By Jamshed Baruah | IDN-InDepth NewsReport
NEW YORK (IDN) – The UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser has expressed deep concern about “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and the threat they pose to international peace and security”. Launching the book titled A Forum for Peace and opening a discussion on Global Citizenship and the Future of the United Nations at the UN headquarters in New York, he also stressed the importance of the culture of peace.
The book incorporates the proposals made by Daisaku Ikeda, President of the Tokyo-based Soka Gakkai International (SGI), to the United Nations over the past 30 years. Themes discussed include the need for abolition of nuclear weapons, global education and human interconnectedness with the environment. The event was sponsored by the UNAOC and organised by Soka Gakkai International (SGI), Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research (Tokyo and Honolulu) on February 20, 2014.
The Institute’s director Olivier Urbain, who edited the book, said he was impressed by Ikeda’s firm belief in the power of ordinary people and his trust in the potential of solidarity. Ikeda’s promotion for a world without war does not stop with abolishing actual nuclear warheads, but it also deals with the mentality behind the fact that the world still have these weapons, Urban said.
“It’s not possible to build one’s happiness on the misery of another human being. The same thing with countries: it is not possible to build true lasting national security on the misery and terror of other countries that are so terrified by the weapon,” he added.
Notwithstanding conflicts and threats around the world, Urbain said there was “a tremendous sense of hope” when he read the book. “As long as we have the space for personal creativity and solidarity, there is nothing that human beings cannot overcome,” he added. The UN, therefore, needs to create channels and mechanisms for people’s voices to be heard and, in so doing, let itself be empowered by the people.
“This is the book that really needs to be read by all of us,” said Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative, who chaired the event. “No human being in the world history has written so consistently and so substantively about the work of the U.N.,” he said, adding that many of Ikeda’s proposals, including the empowerment of women and young people in creating peace, have been reflected in the way the global body operates.
Chowdhury pointed out that Ikeda’s concept of the ‘Culture of Peace’ is essential to make the world a secure place for future generations, by promoting peace through dialogue and nonviolence.
Al-Nasser pointed out that peace and dialogue is also the business of the UN Alliance of Civilizations. “The peaceful and prosperous co-existence of people and nations is the cornerstone of the United Nations mission. We are bound together as the international community in the belief that – despite different cultures, languages and religions, there are fundamental shared values and principles that underpin our humanity,” he said.
“We are bound together as the UN family because we recognize that it is through the celebration of our diversity, as well as through the promotion of tolerance and dispelling fears of the ‘other’, that we will build more peaceful world. And we are bound together because we understand that the citizens of world share common problems that require global solutions. This is where ‘the abolition of nuclear weapons’ and Global Citizenship Education come to play,” the UN High Representative for the AOC added.
“The International Community regardless of cultural differences has often expressed deep concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and the threat they pose to international peace and security, Al-Nasser told a gathering of diplomats, journalists, academicians and representatives of non-governmental organisations.
The UN Member States had stated in the “outcomes of Disarmament Machinery” that mankind is confronting an unprecedented threat of self-extinction arising from massive and competitive accumulation of the most destructive weapons ever produced. “It goes without saying,” he added, “that the non-peaceful use of nuclear power poses a serious threat to humanity exacerbated by the proliferation of these weapons.”
Against this backdrop, the majority of Member States had repeatedly reaffirmed that “the total elimination of nuclear weapons is the only guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons”. This, in their view, should be followed by “a universal, unconditional and legally binding instrument on security assurances to all non-nuclear weapons states”.
Al-Nasser recalled the advisory opinion on July 8, 1996 of the ICJ (The International Court of Justice) on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons. The ICJ said that there is no specific authorization of the threat or use of nuclear weapons in the conventional law and that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law.
“I believe that ultimately one of the highest priority of the International Community is nuclear disarmament,” the UN High Representative said.
Global Citizenship Education
Moving to Global Citizenship Education (GCE) which is also interconnected to the culture of peace, Al-Nasser explained: “if the culture of peace is to take deeper root in us and among us then we should reach out more effectively to the younger minds as they grow up and to nurture and educate them about the bonding value of peace in our world.”
He added: “We must place crucial value on peace education. The young generation of today deserve a radically different education – one that does not glorify war but educates for peace. As such, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Global Education First Initiative has three priorities including to ‘foster global citizenship’.”
The initiative explains this concept as transformative education that brings shared values to life and calls for an education that plays a central role in helping people to forge more peaceful, tolerant and inclusive societies.
Al-Nasser said: “The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations is the ideal forum whereby we can start to make peace within ourselves, within our families and between our communities and our nations.”
“The UN is all that we have in our world to try and make it better,” said Nobel Laureate Betty Williams. “I know that in certain areas it could do with a lot of improvements but give me one organisation in the world that is being run smoothly? What could we do if we didn’t have this organisation? How much worse would it be?” she asked.
Williams, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for promoting a peaceful society, believes that each person, as a global citizen, has a role to play in bringing peace to the world. “We can’t say ‘I don’t have to do it. Let them do it.’ Every child that dies in our world from conditions of malnutrition, from disease, from war, we are all guilty. As a human family, we are all guilty,” she said. [IDN-InDepthNews – February 24, 2014]
Photo (Left to Right): UN High Representative for the UNAOC, Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser; Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative; 1976 Nobel Laureate Betty Williams | Credit: UNAOC/Aaron Fineman