By J Nastranis
NEW YORK (IDN) - In the face of violence and terrorism affecting many parts of the world, the United Nations and its members are faced with a challenge, the challenge of building a culture of peace and non-violence, outgoing General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft told a high-level forum on the 'Culture of Peace' at UN Headquarters on September 1.
“The UN is both a reflection of the world as it is and as we want it to be,” he said, calling on stakeholders to discuss and identify concrete ways to strengthen intercultural and interreligious dialogue and the role that the UN can play to that effect.
Lykketoft convened the one-day meeting on the occasion of the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace. It brought together representatives from UN Member States, UN system entities, civil society, media, the private sector and others with an interest in exchanging ideas and suggestions on ways to build and promote the 'Culture of Peace,' and to highlight emerging trends that impact its implementation.
The first such forum on the 'Culture of Peace' was held in September 2012. It recognized the need for continual support to the further strengthening of the global movement to promote the 'Culture of Peace.'
“On a more micro-level, tensions between communities, high levels of xenophobia and day to day violence against women and girls, is also causing great damage to our societies,” Lykketoft said.
He added that improving the UN's capacity to conduct peace operations and to sustain peace is as important to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in September, as it is to mitigating crises around the world.
Lykketoft said that while people around the globe are getting ever more connected as a result of migration, trade, tourism and urbanization, societies remain plagued by inequality, prejudice, intolerance and conflict.
“Media is often being seized as a vehicle for divisiveness and incitement to hatred and violent extremism,” he said, adding that religion and belief are being used as the justification for violent extremism, incitement to violence and deliberate destruction of cultural heritage.
In a message to the forum, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said a quarter century since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the landmark Declaration and Programme of Action for a Culture of Peace, the values of understanding, dialogue and respect for human rights are needed more than ever.
The 17 universal, integrated and indivisible SDGs encapsulate all the key features in the eight action areas of the UN Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace. With their focus on people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships, they pave the way for more inclusive, equitable and peaceful societies.
"A culture of peace and sustainable development are two sides of the same coin," said Ban. This recognition is expressed in the theme of this year’s International Day of Peace, which will be observed on September 21.
"The Sustainable Development Goals are, indeed, building blocks for peace. And one of the key foundation stones is Sustainable Development Goal 16, which stipulates the indispensability for sustainable development of peace, stability, human rights and effective governance based on the rule of law."
Ban stressed the need for according priority to young people "in our quest for a peaceful, prosperous future", adding: "It is imperative that we respect their rights, dignity and aspirations and that we invest in providing the opportunities they need to thrive."
Ban declared: "Today’s change makers and tomorrow’s leaders need to be empowered to champion the culture of peace. The creativity and potential of the world’s young women and men are immeasurable. Let us not waste it. Instead, let us harness it for the benefit of all."
The outgoing UN Chief stressed "collective responsibility to work together to provide peace, dignity, prosperity and opportunity on a healthy planet for this generation and those to come".
He concluded: "We have a blueprint for action and 15 years to achieve our goals. Let us waste no time in building a culture of peace where the human rights and dignity of every woman and man are respected, and the bonds of solidarity are strengthened. That way, we can make the Sustainable Development Goals real for all people." [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 September 2016]
Photo: Wide view of the General Assembly High-level Forum on the Culture of Peace. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine
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