Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the opening segment of the United Nations High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace, in New York today:
I am pleased to join you for this High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace — an event that is particularly important during these difficult times. The COVID-19 pandemic, we all know, is a challenge like no other. This is above all a human crisis, touching every area of our lives, destroying livelihoods and weakening the foundations of peaceful societies.
The economic fallout of the pandemic weighs heavily on the most fragile States, especially those that are enduring conflict or humanitarian crisis. As the devastation grows and spreads, it threatens to erode trust in public institutions and democratic processes, even in the most developed countries.
COVID-19 is exposing and exploiting risks not only to our health, but to our economies and societies, and to our future. From battle-scarred cities to international institutions, it is undermining efforts towards building a culture of peace at the local, national and global levels. Not since the United Nations was founded have we faced such a complex and multidimensional threat to global peace and security.
In the face of this grave danger, it is more important than ever to work for a culture of peace, as the essential foundation for global cooperation and action. That goes far beyond conflict prevention, mediation and resolution — as vital as those efforts remain. A culture of peace must be centred on human rights, and an end to injustice and discrimination based on gender, ethnic origin, religion, disability or sexual orientation. We must tackle the deep-rooted inequalities that work against dignity and opportunity for all.
Throughout the pandemic and beyond, we need to invest in social cohesion, recognizing that diversity is a richness, not a threat. Each community must feel that its identity is respected, while playing a full part in society as a whole.
We need a new generation of social protection, including for the most vulnerable, based on universal health coverage and the possibility of a universal basic income in line with our central objective of the eradication of poverty.
We need to achieve universal access to quality education, which is one of the great enablers of progress and crucial for nurturing new generations in understanding shared histories. And we must work together with our planet, not in opposition to it, recognizing its boundaries and our own responsibilities to each other and to future generations.
The pursuit of peace is a continuous process based on choices and decisions we make every day. Creating a culture of peace is a way of life, for individuals, communities and countries. We promote a culture of peace by generating understanding of different cultures and protecting our precious heritage. Art and culture enable us to express and share fundamental truths about our common humanity.
A healthy culture of peace creates space for civil society and the media to play their full part. They are essential to dialogue and accountability between people and their Governments. We must make sure that digital communications contribute to peace and are not misused to spread hate and extremism. And creating a culture of peace means supporting dialogue with those who are different. Respect, empathy and the protection of human rights and dignity must be our guide, even in the most difficult circumstances.
As we respond to the pandemic, and work for a strong economic recovery, I urge all to redouble their commitment to making a culture of peace our everyday reality. Thank you, and I wish you all the best for your discussions.