New York

09 September 2014

Secretary-General's remarks to the High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace

The concept of a culture of peace was born 25 years ago with the UNESCO-supported International Congress of Peace in Yamoussoukro.

As the Yamoussoukro Declaration states:

“Peace is more than the end of armed conflict.  Peace is a mode of behavior.”  It is a “deep rooted commitment to the principles of liberty, justice, equality and solidarity among all.”

This declaration echoes UNESCO’s own Constitution which reminds us that “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

We know that peace cannot be decreed solely through treaties -- it must be nurtured through the dignity, rights and capacities of every man and woman.

It is a way of being, of interacting with others, of living on this planet.

Peace means access to education, health and essential services – especially for girls and women.

It means giving every young woman and man the chance to live as they choose.

It also means developing sustainably and protecting the planet’s biodiversity.

More than ever, it means living with others on the basis of tolerance, respect and mutual understanding.

We are challenged today. 

We join forces here to promote a culture of peace, and yet all around us we see a spreading virus of war.

Of conflict.  Extremism.  Violence, hatred and terrorism.

But I am convinced that our strongest arsenal in the face of these threats is not weapons or missiles or guns. 

It is our shared values … our common vision for peace, development and human rights … our universal aspiration for a meaningful culture of peace.

Every day, I see the need to build a new culture of mediation, conflict resolution, peace-building and peace-keeping.

We need new forms of cultural literacy and diplomacy, between societies and within them.

We need more effective policies to harness diversity, to foster the creativity and innovation all societies need in the 21st century.

We need educational curricula to deepen global solidarity and citizenship.

We need a stronger commitment by all to respecting the shared cultural heritage of humanity.

And we can help deliver these essential instruments of peace through the post-2015 global development agenda. 

We can shape a new vision of peace integrated with poverty eradication and sustainable development, founded on human rights, guided by a sense of shared destiny.

There is no one-size-fits-all.

We are many cultures, but we are a single family, bound by respect for human rights and dignity for all.

This message stands at the heart of the UN Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures initiated by the General Assembly, launched last year in Astana, Kazakhstan and led forward by UNESCO.

We need a new commitment to respect the right to be different and to make the most of diversity as a strength to share among all people, regardless of where you are coming from, what kind of ethnicities or languages and traditions and history one may have. We need mutual respect and mutual tolerance. We have to raise the level of tolerance among all of us.

This is the culture of peace. 

Let us pledge to work together to spread and deepen these shared values across our world.

Thank you for your commitment.