Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks, delivered by Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet, to the High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace under the theme “Twentieth Anniversary of Culture of Peace: Empowering and Transforming Humanity”, in New York today:
I am pleased to join you as we mark the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace. I know you will have a full day of discussions and activities to renew our shared commitment to peace — and this is particularly timely as we near the opening of a new session of the General Assembly.
Peace is at the heart of the United Nations Charter and all that we do. The concept of a culture of peace provides an intellectual frame and political impulse for action. It is a concept that embodies the yearning to make peace a way of life. It is grounded in the understanding that peace is fragile and that the pursuit of peace must be a constant process. Peace is something we must work hard to secure every day and everywhere.
Over the decades, this idea has expanded from traditional notions of security to accommodate new challenges to forging peaceful societies. These include increased social injustice, the exponential speed of communications, violations of human rights, the normalization of hate speech, the climate crisis, the threat of terrorism, and the potential disruptive influence of artificial intelligence.
At the same time, we must remain determined to address age-old challenges to peace, including violence against women. Indeed, whether it is brutal crimes in one part of the world or violent extremism in another, quite often one of the strongest common denominators is hostility towards women.
We know that conflict cripples development, exacerbates poverty, erodes institutions and deprives millions of security, resources, rights and opportunities. Civilians always pay the highest price. Moreover, crises fuel fragmentation and allow impunity to thrive.
But, there is hopeful news. Demographic and technological transformations not only generate new challenges and risks; they also create new opportunities for building and sustaining peace. We need to be creative, shift our mindsets and strengthen the defences of peace in the minds of women and men.
A culture of peace is inseparable from human rights, respect for diversity, and fairer societies. One main challenge as we strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals is to build more preventive and inclusive approaches that ensure the participation of women, young people and vulnerable, marginalized and non‑represented groups. “Leaving No One Behind” must be a priority for peace.
As societies become more multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious, we need to invest more in social cohesion, recognizing that diversity is a richness, not a threat. Each community should feel that their identity is respected, but at the same time fully belong to society as a whole.
This anniversary is an opportunity to take forward our common aspiration for peace. I have no doubt that your exchanges and strategic reflections today will strengthen our shared resolve to build and sustain a ‘Culture of Peace’. Thank you for your commitment.