New York

16 September 2016

Secretary-General's remarks at International Day of Peace Student Observance [as prepared for delivery]

Good morning, everyone!

I am happy to see so many young people here at the United Nations on the International Day of Peace.

Thanks to Ike Ramos and Ms. Nitty Scott for their energetic performance. 

Today is one of the most significant annual observances for the United Nations.

Building and sustaining peace is the reason for the existence of this Organization.

I am happy to share this stage with some of the individuals who help us in that task – our Messengers of Peace.

Michael Douglas has generously used his fame to promote disarmament.

Jane Goodall has been a staunch advocate for endangered species and the environment.

Midori has used the power of music to help thousands of underprivileged children.

Stevie Wonder is known for his commitment to addressing humanitarian issues and his efforts to help people with disabilities.

And, of course, Leonardo DiCaprio has used his immense star power to shine a light on one of the most pressing issues of our time: climate change.

We are also joined today by the Global Teacher Prize winner Hanan Al Hroub, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Sunny Varkey, and by three Nobel Peace Prize laureates – Shirin Ebadi, Tawakkol Karman and Leymah Gbowee.

Thank you all for being here.

I would also like to pay tribute to two of our Messengers who sadly passed away this year: Muhammad Ali and Elie Wiesel.

Muhammad Ali was a world champion – for peace and equality. Throughout his life, he campaigned against apartheid and racial injustice and for mutual respect and peace.

Elie Wiesel was a Nobel Laureate and tireless advocate who worked to defend the rights of the defenceless and to combat intolerance.

At the United Nations a few years ago, Elie Wiesel told an important story about a peace advocate who continued to protest against hatred despite being completely ignored.

“Why do you continue?” someone asked. “Why do you shout against hatred when you know it won’t change them?”

“I shout louder,” the peace advocate replied, “because I don’t want them to change me.”

That peace advocate knew something we should all remember: 

We have a shared obligation to raise our voices for peace, regardless of the odds against us. 

Even in peaceful countries, nobody should ever take peace for granted.

We have seen time and again that unless people, communities and societies commit to peace and work for peace, they are vulnerable to violence and conflict.

But what can we do, each of us, to promote peace?

The answer to that lies in the theme of this year’s International Day of Peace, which highlights the role of the Sustainable Development Goals as building blocks for peace. 

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals were unanimously adopted by world leaders here in this hall one year ago.

They are a global blueprint for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.

All the goals are linked. And together, they make it clear that peace, sustainable development and human rights – the three pillars of the United Nations – are mutually reinforcing. They are three sides of the same triangle.

Ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring shared prosperity are essential to peaceful societies. 

When you work to safeguard our planet, or to promote human rights, or to empower women and girls – you are working for peace.

When you contribute humanitarian aid for refugees, or work to end inequality and discrimination – you are working for peace.

I hope you will leave today with a commitment to champion international peace through sustainable development.

Whether you are interested in human rights and justice, or education and gender equality, we need your voice.

Thank you.