New York

7 September 2017

Remarks to the High-Level Forum on a Culture of Peace [as delivered]

[Delivered by Ms. Ana María Menéndez, the Secretary-General's Senior Advisor on Policy]

Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
The Secretary-General asked me to represent him today.
 
On his behalf, I wish to thank you for an initiative that lies very much at the heart of his vision for the organization. On his very first day in office, in his first message to the world’s people, he focused on the imperative of peace. The Secretary-General was guided by a keen awareness that we live in a time of truly global challenges and threats to stability, prosperity and the planet.
 
Conflicts have become more complex — and interlinked — than ever before. They produce horrific violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. They limit human opportunities and sustainable development. People have been forced to flee their homes on a scale unseen in decades. Megatrends — including climate change, population growth, rapid urbanization, food insecurity and water scarcity — have increased competition for resources and heightened tensions and instability. Longstanding threats such as terrorism have taken on new, and frightening, global dimensions. And in too many places, we see mistrust, suspicion and intolerance, leading to polarization and violence.
 
 
Against this bleak backdrop, the Secretary-General continues to urge all citizens, governments and leaders to overcome differences, foster dialogue, and to resolve to put peace first. He also calls for a new approach for the UN – to ensure that– together – we uphold the UN Charter, prioritize prevention and address the root causes of harm in all its forms.
 
Mr. President,
 
Peace, justice, human dignity, tolerance and solidarity are what bind us together.
 
These are the common values that are central to all cultures and religions in the world – they form the “we the people” that the UN founders had in mind when establishing this organization. They are at the core of the values embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and underpin the rights and dignity of individual women and men.
 
”We, the people” is also expressed in the universality of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is the motivation for everything we do at the United Nations.
 
A culture of peace should therefore be a collective endeavour and our joint vision for the future.
 
Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
The Secretary-General’s vision for peace is one that recognizes that, for peace to truly last, it must be based not only on a culture of tolerance, dialogue, solidarity and mutual understanding but also on a culture of prevention.  Rather than responding to crises after they have erupted and taken a toll in lives, suffering and economic hardships, we need to shift our efforts to prevent such crises in the first place. 
No political or economic arrangements can, by themselves, assure us of peace if they are not underpinned by a sense of our shared humanity and common purpose to prevent human suffering. That is why he sees the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as one of our best tools for putting in place the building blocks for peace.
 
In that same spirit, the Secretary-General has initiated a set of reforms to improve our efforts to advance peace, security and sustainable development.
 
All of this aims to contribute to a culture of peace.
 
Allow me, for my part, to mention four areas where action is especially urgent in combatting today’s turbulence and intolerance.
 
First, we need to invest in children.
 
This should include early childhood investment and development. Education is an important means to eliminate suspicion, stereotypes and ‘us and them’ mentalities. Early education can also promote the ideals of non-violence, equality, and mutual respect.
 
Second, we need to invest in youth.
 
No single social group is more universally important to building a culture of peace than young people, precisely because young men and women are often the barometer of social discontent, economic marginalization and political exclusion. The prospects for building a culture of peace depend on our ability to translate this demographic asset into a peace dividend. To do this, it is essential that we move beyond the stereotypes which characterize young people as either perpetrators or victims of violence or which treat youth as a ‘problem’. Instead, we need to recognize the power and innovation of young people as ‘agents of change’ – and as the custodians of a culture of peace.
 
Troisièmement, nous devons reconnaître que les contributions et la participation des femmes sont essentielles à la paix.
 
Ce n'est pas parce que les femmes sont intrinsèquement plus pacifiques. C'est parce que la participation significative des femmes génère de nouvelles perspectives quant à la résolution des problèmes; à la reconnaissance de nouveaux groupes et est une preuve indéniable pour une plus grande inclusion et dès lors une meilleure durabilité de la paix sur le long terme. Il existe également de plus en plus de preuves que les sociétés qui sont plus égales par rapport au genre sont plus résistantes aux chocs et moins susceptibles d'être impliquées dans un conflit. L’Agenda 2030 et l'objectif cinq des Objectifs de Développement Durable marquent une nouvelle ère de compréhension et de consensus sur la nature intégrée et universelle de la réalisation de l'égalité des sexes. Le Secrétaire général s'engage fermement à promouvoir l'égalité des sexes et la participation significative des femmes dans toutes les sphères de notre travail.
 
Cuarto, como el Secretario General ha reiterado en numerosas ocasiones, necesitamos invertir, política, cultural y económicamente en inclusión y cohesión, de forma que la diversidad se contemple cabalmente como una riqueza, no como una amenaza. Para prevenir la intolerancia, el extremismo violento y la radicalización, necesitamos promover la inclusión, la solidaridad y la cohesión de las sociedades multiétnicas, multiculturales y mltireligiosas. Es el mejor antídoto contra el racismo, la xenofobia, la islamofobia y el antisemitismo. Promover el diálogo intercultural e interreligioso es la clave para conseguir la paz. Los líderes a todos los niveles tienen un papel que desarrollar, incluyendo loa líderes religiosos que juegan un papel especial en hacer progresar el diálogo y el entendimiento, así como desmitificando los estereotipos. También los medios de comunicación tienen un papel. Por ello, la lucha colectiva contra las desigualdades-dentro de y entre países-ha de recibir una atención renovada. Asegurar que las personas tienen igualdad de oportunidades-independientemente de quiénes son- para que nadie se quede atrás- es una búsqueda fundamental en el siglo XXI y uno de los principios que definen la Agenda 2030 para el desarrollo sostenible.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Let me end where the Secretary-General started in his first day in the organization when delivering his appeal for peace: Peace must be our goal and our guide. Dignity, hope, progress and prosperity depend on peace but peace depends on us. Let’s commit to a culture of peace today and every day.
 
Thank you.