New York

14 September 2012

Deputy Secretary-General's remark to the closing session of the General Assembly's High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace [as prepared for delivery]

What a remarkable day this has been.


I thank all of the organizers, especially the General Assembly President Al-Nasser, and all of the participants.


Thank you for your foresight in convening this Forum – and thank you for your very valuable contributions.


Looking around this room, I see a picture of how we establish a culture of peace.


First: partners. Governments are represented here, but so are civil society groups, business executives and others who have spent years – even decades – working to promote a culture of peace.


Second: dialogue. Today there were statements – but there were also questions and answers. Genuine dialogue creates a culture of peace.


Third: international understanding. We live in a world of instant, global communications. We need a sense of global citizenship to match.


I echo the Secretary-General’s dismay at the recent brutal violence in Libya and the Middle East. I share his outrage at the hateful film that appears to have sparked the violence.  I condemn both the exploitation of freedom of expression to provoke hatred and the outbursts of blind violence which widen the gap between cultures and religions.


This vicious circle can only be broken through dialogue, knowledge and mutual understanding.



Ladies and gentlemen,


Culture and peace are interrelated concepts.


I come from the world of diplomacy. But I know that diplomats will never succeed if they operate in a cultural vacuum. And the converse is also true: when we appreciate the cultures of people we are trying to help, we are so much more effective.


Cultural understanding generates peace. This is as true for schoolchildren making friends as it is for mediators settling conflicts.


Many speakers – starting with the Secretary-General – have already pointed out that understanding comes through education.


Education cannot be passive in the face of intolerance, injustice and insecurity.


Education is an active, ongoing effort to face tough questions and search hard for answers.


The Secretary-General’s Education First initiative is about putting pupils in classrooms. But it is much more than that. It calls for giving children quality learning experiences to promote understanding and global citizenship – and to establish a thriving culture of peace.


Distinguished participants,


Four days from now, we will observe a solemn anniversary: the tragic death of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961.


As you know, he died in a plane crash in Ndola while on a mission of peace. Truly, he gave his life to the cause of peace.


Secretary-General Hammarskjöld embodied the twin concepts of culture and peace. You could not separate his diplomatic side from his passion for culture. And you wouldn’t want to. Dag Hammarskjöld was a towering leader on the global stage very much because he took the time to reflect, to mentally enrich himself and to understand others.


He was known for hosting evenings that brought together the great artists and writers of his day. One friend remembered going to a dinner at the Secretary-General’s residence. The entire dinner, they listened in silence to music. At the end of the evening, Hammarskjöld remarked that they had spent a wonderful evening together.


One late night, Secretary-General Hammarskjöld called his aides into his office. They all expected to hear some bad news about an emergency situation. But he said simply, “I want to go to the Meditation Room.”


At the time, that very special space he created for quiet reflection was under construction. And there, in the middle of the night, Hammarskjöld started checking on the progress.


At the centre of the Meditation Room is a stone which Hammarskjöld said is there to remind us of the “endurance and faith on which all human endeavour must be based.”


Let us advance, with endurance and faith, to establish a lasting culture of peace.


Thank you.