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) introduced draft resolution titled “Investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him,” (document A/74/L.20).  He noted that the Secretary‑General’s Eminent Person, in his latest report, concludes that it remains plausible that an external attack or threat was a cause of the crash.  There are specific matters that warrant further follow‑up.  Operative paragraph 1 requests the Secretary‑General to reappoint the Eminent Person to continue his work.  This extensive investigation benefits immensely from continuity.  No one is better placed than Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman to continue and conclude the investigation, he said, requesting that the Eminent Person draw conclusions from the investigation by the end of the Assembly’s seventy‑fifth session.

This will require the full cooperation of Member States, he continued, noting that operative paragraph 3 specifically requests those Member States referred in the report to cooperate with and assist the Eminent Person fully.  That includes appointing without delay independent and high‑ranking officials to conduct a dedicated internal review of their intelligence, security and defence archives to determine whether relevant information exists.  Operative paragraph 4 calls on Member States to encourage all actors to ensure that any relevant records related to the death of Mr. Hammarskjöld and the staff accompanying him are made available for review by the Eminent Person.  Since the resolution contains a small programme budget implication, adoption will take place once the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) has considered the matter later in the month, he said.

RABAB FATIMA (Bangladesh), introducing the draft resolution titled “Follow‑up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/74/L.23), said the text welcomes the High‑level Forum on Culture of Peace held on 13 September 2019, the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action.  Bangladesh appreciates that the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace continues to find relevance across the three pillars of the United Nations in addressing contemporary global challenges.  It further appreciates that the High‑level Forum provided an opportunity for Member States, United Nations entities, civil society, non‑governmental organizations and other stakeholders to exchange ideas and make suggestions on how to build on and further promote the culture of peace in the twenty‑first century.  Finally, the text notes its support for Member States in promoting the culture of peace at the national level.

MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia), introducing draft resolution titled “World Chess Day” (document A/74/L.24), said that the text designates 20 July as World Chess Day to mark the date of establishment of the International Chess Federation in 1924 in Paris.  One of the oldest and most popular mental games in history, chess is an established part of modern‑day culture.  The draft reflects on the transformative power of chess in helping transcend national boundaries and break down racial, political and social barriers.  The text also recognizes the important opportunities offered by chess in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including in strengthening education and health, promoting empowerment of women and girls, fostering solidarity, cooperation and peace.  In Armenia, chess is regarded as an essential part of the culture.  Armenia has one of the highest numbers of chess grandmasters per capita in the world, having embraced chess as an academic subject in schools.  “One of the most important and enduring lessons that chess can offer is teaching respect,” he added.

KIRA CHRISTIANNE DANGANAN AZUCENA (Philippines), introducing the draft resolution titled “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document L/74/L.25), said that the international community is experiencing a growing trend of xenophobia and religious intolerance, underpinned by the politics of identity, as well as the emergence of extremist ideologies.  There was a time when terror was the weapon of the weak against the strong in fights for freedom and justice.  Today, terror is pursued for itself.  It is not a means but the end that terrorism seeks:  a society built on fear where every person is afraid of another.

This annual resolution is more relevant than ever and has two aims:  to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue to achieve peace and stability, and to strengthen the mechanism that promises constructive dialogue across the most divergent divides, she said.  The Philippines strived to use the objectives of this resolution by maintaining an open, inclusive and transparent approach during the negotiation process.  An example of this is operative paragraph 9, which appreciates the landmark initiative to open up the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor and welcomes the agreement achieved between Pakistan and India in record time.  The resolution also stresses the important role of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the invaluable contributions of the United National Alliance of Civilizations in promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue at all levels.

Statements

SAM TERENCE CONDOR (Saint Kitts and Nevis), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the international community is living in an era of increasing globalization and deepening interdependence.  As CARICOM itself is the essence of cultural diversity, it recognizes the importance of promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue, believing that peaceful resolution of conflicts and differences is crucial to social and economic development, security and stability.

However, disparities among and within countries remain a global concern, he said, pointing out that poverty and social income inequality persist, causing growing resentment and intolerance.  The 2030 Agenda will need to address increasing inequalities between countries, ensuring that globalization benefits all countries and not just a selected few.  The United Nations must be a force for equality and fairness in the context of an inequitable system of globalization, working to ensure that rules apply evenly, effectively and consistently among all actors in the global family.

VITAVAS SRIVIHOK (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that ASEAN continues to advance the vision the association had when it was founded 52 years ago:  to have an integrated, peaceful and stable community throughout the region which enjoys prosperity, lasting peace and stability.  The association’s decision‑making process has been carried out in the ASEAN way:  completed with the consensus of all 10 member countries.  The ASEAN way has worked to expand peace and stability in the region, and it carries out the same process with its dialogue partners to within the region and beyond its borders.

ASEAN continues to engage in meaningful dialogue with its external partners through ASEAN‑led mechanisms, such as the Preventive Diplomacy and Confidence‑Building Measures under the ASEAN Regional Forum, he continued.  ASEAN also supports the Security Council’s women, peace and security agenda and multi‑stakeholder initiatives.  For example, the ASEAN Youth Volunteer Programme helps foster a culture of peace through the active participation of women and youth.  ASEAN believes that the promotion of cooperation on sustainable development also helps foster a culture of peace, he said.

CARLOS RON MARTÍNEZ, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs for North America of Venezuela, said that building and strengthening a culture of peace calls for real commitment from the international community.  This must go beyond occasional speeches to real action.  Achieving solidarity with the most vulnerable people is essential in this regard.  “We must understand each other and recognize each other without judging each other,” he added.  A world of peace will only be possible when social justice, health, food and dignity are accessible to all people regardless of their social class, gender or any other construct.  Venezuela rejects xenophobia and discrimination.

Political will and dialogue without exclusion and under equal conditions will allow people to feel like real actors of change in the world, he continued. Venezuela has made major contributions to multilateralism, cooperation and solidarity.  This has been recognized by various States, social movements and academics.  The country remains involved in initiatives that promote economic solidarity, self‑determination and peaceful coexistence.  Venezuela is also dedicated to establishing a judicial system that strengthens peace, integrity and the rule of law.  He condemned the illegal implementation of unilateral coercive measures by the United States against his country.  “They are criminal and inhumane collective punishment,” he said, demanding such measures be lifted immediately.

FAHAD M.E.H.A. MOHAMMAD (Kuwait) said the international community today is facing more complex challenges undermining the culture of peace than in the past, including religious tensions and violence, which exacerbate conflicts worldwide.  Noting that violent extremism is sometimes used as a mode of expression on social networks, he stressed that the international community must make greater efforts to combat this, banning content that incites extremism and terrorism.  Adding that there can be no peace without development and no development without peace, he pointed to the need for a culture of peace in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

SAUD HAMAD GHANEM HAMAD ALSHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said his country declared this year one of tolerance, which was followed by the first visit Pope Francis has made to the Emirates.  On the culture of peace, he said his country believes in the importance of engaging youth in processes aimed at stability as well as international peace and security.  Next week, the Emirates will host a conference in partnership with the United Nations Office of Counter‑Terrorism that focuses on strengthening the role of young people in combating extremism.  Adding that stability and co‑existence must not overlook the important role of women, he said his country is also holding a series of discussions to study the role of women in post‑conflict reconstruction.

AHMED NASIR (Maldives) said that education is a key element in cultivating and nurturing a culture of peace.  Despite much progress in that regard, there are still some 262 million children worldwide who do not go to school.  Inequality remains one of the biggest obstacles to creating a culture of peace.  For decades, Maldivians who lived in islands outside of the greater Malé region have not had the same level of development or access to the same basic resources.  They have not been accorded the same level of priority in policymaking circles.  The current Government is committed to implementing a decentralization policy aimed at rectifying this.  The Declaration and Programme of Action on a culture of peace rightly identifies Governments, civil society, media and individuals as key actors for its effective implementation.  Moreover, he said that without adequate regulation, social media has become a tool to spread populist rhetoric, political extremism, racism, xenophobia and falsehoods.  “We call on social media companies to take more responsibility, especially in monitoring divisive content,” he said.

Mr. ALMABROK (Libya) said the world is witnessing waves of violence, displacement, death and destruction, due to an increase of violent extremism, terrorism and hatred.  The root causes are poverty, unemployment, impunity and marginalization. “It is sad to see flagrant and daily violations of human rights,” he said, calling on all countries to work together to provide greater resources and the courage to put an end to these violations.  Peace can only exist where there is justice.  He expressed concern that unregulated social media is exposing young people to extremist ideology.  Member States should demonstrate a collective will to resolve conflict and war and refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign States.  Respect for cultural and religious diversity is also important.

ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), warning that the world today produces more bullets than books, stressed that so long as nuclear deterrence is used as a method to contain war, human beings will not enjoy a culture of peace.  There can be no peace without full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States and the self‑determination of peoples.  The use of unilateral coercive measures as a foreign policy tool must cease.  Ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba would be an action in favor of peace.  There is no culture of peace when the United States launches a new slander campaign to discredit Cuba, she stressed.

MOHAMMED SALEM M. AL ASSIRI (Saudi Arabia) noted that promotion of a culture of peace and the importance of dialogue has steadily gained wider support in the international community.  With adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the link between peace and development has also become abundantly clear.  Threatening the culture of peace are social media platforms leading to hatred, violence and even terrorism, he said, adding that the opposite happens when such media are used constructively.  He stated the need to enhance global understanding of religious diversity, which would have a positive impact on achieving development goals.  He also pointed to the important role youth play in identifying challenges to peace as well as solutions to conflict, stressing that their voices should be heard and recommendations translated into concrete actions.

LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) said the international community will begin its countdown for the 2030 Agenda in 2020, but questioned how peace could be achieved without development or how development could occur without a culture of peace.  During the interactive dialogue held during the High‑level Forum in September, it was concluded that digital media could be weapons but also major tools in promoting peace and stability.  The more such media are used to disseminate hate speech the more people must use the same media to counter this, he said, adding that peace calls for renewed daily commitments and efforts.  Hate cannot be fought with more hate but through institutions and the creation of a permanent culture of peace.

OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said that strengthening multilateralism is key to dealing with the myriad issues the world currently faces.  Morocco is a crucible of different cultures and has long promoted dialogue between people of different religions.  Its many mosques and synagogues are evidence of Morocco’s commitment to harmony and respect for diversity.  Education is a fundamental tool in fighting discrimination, hate and extremism.  Morocco’s education system promotes human rights, he said, commending also UNESCO’s role in promoting tolerance worldwide.  Underscoring the peaceful elements of Islam, he referenced an institution set up to train preachers from several Arab, European and African countries.  Morocco attaches great importance to fighting discrimination, Islamophobia, antisemitism, xenophobia and all kinds of hatred.

ISBETH LISBETH QUIEL MURCIA (Panama) said her country remains committed to global efforts to combat radicalization through education and awareness‑building.  As a country with a large youth population, Panama has invested in social development so that young people can fully realize their possibilities.  Panama also recognizes the role of sport in combating extremist ideology.  “We welcome the efforts of the United Nations to encourage interreligious dialogue as one of the pillars of inclusion, peace and development,” she continued.  Emphasizing the need to reduce hate speech and extremist content available online, she said that Panama focuses its resources on promoting economic and social wellbeing.  Peace is the foundation for development and quality education is a critical tool to ensure that violence does not become “the new normal”, she said.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) warned that the clash of cultures and religions is a growing reality in numerous countries and societies, with antisemitism resurfacing and Islamophobia becoming even more pervasive.  The war on terror, following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, has turned into a war on Islam.  Today, Islamophobia has assumed a deadly dimension in India.  The mothership of governing Bharatiya Janata Party is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a fascist organization created almost 100 years ago by the founder who advocated “cleansing” of Muslims and other minorities from India’s “Aryan” Hindu population.  In several parts of India, the plan for ethnic cleansing is being implemented.  The annexation of Jammu and Kashmir and the obliteration of its identity is a primary objective of that Government, which on 5 August unilaterally and illegally changed two articles in the Indian Constitution to eliminate Jammu and Kashmir’s special and autonomous status, in a bid to transform a Muslim‑majority state into a Hindu‑majority territory.

Ms. ANNUAR (Brunei Darussalam), associating herself with ASEAN, stressed the importance of investing in youth as active agents in building a peaceful world, noting that Bruneians are taught from a young age the value of respecting their elders, family, neighbors and people from all walks of life, regardless of race, gender, religion or culture.  Providing high‑quality education and skills development to youth is a top priority on the national agenda, 2035 National Vision.  Cultivating interreligious and intercultural dialogue and understanding is also a key component of the country’s multi‑faith and diverse community.  She added that Brunei actively participates in global interfaith dialogues and conferences, acknowledging the contributions of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations — among them the United Nations Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites — as well as those of the UNESCO as the lead agency for the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures.

YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said that the Baku Process has proved itself as one of the leading international platforms to foster dialogue and cultural diversity.  Its important role was emphasized by the Secretary‑General in his report to the Assembly’s seventy‑second session and most recently, in the outcome documents of the eighteenth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Non‑Aligned Movement, held on 25 to 26 October in Azerbaijan.  An integral part of the Baku Process is the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, organized biennially by Azerbaijan since 2011 in partnership with UNESCO, the Alliance of Civilizations, the World Tourism Organization, the Council of Europe and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  The fifth World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, which took place this May in Baku, focused on dialogue as an instrument for action against discrimination, inequality and violent conflict.  In November, Azerbaijan hosted the second Summit of World Religious Leaders, which drew participants from about 70 countries, and adopted the Baku Declaration at its outcome.  The outcome emphasized the role of religious leaders in promoting inter-religious and intercultural dialogue.

PAULOMI TRIPATHI (India) stressed the need to galvanize efforts to use quality education and sustainable development as tools for addressing vulnerabilities.  “Implementation of the 2030 Agenda is pivotal in this regard,” she said.  Interreligious and intercultural dialogues through engagement of faith leaders, civil society and academia are important for building intellectual and moral solidarity.  Home to a very significant number of practitioners of practically every major religion in the world, India is a narrative of conversations between different civilizations.  “We, in India, understand the importance of building alliances between religions, cultures and ethnic groups,” she said, adding:  “We have always supported all efforts to build bridges of understanding between nations, peoples, religions and cultures across the world.”  India remains deeply committed to implementing the culture of peace agenda.

KRISTIN EMILY JANSON (Canada) said that meaningful dialogue across cultural and religious identities is not an abstract idea for Canadians but a daily reality at the grassroots level between neighbors, families, students and colleagues.  In the resolution on World Chess Day, her delegation supported inclusion of language recognizing the importance of equal opportunities for women and girls in sport and recreational activities.  Her delegation is also pleased that the resolution on follow‑up to the Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace continues to recognize the role of women and youth in building a culture of peace, as well as in the prevention of conflicts and post‑conflict situations.  Turning to the resolution on promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace that calls for reconciliation as key to a culture of peace, she noted that Canada’s past is not free from conflict.  Canada’s ongoing national reconciliation process aims to renew Canada’s relationship with indigenous peoples.  Today, voices of hate and exclusion are actively undermining a culture of peace, she warned, calling for a redoubling of efforts to stop that.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua) said that the world continues to witness constant violations of international law, including the overthrow of both undemocratic and legitimate Governments.  The international order must become one in which there is respect for co‑existence, and conflicts and disputes among or within nations are peacefully resolved.  Nicaragua is currently implementing a national development strategy, which includes an early warning system to detect signs of violence or risk.  Adding that the United Nations must play a role in ensuring respect, understanding, security and sovereignty, he said that promoting a culture of peace means reaffirming peoples’ independence and right to self‑determination in creating a better world.

Action

The representative of Armenia, explaining his position on draft resolution “L.25”, said that education and human rights education are key to preventing discrimination.  He regretted that proposals made by Armenia to include language on education were not included in the draft text.  Intercultural cohesion is not possible amid gross violations of human rights and the silencing of dissenting voices.  In organizing international events on multilateralism, due regard should be given to the host country’s record on human rights.  For that reason, Armenia disassociates itself from preambular paragraph 31.

The Assembly then adopted draft resolutions “L.23”, “L.24” and “L.25” without a vote.

The representative of Azerbaijan, in explanation of vote on “L.25”, welcomed that some of the proposals put forward by his delegation had been considered while also expressing regret that others had not been.  Azerbaijan’s position on preambular paragraph 26 was been explained in detail during the Assembly’s 15 April 2018 meeting.  He said there is nothing surprising about the unethical comments made by the delegate of Armenia.  Armenia should learn lessons from its efforts to blackmail during negotiations on the draft.  Armenia continues to disregard the culture of peace altogether and has demonstrated that prospects for its constructive engagement remain elusive.

The representative of the United States, addressing resolutions “L.25, L.24 and L.25”, referred the Assembly to a statement his delegation made on 21 November about its position regarding the 2030 Agenda.  On “L.25”, he further said that his delegation disassociated itself from operative paragraph 13, stressing that protection for both expression and belief must be respected in any meaningful dialogue.

FREDRIK HANSEN, observer for the Holy See, reiterated its long‑standing commitment to the promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue as important components to creating peace.  It is important this agenda item is reviewed annually by the Assembly.  Among the new elements in this year’s resolution, the Holy See welcomes the reference to the document, Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.  Signed by Pope Francis and Ahmad Al‑Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al‑Azhar, on 4 February 2019 in Abu Dhabi, this document explicitly recognizes how fruitful exchange and dialogue contribute to “the widespread promotion of a culture of tolerance, acceptance of others and of living together peacefully.”  The Holy See is also very pleased to see the resolution mention the “initiative to open up the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor in the spirit of interfaith harmony and peaceful neighbourhood” and the agreement between the Governments of India and Pakistan to allow visa‑free access to pilgrims of all faiths.  He commended the delegations of India and Pakistan for reaching consensus on this paragraph.

For information media. Not an official record.