Opening remarks by Mr. Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information
International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East
Monday, 9 June 2014, 9:30 – 10:00 a.m.
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen.
My name is Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal. I am the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.
On behalf of the United Nations, I am delighted to welcome you to the 22nd International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East.
I would like to extend a very special welcome to our participants who have travelled from near and far to be here with us today in Tokyo.
This seminar is organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and with Sophia University.
We are very grateful to the Government of Japan for its warm welcome and for its generous support, which we believe reflects the importance that Japan attaches to the search for peace in the Middle East.
I would like to extend special thanks to Sophia University for hosting this event and for all of the excellent support they have provided.
I would also like to thank Ambassador Riyad al-Mansour of the State of Palestine and Ambassador Lyutha al-Mughairy of Oman, the Chair of the Committee on Information at the United Nations, for joining us.
We are honoured to have with us this morning for the opening session Mr. Hirotaka Ishihara, the Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan; Dr. David M. Malone, Under-Secretary-General, and Rector of United Nations University, Tokyo; and Mr. Takashi Hayashita, the President of Sophia University, Tokyo.
We will now hear opening statements from all three gentlemen.
Mr. Ishihara will make an opening statement on behalf of the Government of Japan.
Mr. Ishihara, the floor is yours.
[Mr. Ishihara makes his opening remarks]
Thank you, Mr. Ishihara.
We will now hear from Dr. Malone.
Dr. Malone, the floor is yours.
[Dr. Malone makes his opening statement]
Thank you, Dr. Malone.
We will now hear from Mr. Hayashita, the President of Sophia University, Tokyo.
Mr. Hayashita, the floor is yours.
[Mr. Hayashita makes his opening statement]
Thank you, Mr. Hayashita.
I would now like to read out a statement from the United Nations Secretary-General.
[USG reads the Secretary-General’s statement]
I am also pleased to let you know that copies of the message to the seminar from His Excellency Mr. Abdou Salam Diallo, the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations, are available at the back of the room.
The Committee was established by the General Assembly in 1975 and has helped to ensure that the question of Palestine remains at the forefront of the United Nations’ attention. The Committee carries out a number of activities to promote international support and assistance to the Palestinian people.
This year, the Committee, along with the Division for Palestinian Rights in the UN Department of Political Affairs, and the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, have held a series of events and activities to mark the General Assembly mandated International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The Department of Public Information has supported these efforts.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our objective in organizing this seminar is two-fold: to sensitize public opinion on the question of Palestine, and to examine some of the evolving media-related dynamics shaping events in the region, while exploring how they relate to the situation between Israelis and Palestinians.
I would like to emphasize that this is a media seminar. Our discussions will focus on the role of the media in recent events in the Middle East, and as this relates to the situation in Israel and Palestine. This is an opportunity for representatives of the media, civil society, policy-making and academia from the region and beyond to come together to share their experiences and exchange views.
This seminar is taking place against the backdrop of continued turmoil in the Middle East.
The tragedy in Syria continues to have a devastating impact on ordinary citizens. In excess of 100,000 people have been killed. More than four million people have been internally displaced, and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has put the number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries at more than 1.8 million.
As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly stressed, peace in Syria can only be achieved through a political solution, not through military action.
The United Nations is working hard to address the enormous humanitarian challenges caused by the Syrian crisis, in close cooperation with Member States, including Japan.
It has also been a difficult year in the search for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as negotiations reached an impasse with the end to the so-called ‘Kerry initiative’ – the period of intense US engagement over nine months spearheaded by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted last month, the current political stalemate poses great risks to the prospects of a two-State solution, and continued inaction could result in further instability. He said that the parties should realize that not making a choice in favour of peace and co-existence within the two-State framework was the most detrimental choice of all.
Failing to continue meaningful negotiations towards the two-State solution would lead further down the path of a one-state reality on the ground, he said.
The Secretary-General continues to stress that settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law and constitute a significant obstacle to achieving peace. Demolitions of Palestinian households and other property are in contradiction to Israel’s obligation to protect the civilian population under its occupation.
In addition, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is of profound concern. The Secretary-General has urged steps to help improve conditions and ensure a complete opening of crossings into Gaza, including Rafah, to allow legitimate trade and movements of people.
At the same time, continued violence and attacks against civilians, including rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, are unacceptable.
The Secretary-General has repeated that the United Nations will do all it can to help resume a meaningful peace process.
So, does the current stalemate signal the end of the two-State solution? What does the future hold for peace efforts?
Our first panel discussion will look at these questions and we will hear from four eminent speakers before opening it up for a wider discussion.
In the other four panels of the seminar, we will focus on some of the key media-related dynamics that have emerged in the region in the past 12 months and examine how they relate to the Israel/Palestine situation in particular.
As you will have seen from the programme, we will discuss shifting media narratives in media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Middle East peace efforts; coverage and narratives surrounding Palestinian refugees – turning the spotlight on Yarmouk; Japanese media coverage of the Middle East, including how the Japanese media covers its Government’s support for Palestine; and, new tools for the media in covering the Middle East – Infographics: merging journalism with design.
We have assembled a truly impressive list of speakers and participants for our seminar. We look forward to hearing the many different perspectives and experiences they represent. We also look forward to hearing from you, the audience, and I encourage you to engage with our panellists.
That concludes the opening to the seminar. I suggest we now take a short break and resume at 10:30 with Panel I “The status of peace efforts – What now?” – which I will moderate. See you shortly.