By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
Here is the text of the inaugural speech by Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Deputy Secretary General and High Representative of the United Nations and founder of the Global Movement for the Culture of Peace (GMCoP), at the first annual Peace Education Day conference hosted virtually by the Unity Foundation and the Peace Education Network.
NEW YORK (IDN) – I thank Bill McCarthy, Chairman and Founder of the Unity Foundation and Chairman of this first annual Peace Education Day and Peace Education Network conference for organizing the conference with the excellent purpose to get the UN to declare international peace as Education Day. I think it would be better if it was called World Peace Education Day.
I am honored to be invited to speak at the conference as the keynote speaker on a subject close to my heart and to my personality.
As I have said many times, the experience of my life has taught me to value peace and equality as essential components of our existence. These release the positive forces of good which are so necessary for human progress.
Peace is an integral part of human existence – in everything we do, in everything we say and in every thought we have, there is a place for peace. We must not isolate peace as something separate or distant. It is important to realize that the absence of peace takes away the opportunities we need to improve ourselves, prepare ourselves, empower ourselves to face the challenges of our lives, individually and collectively.
For two and a half decades I have focused on promoting the culture of peace which aims to make peace and non-violence a part of ourselves, of our own personality, a part of our existence in as a human being. And this will allow us to contribute more effectively to bringing inner and outer peace.
This is the core of the self-transformational dimension of my advocacy around the world and for all ages, with a special focus on women, youth and children. This awareness has now become more relevant amid the ever increasing militarism and militarization that is destroying both our planet and our people.
The International Congress on Peace in the Minds of Men was held in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast / Ivory Coast in 1989 organized by UNESCO under the wise and dynamic leadership of my dear friend Federico Mayor Zaragoza, then Director-General of UNESCO who is also joining this conference as a keynote speaker. It was a milestone meeting to give momentum and visibility to the concept of a culture of peace aimed at promoting a change in values and behavior.
On September 13, 1999, 22 years ago, last week, the United Nations adopted the Declaration and Program of Action on the Culture of Peace, a monumental document that transcends borders, cultures, societies and nations. .
It was an honor for me to chair the nine-month negotiations that led to the adoption of this historic normative document by the United Nations General Assembly. This document affirms that the culture of peace is inherent in a set of values, patterns of behavior and ways of life.
An important aspect of the essential message as articulated in the UN documents effectively affirms that “the culture of peace is a process of individual, collective and institutional transformation…” “Transformation” is here of the highest order. importance.
It is fundamental to remember that the culture of peace requires a change of our hearts, a change of our state of mind. It can be internalized through simple lifestyles, by changing our own behavior, by changing our relationships with each other, by changing the way we connect with the oneness of humanity. The essence of the culture of peace is its message of inclusion and global solidarity.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations in its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 4.7 includes, among others, the promotion of the culture of peace and non-violence as well as global citizenship within the framework of knowledge and skills necessary to promote sustainable development. development.
It also calls on the international community to ensure that all learners acquire them by 2030. With this in mind, the theme of the United Nations High Level Forum in 2019 celebrating the 20th anniversary of the culture of peace at the UN was “The Culture of Peace – Empowering and Transforming the Humanity” aimed at a forward-looking and inspiring agenda for the next twenty years.
In my introduction to the 2008 publication “Peace education: a path towards a culture of peace”, I wrote: “As Maria Montessori articulated it so well, those who want a violent way of life, prepare young people for it; but those who want peace have neglected their young children and adolescents and in this way are unable to organize them for peace.
At UNICEF, peace education is very succinctly defined as “the process of promoting the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to bring about behavior change that will enable children, youth and adults to achieve success. prevent conflicts and violence, both overt and structural; resolve conflicts peacefully; and to create conditions conducive to peace, whether at the interpersonal, intergroup, national or international level ”.
Education for peace must be accepted in all regions of the world, in all societies and countries as an essential element in the creation of a culture of peace. He deserves a radically different education – “an education that does not glorify war but educates for peace, non-violence and international cooperation”. They need the skills and knowledge to create and maintain peace for themselves as well as for the world to which they belong.
Never has it been more important for us to know the world and understand its diversity. Of paramount importance is the task of educating children and young people to find non-aggressive ways of relating to one another.
All educational institutions must provide opportunities that prepare students not only to live fulfilling lives, but also to be responsible, conscious and productive citizens of the world. For this, educators must introduce holistic and empowering curricula that cultivate a culture of peace in every young mind.
Indeed, it should be called more appropriately “Education for Global Citizenship”. Such learning cannot be achieved without well-intentioned, sustained and systematic peace education which paves the way for the culture of peace.
If our minds could be compared to a computer, then education provides the software with which to “restart” our priorities and actions away from violence, towards the culture of peace. The Global Campaign for Peace Education has continued to make a significant contribution to this goal and must receive our continued support.
For this, I believe that early childhood offers us a unique opportunity to sow the seeds of the transition from the culture of war to the culture of peace. The events a child experiences early in life, the education that child receives, community activities and the socio-cultural state of mind in which a child is immersed all contribute to how values, attitudes, traditions, patterns of behavior and ways of life develop.
We must use this window of opportunity to instill the basics that every individual needs to become agents of peace and nonviolence from an early age.
Linking the role of individuals to broader global goals, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. asserted that “an individual does not begin to live until he is able to move beyond the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns for the broader concerns of all mankind “. The United Nations Program of Action on a Culture of Peace pays special attention to this aspect of an individual’s self-transformation.
In this context, I recall that women in particular have a major role to play in promoting the culture of peace in our societies ravaged by violence, thus bringing lasting peace and reconciliation. Women’s equality makes our planet safe and secure. I firmly believe that unless women engage in promoting the culture of peace at the same level as men, lasting peace will continue to elude us.
We must always remember that without peace development is impossible, and without development peace is not achievable, but without women, neither peace nor development is conceivable.
Work for peace is an ongoing process and I am convinced that the culture of peace is absolutely the most essential vehicle for achieving the goals and objectives of the United Nations in the twenty-first century.
Let me conclude by urging you all very sincerely that we must encourage young people to be themselves, to build their own character, their own personality, which is rooted in understanding, tolerance and respect for diversity and in solidarity with the rest of humanity.
We must pass it on to young people. This is the minimum we can do as adults. We should do everything to empower them in the truest sense of the word, and such accountability will stay with them for life. This is the meaning of the Culture of Peace. It is not something temporary like resolving conflict within an area or between communities without transforming and empowering people to keep the peace.
Let us–yes, all of us–embrace the culture of peace for the good of humanity, for the sustainability of our planet and to make our world a better place to live. [IDN-InDepthNews — 21 September 2021]
Photo: UN peacekeepers. Credit: United Nations
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