Collage: María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly (left) and Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury (right). Credit: IDN-INPS. - Photo: 2019

An ‘Arduous Journey’ Toward the Culture of Peace and Beyond

By Ramesh Jaura

BERLIN | NEW YORK (IDN) –  “Let’s Build a Culture of Peace,” exhorted Nobel Peace laureates in an urgent call to “all countries and organizations of the world, their leaders and citizens“, at the 17th World Summit in Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán.

“In the midst of the current challenges of war, fear, racism, intolerance, and populist nationalism, today more than ever it is necessary to promote a Culture of Peace that follows tolerance and respect for diversity as a fundamental principle of coexistence among human beings and nations,” they declared.

The Mérida declaration followed on the heels of the High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace on September 13 at the UN headquarters in New York, on the 20th anniversary of adoption of the pioneering and norm-setting resolution 53/243 by the UN General Assembly on the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace that transcends boundaries, cultures, societies and nations.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury introduced the agreed text of that document for adoption on behalf of all Member States, in his capacity as the Chairman of the nine-month-long negotiations. As he puts it, “Through this landmark adoption, the General Assembly laid down humanity’s charter for the new approaching millennium”.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, who convened the 20th anniversary (1999-2019) of the Culture of Peace, paid tribute to Ambassador Chowdhury, founder of Global Movement for the Culture of Peace (GMCoP), former Permanent Representative of Bangladesh and former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations.

“Truly, we are indebted to you for your leadership on the [1999 General Assembly] resolution that gave birth to this anniversary and I hope that you will continue to advocate for the realization of its goal,” she told Ambassador Chowdhury who chaired the panel discussion on ‘The Culture of Peace: Empowering and Transforming Humanity’.

Credit: UN

Recalling an “arduous journey – a journey ridden curiously with both obstacles and indifference” – Ambassador Chowdhury said in his remarks at the panel discussion, the UN had taken its “most forward-looking stride in ensuring a peaceful planet for all of us since the Charter of the UN in 1945”.

The UN Charter arose out of the ashes of the Second World War and the UN Declaration and the Programme of Action on Culture of Peace emerged in the aftermath of the long-drawn Cold War.

Though the Declaration and Programme of Action is an agreement among nations, governments, civil society, media and individuals are all identified in this document as key actors, says Ambassador Chowdhury. Equally significant is that the UN General Assembly decided on the culture of peace before the Millennium Development Goals to end poverty. SDGs came 15 years later.

Bangladesh brought the reference to the culture of peace in Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in its target 4.7 which identified culture of peace and non-violence as well as global citizenship in educational context. All eight areas of action in the culture of peace programme are reflected in various SDGs.

“I can however say with pride that the Culture of Peace would outlast the SDGs and make more deep-rooted and long-lasting contribution to a sustainable and peaceful planet of ours when the UN observes its 30th anniversary,” says Ambassador Chowdhury.

He recalls former UN Secretary-General and Nobel Peace laureate Kofi Annan’s profound remarks: “Over the years we have come to realize that it is not enough to send peacekeeping forces to separate warring parties. It is not enough to engage in peace-building efforts after societies have been ravaged by conflict. It is not enough to conduct preventive diplomacy. All of this is essential work, but we want enduring results. We need, in short, the culture of peace.”

Commenting “milestone observance” of the anniversary, Ambassador Chowdhury told IDN: “The engagement of Member States, international organizations, civil society and media in this anniversary event was manifested at a high level of enthusiasm making it truly participatory.”

The event received increasing interest of the Member States and others to speak at the plenary of Forum. 56 countries and UN observer entities inscribed to speak. The continuing involvement of the Global Movement for The Culture of Peace in offering its full support as a coalition of NGOs to the Office of the President of the General Assembly in the preparatory process and to the organization of the day-long event was very collaborative, said Ambassador Chowdhury.

This Forum was the eighth in the series since the very first one convened by President of the 66th session of UN General Assembly Ambassador Nassir Al-Nasser on September 14, 2012.

“Presence of the King of the Ashanti people of Ghana as the keynote speaker and his words added a totally different character to the otherwise sedate General Assembly Hall as the anniversary event  moved on,” added Ambassador Chowdhury.

He continued: 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate (from Liberia) Leymah Gbowee’s message of solidarity was powerful and inspiring and was appreciated by one and all. She emphasized very passionately that “The culture of peace is not an abstract concept. It is the culture of equality, justice, it is the culture of inclusion, it is a culture of ensuring that every member of society has their basic human security needs met. The culture of peace requires radical shift or radical transformation.

“We must commit to processes that transform communities, society and strengthen democracies.   It is upon each and every one of us, individually and collectively to ensure that the culture of peace is not just observed once a year but that it is a part of our daily existence every day of the year.”

The panel discussion focused on the anniversary theme and all the panellists presented well-articulated thoughts from their perspectives, noted Ambassador Chowdhury. Out of seven panel speakers, there were four women speakers. “The High-Level Forum panels from the very beginning have been gender-balanced with more women speakers. Out of eight High-Level Forums, there were six of those had women plenary speakers.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 October 2019]

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Collage: María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly (left) and Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury (right). Credit: IDN-INPS.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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