New York

20 September 2019

Secretary-General's remarks to the International Day of Peace student observance [as delivered]

[off mic] …with a very distinguished group of young people on the International Day of Peace. 
 
We usually look at peace from the point of view of the conflicts between human beings.  Peace is not only the absence of war; it is the creation of the conditions of harmony in the way people live with each other to allow for conflicts not to exist.  But today, we have a special Peace Day, because it is not only about peace among people, it is also about peace between people and nature.  Peace between people and the planet. 
 
The truth is for now more than one century, we have been at war with our planet.  We have been undermining what is the planet in which we are supposed to live and the planet in which - I am seventy years old, you are a little bit younger, but I also have grandchildren  and I want to make sure that the planet in which they will live will be at least as positive to life, to human beings as is today’s planet.  But this is not guaranteed. 
 
What we are doing today in the world severely undermines the health of nature, the health of our planet.  We are at war with nature and the problem with nature is that nature strikes back.  Nature is angry.  Nature doesn’t forgive.  When attacked, nature strikes back.  And nature is striking back.  I was in the Bahamas last week, and you have probably heard the news; in one island that had been absolutely devastated by winds [of] more than two hundred miles per hour that stayed there for more than one full day.  The storm was moving just one kilometer per hour.  It was staying, staying, staying and killing people and destroying houses and trees and everything. 
 
Nature is angry.  We need to make peace with nature and the fact that we are not making peace with nature and the fact that nature is angry is also creating more conflict among people.
 
If you go to one region in Africa, the Sahel, south of the Sahara Desert, you’ll see that climate change is accelerating drought and desertification.  You have farmers and herders that have been in harmony for centuries, but now because of the lack of water and the lack of pastures, the herders are forced to move more and more into the areas where farmers have their own activities, and this is creating conflict between the two groups.  As they also belong to different ethnic groups and sometimes different religions, this gets involved into a pattern of conflict in the region and it helps the spread of terrorism in the Sahel becoming a threat to us all because terrorism, as you know, [is] today universal. 
 
So, peace with nature is the theme of this universal day of peace because it is essential to be in harmony with nature and because it is also an important factor to strengthen the possibility of peace among human beings. 
 
We will have a Climate Summit on Monday and the international scientific community has been very clear.  We need to make sure that the temperature at the end of the century will not rise by more than 1.5 degrees, and that means we need to have carbon neutrality.  Net zero carbon emissions.  We will still have some emissions, but we need the forests to sink carbon, and with other effects to compensate it. 
 
We need in the middle of the century, in 2050, to be neutral and for that we need to do huge transformations, in the way we farm the lands, in the way we move, in the way we power our societies or develop our energy and also in the many of the things we do in our lives. 
 
So, what is extremely important to see today is that even if governments are still lacking political will, even if we are still unable to make full peace with nature, there is a huge hope in what the youth is doing all over the world.  And the youth is clearly telling my generation that we need to change course and that we need to do it now.  And it is saying it in a very strong way. 
 
So, your presence here today like the millions who all over the world are demonstrating today in favour of peace with nature, your presence here today is very important for our work. 
 
I thank you very much for being here with us and I wish you to be very, very clear when you talk to your friends, when you talk to your parents, when you talk to the leaders of your communities: you want peace with nature because without peace with nature we will not be… well, we will be doomed and your generation will suffer even more than my generation.  So, your leadership is essential to make sure that my generation does the right thing and there is still a lot of resistance to overcome.  I count on you.  All the best.  Good luck in your very committed engagement towards peace - peace among people and peace with mother nature.