10 September 2015
High-level Forum Discusses Culture, Practice of Peace in Post-2015 Period
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UN Member States, UN system entities, civil society, media, and representatives of the private sector discussed key drivers and actors for creating a culture of peace, peace in the post-2015 development agenda, and the role of media in promoting peace, during the High-Level Forum of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Culture of Peace.

69th Session of the UNGA9 September 2015: UN Member States, UN system entities, civil society, media, and representatives of the private sector discussed key drivers and actors for creating a culture of peace, peace in the post-2015 development agenda, and the role of media in promoting peace, during the High-Level Forum of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Culture of Peace.

The Forum took place on 9 September 2015, in New York, US.

Opening the morning segment, Einar Gunnarsson, Permanent Representative of Iceland and UNGA Acting President, said “peace is a distant dream without development,” and drew participants’ attention to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which calls for ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education, its targets including “promotion of a culture of peace and non‐violence,” as well as SDG 16, on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. “Peace is not simply the absence of conflict but requires equitable societies and tangible actions on the ground,” he noted, also stressing the need for a greater participation of women in peacebuilding and for making effective use of media in creating a culture of peace.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is looking to the world’s youth to help build a culture of peace, and called for giving young people a seat at the negotiating table. He urged a common and human response to the EU migrant crisis, adding that he constantly speaks with EU leaders and reminds them that the people now looking for refuge were working as professionals in their home countries, their children were in school, and they did not want to leave their countries. He announced that he will organize a high-level special meeting to promote a systematic approach to migrant and refugee flows, during this year’s high-level week. To be more than just “soothing words,” Ban said, “the culture of peace demands courageous practice.”

Arun Gandhi, The Peace Farmer and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, said poverty is the worst form of violence, and no country can live in stability and security if the rest of the world is “going down the tubes.” He highlighted that peace is a bottom-up process, as it is only personal transformation and change that will lead to peace. “If we become aware of our own acts of violence and create that culture of non-violence within us – when the people will lead, the leaders will follow,” he said.

During the plenary that followed the opening segment, Member States addressed issues including: the strong link between peace and development; the role of media, education, the family, and youth in promoting a culture of peace; the need to create regulatory frameworks that do not limit the freedom of expression but limit the risks of social media being used for promoting terrorism and violence; the current migration crisis; the importance of cultural diplomacy; the need for respect of cultural differences; the role of educators, parents, politicians, journalists, religious leaders and NGOs in promoting a culture of peace; the impact of war; global citizenship; human rights; women rights; and minority rights.

Qatar, on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) – noted that Islam is a religion based on tolerance and respect for human rights, and called for respect of the GCC’s cultural and religious values. The US identified clear values on which the culture of peace should be built on – freedom, democracy, justice and human rights – and stressed that freedom of expression and freedom of press are crucial for sustaining democracy and holding governments accountable.

Anwarul Chowdhury, Former UN High Representative, moderated the panel on ‘Promotion of the Culture of Peace in the context of the Post-2015 sustainable development agenda.’ He stressed that absence of peace will make achieving the post-2015 development agenda difficult, and highlighted the role of civil society in giving a boost to the global movement for a culture of peace.

Emil Constantinescu, Former President of Romania, stressed the importance of dialogue and of effective diplomacy in creating a culture of peace. He noted that peace is the essence of the Torah, the Bible, and the Quran, their common dominator being the human being, and therefore Muslims, Christians, Jews and adherents to other religions can work together.

María Emma Mejía Vélez, Permanent Representative of Colombia, discussed her country’s national efforts in promoting peace, including an initiative that involves the government, the civil society and academia, as well as policy reforms to help reconcile Colombia’s two internal “countries” – the rural and the urban areas.

Amina Mohammed, UN Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning, said SDG 16 represents the “software of the entire framework,” and reminded participants of the importance of the global indicators and the accountability mechanism for the agenda, which are being developed. Noting the UN’s 70th anniversary in 2015, Mohammed stressed that the Organization’s three pillars –peace, human rights and development – need to be strengthened, as the peace and the human rights pillars will test the development pillar.

Federico Mayor, Former Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), referred to current global crises and trends, and called for taking urgent action in implementing SDG 16. He said humanity must be guided by democratic principles, and underscored the need for moral and intellectual solidarity.

Barbara Adams, Global Policy Forum and Social Watch, said decent work is the “number one strategy” for addressing poverty, which represents economic violence. She cautioned against the “military” approach to problem solving, and said partnerships need to demonstrate how they cater to sustainable development and human rights, as they often bring more fragmentation and opportunism. On its 70th anniversary, the UN needs to address power inequality at all levels and demonstrate the power of compromise and reconciliation, she added.

A panel on ‘Role of media in the promotion of the Culture of Peace’ was moderated by Marjon Kamara, Permanent Representative of Liberia.

Abdul Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh, said “Media can help create a mindset of respect for others.”

Cristina Gallach, UN Under-Secretary-General for Communication and Public Information, highlighted the need to: advocate for more diversity among journalists; promote women in media leadership positions; and highlight shared values through media in order to set development in the right direction.

Michael Nagler, President, Merta Center for Nonviolence, said mass communication technology is more powerful than nuclear technology, as one drives the other: if people do not hate, the nuclear technology will not be used. He noted that media do harm at a deep level by reporting violence and not reporting non-violence. He suggested the UN create a rating system of media outlets that promote violence.

Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls, Director, FemLinkPacific, said community media is vital to ensure that local media make visible the most vulnerable and marginalized. She stressed the need for: supporting free and independent media to analyze the progress or the lack of progress on SDGs; balancing the scale between those with political power and the communities that they represent; enabling the participation of women in decision-making; and eliminating the stereotypes when portraying women in media.

Taking the floor, civil society representatives underscored that public demand shapes what media shows. Some, noting that media messages become the fabric of culture, suggested advocating for a “media ceasefire” at least on the International Day of Peace.

The High-Level Forum on Culture of Peace aimed to highlight the importance of implementation of the UNGA’s 1999 Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, as well as the need to further strengthen global movements to promote a culture of peace. The Forum’s outcome will be a President’s summary. [IISD RS Sources] [UN Press Release] [UN Secretary-General Remarks] [UNGA President Remarks]

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