General Assembly

02 October 2007

Remarks at the informal General Assembly Plenary Meeting on the First Observance of the International Day of Non-Violence

Ban Ki-moon

Mr. President, Excellency Minister Dlamini Zuma, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored to address the General Assembly on the first commemoration of the International Day of Non-Violence.

The United Nations was created in the hope that humanity could not only end wars, it could eventually make them unnecessary. The founders hoped that our Organization could help stop violence by spreading a culture of peace, promoting tolerance and advancing human dignity.

These same ideals sum up the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, whose birthday we celebrate today. His peaceful struggles against unjust regimes in South Africa and India captured the world's imagination.

When charged with agitation against the State in 1922, Gandhi responded: “Non-violence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed.”

In this way, by incorporating non-violence into everyday life, the Mahatma inspired countless individuals to lead better, more meaningful lives.

Mahatma Gandhi is also a personal hero of mine. Since I began my diplomatic career in India early in the 1970s, I have carried with me his definition of the seven sins: “Wealth without work; pleasure without conscience; science without humanity; knowledge without character; politics without principle; commerce without morality; and worship without sacrifice.”

Mr. President,

The Mahatma's inspiration is needed now more than ever. All around us we see communities increasingly mired in rising intolerance and cross-cultural tensions.

We see extremist dogma and violent ideologies gaining ground, as moderate forces retreat.

And we have witnessed lethal force being used against unarmed and non-violent marchers who exemplified the very spirit of the Mahatma's teachings.

May this International Day of Non-violence give us strength to advance true tolerance and non-violence at every level, from the individual all the way up to the State.

Surely there could be no better time to celebrate it than in these early weeks of the United Nations General Assembly -- an occasion when we come together as nations and as human beings united in our yearning for peace.

May this Day help spread Mahatma Gandhi's message to an ever wider audience, and hasten a time when every day is a day without violence.

Thank you very much.