UNITED NATIONS HIGH LEVEL FORUM ON CULTURE OF PEACE
Convened by the President of the 67th General Assembly H.E. Mr. Vuk Jeremic
In cooperation with The Global Movement of The Culture of Peace (GMCoP)
Friday, 6 September 2013 from 9:30 am to 6 pm
Trusteeship Council Chamber, UN Headquarters, New York
"Peace needs to be recognized as a human right"
Hande SUBASILAR & Erman Hakan SENER (2013)
UN Representatives of The Light Millennium
[Lightmillennium.Org] Before giving the floor to the panelists, Moderator Prof. John O. Voll provided an introduction to the topic through his comments. He began by referring to a specific sentence from the UNESCO Constitution that is also quoted in the original UN Resolution that enabled this HLF to take place, “War begin in the minds of men and it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”
Highlighting the sentence, “Recognizing the importance of respect and understanding for religious and cultural diversity throughout the world, of choosing negotiations over confrontation and of working together and not against each other,” from the UN Resolution 67/106 that is on the Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, Prof. Voll mentioned that we have a chance this afternoon to discuss how one fulfills some of the expectations of these resolutions.
Further, Prof. Voll restated Albert Einstein’s words, “The problem is not the people who do evil but the people who do nothing about it” and expressed his gratitude for having people in the panel who do something about the problems of our world.
After introducing the panelists concisely, Prof. Voll pointed out that the main goal of the discussion is about creating the culture of peace among the minds of people and that we are all working towards this goal in groups that has tags of “international,” “interfaith,” “intercultural.”
Following this point, Prof. Voll referred to the UN Resolution on the Culture of Peace and remarked that it did not talk about cultures of peace but a singular culture of peace. Therefore, Prof. Voll underlined the significance of changing our understanding of the concepts of interfaith, interreligious, and international relations that separate people into competing groups, to a singular religious, global concept of cooperation that recognizes differences among the people.
However, Prof. Voll expressed his disturbance with the people who still believe that there is a challenge of diversity, and urged this mindset to change from how to cope with diversity to how we can benefit from diversity to create a united culture.
Before Prof. Voll gave the floor to the panelists, he concluded his speech by raising a question, “How can we create a pluralist synthesis that represents the global culture of peace?”
Next, Rev. Dr. Katherine R. Henderson asserted that there is no peace without justice and that cooperation is a weak word without the addition of justice to it. She further underlined that multi-faith engagement is valid when we talk about a goal, which must be justice.
Rev. Dr. Henderson emphasized that for the social work they have done, they looked for partners who have similar vision and values and that they believe people in faith share many things in common. These include the belief that everybody deserves shelter, food, and freedom from violence, water, and embrace of pluralism –because the God loves difference - humility – which is in short supply- and truth telling.
Continuing with an example of their projects, Rev. Dr. Henderson explained Face to Face, Faith to Faith – a program that lasted 12 years that worked with young leaders to educate them not to see different people as enemies. She further emphasized her wish that all emerging religious leaders in America and around the world should deeply know other sacred texts and teachings of others.
Moreover, Rev. Dr. Henderson underlined the significance of showing up and giving support to groups of people with different beliefs at times of struggle, for instance, after an attack to that community, when Islamophobia peaked in America, the multi-faith community stood shoulder to shoulder with the Islamic society.
She also marked the importance of pushing for policy change and educating religious leaders to use the media. She also called out for the help of young Muslim women leaders to make peace through using religion because all people, according to Rev. Dr. Henderson, are connected to each other with the words of God. Rev. Dr. Henderson concluded her speech by expressing her hope that people of faith who have moral of imagination, can sustain this work and imagine a world different than today’s.
Next, Prof. Robert W. Hefner explained that religion means cohesion and that it promotes certain critical values like tolerance and love. These are values that are shared by all religions. Referring to Prof. Voll’s emphasis on the singularity of the culture of peace, Prof. Hefner pointed out that these common values among religions could be a part of this singular culture of peace.
However, Prof. Hefner pointed out that religions can also be dangerous and that they can then become a problem. Therefore, he highlighted that religious leaders have the utmost importance in our societies to flourish respect for diversity because interdependence is at the heart of our existence.
As a bad example, Prof. Hefner reminded the audience of the nationalism in Yugoslavia, a toxic mix that destroyed communities and families. He underlined that there were many other bad examples, such as within the world of Islam some girls are killed for going to school and there is the sectarian divisions and conflicts.
Contrarily, there are also good examples and Prof. Hefner described how religious leaders/mediators helped to end the civil war in Mozambique by using shared values between religions and communities – it is a story of success. Furthermore, the emphasis of shared values has also softened the post-conflict edges in Bosnia and Kosovo. These examples show that religion can inspire peace.
After giving these examples, Prof. Hefner concluded his speech by pointing out that recognizing the tools that will foster the culture of peace is very significant to combat extremism, prevent polarization, and foster interfaith religious dialogue. Prof. Hefner further explained that to achieve using these tools we have to find new religious leaders who will use all available platforms to highlight and foster shared values and these leaders must be supported by the international community.
Next, Mr. William F. Vendley questioned why the culture of violence, the culture of evil that promotes evil as good is more common today. The reason for this is that this culture does not let people see what is right or wrong, it is a form of blindness and darkness.
However, today, religious communities may be different yet they pledge themselves to act together. According to Mr. Vendley, this is a result of the global heritage of human dignity and human rights. Mr. Vendley further underlined that religious communities, over time, have been convinced of human dignity and that they should, as great schools of virtues, bring their schools to intersect where we try to foster the culture of peace.
Mr. Vendley then mentioned that shared values and shared care can be used to understand religious values as a way to cultivate culture of peace because shared care causes us to act together. Remarkable religious leaders, according to Mr. Vendley, have already helped to solve violent ethnic conflicts and good works at one part of the world spreads very quickly to other parts of the world. Stories told by other panelists are notable examples for these good works.
Additionally, Mr. Vendley mentioned that peace has a positive content and that it has been worked on in interreligious communities to create a shared vision of peace from this content.
Concluding his speech by expressing his appreciation of the change of strategies from domination to caring for the other, Mr. Vendley set the goal: Feeling joy for one another.
Next, Mr. Huseyin Hurmali highlighted that local and global initiatives send a powerful message to governments and to the civil society about what they want to see in the world.
He concluded by underlining the fact that interfaith initiatives must be a part of our daily life, and should not be applied only after conflicts, because preventing future conflicts must be the major aim of interfaith dialogue and religions.
There was no Q&A section in this panel but the delegate of Saudi Arabia expressed his country’s support for the culture of peace and informed the assembly about the work done to foster shared values to increase interfaith dialogue. Saudi Arabia is also keen to stand up against extremism and the opening of the anti-terror center in Riyadh is an example for that. The Saudi delegate concluded his comments by underlining that terror and extremism works against the culture of peace.
INTERACTIVE PANEL DISCUSSION II:
“THE CULTURE OF PEACE AS THE AGENDA FOR A NEW GLOBAL CITIZEN: WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Please visit below page for the interactive panel discussion part two.
"VIOLENCE IS A LEARNED BEHAVIOR, IF YOU ACCEPT IT, YOU HAVE TO TEACH IT!"
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INTERACTIVE PANEL DISCUSSION III:
“STRATEGY FOR ADVANCING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE UN PROGRAMME OF ACTION ON CULTURE OF PEACE:
WHAT IS NEEDED? “
Ambassador of El Salvador to the UN and the Moderator of the panel, H.E. Mr. Carlos Enrique Garcia Gonzales started the panel discussion by emphasizing the importance of the program for the culture of peace in order to address today’s problems and possible threats to world peace.
H.E. Mr. Gonzales pointed out that the panelists were going to look at new points that will lead us to reflect on what we need to do for culture of peace to move forward and develop. He then gave the floor to the first panelist, H.E. Mr. Federico Mayor.
Beginning his speech by marking El Salvador’s importance for all peace processes and the culture of peace, thanking who helped the High Level Forum to take place, especially the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Vuk Jeremic, H.E. Mr. Jan Eliasson and H.E. Ambassador Anwarhul Chowdhury. In addition, he expressed his thanks to the panelists of the past two panels for sharing their personal experiences about the case.
“We must be actors in our lives, and the time of fear and silence must be now over.”
Next, H.E. Mr. Mayor underlined the crucial importance of education by saying, “Peace is a behavior and education for peace, understanding, tolerance, solidarity is relevant.” After pointing out that Constitution of UNESCO is a guide for our fight he added, “Education is to contribute to formation of human beings who are free and responsible.” H.E. Mr. Mayor stated that education means to be free and responsible.
Furhter, H.E. Mr. Mayor marked the urgency to eliminate the discourse of war for next generations and that we must talk about all kinds of peace – individual’s own peace, regional peace, and global peace when we talk about a culture of peace.
“We can’t be spectators,” said H.E. Mr. Mayor and highlighted the awareness, commitment and involvement of many people who are ready to stand up for a culture of peace. Adding to this H.E. Mr. Mayor said, “We must be actors in our lives, and the time of fear and silence must be now over.”
Furthermore, H.E. Mr. Mayor asserted that The Declaration of Human Rights must prevent humans from fearing and he started to give examples that can give hope for the cause. He mentioned that in Latin America today, Bolivia and Ecuador have culture of peace in their constitutions; in Cuba, culture of peace is a tradition; and in Africa, a Pan-African meeting for establishing the culture of peace was recently organized. H.E. Mr. Mayor underlined the significance of these developments to take place in Latin America and Africa – places where violence has been very common for decades.
Later, H.E. Mr. Mayor emphasized the role of women and the youth in establishing the culture of peace, mentioning that they are the “main actors.” Quoting Nelson Mandela, H.E. Mr. Mayor brought attention to the significance of having more women in decision-making.
H.E. Mr. Mayor further explained that we have abandoned the UN and humanity for the market rule, and that the only way to overcome this is to raise a generation that can express themselves – freedom of expression is crucial in creating the culture of peace.
Recalling that the dream of Martin Luther King about the civil rights of African-Americans in the U.S. has become real now, H.E. Mr. Mayor assured that John F. Kennedy’s dream about disarmament could be made real too. He underlined that it is time to make a change and concluded his speech with an anecdote about John Lennon.
After summarizing H.E. Mr. Mayor’s speech, H.E. Mr. Gonzales expressed his hope that years 2014-2023 will be declared as the International Decade of Culture of Peace and Non-Violence Against Women. Then, he gave the floor to Dr. Nancy Roof.
"What it would be like if research and development on peace was given resources
as much as the military budgets."
Dr. Nancy Roof started her speech by telling that we are motivated by our deep love of humanity and that we are outraged towards the events happening every day. She pointed out that the world is now in a transformation age with the developing technology and stated that we can communicate on a worldwide basis. She added, “We are moving into a whole new era.”
Dr. Roof stressed that in this era everyone counts and that many people are now working towards establishing a new mindset that values public good. In this pursuit, Dr. Roof highlighted the importance of the distributive government, sharing economics, and technology that benefits all life rather than destroying it.
Elaborating on the question of what our strategy should be, Dr. Roof proposed that the focus should be prevention because we have used too much of our resources to “put out fires” and therefore, prevention is very much the key in this era of culture of peace. She raised the question of what it would be like if research and development on peace was given resources as much as the military budgets.
Furthermore, Dr. Roof stressed, on the need for recognizing the interdependence of strategies of all groups that work for establishing the culture of peace. However, she also highlighted that the difficulty in this is linking these different strategies. In order to make a large impact, Dr. Roof suggested that there should be increased collaboration between all the groups because the answer to our questions can be found in all of us.
After marking the positive attitude of the UN in recognizing the civil society like never before, Dr. Roof underlined that we should move towards a sharing economy. Also, she mentioned that independent media and citizen journalism are important in receiving true information, so that we have to support them. She concluded by suggesting a global citizens’ movement would help us to reach the goal of establishing the culture of peace.
"How can we express our rights without violating another’s right?"
Next, Ms. Mikiko Otani, a global advocate for Human Rights, stressed that culture of peace emphasizes the role of human rights and human rights education because these are crucial in establishing a culture of peace. The question, “How can we express our rights without violating another’s right?” plays a big role in this culture.
Ms. Otani underlined the importance of children’s rights and she pointed out that there are tremendous challenges facing children today, most importantly, violence in the family and at school. Preventing violation in one generation, said Ms. Otani, will increase the chance that it will not be a problem in the generation following that one.
The key focus of our effort, according to Ms. Otani, should be enhancing children’s participation and we must ensure mothers and future mothers receive support and have equal rights to guarantee their children grow up without violence.
Ms. Otani concluded her speech by asserting that peace needs to be recognized as a human right and that member states and the civil society must work hard to reach our goals.
Next, Ms. Abigail E. Disney conveyed that America plays significant role in reaching the goal of establishing a culture of peace because first, it is an exporter of guns and militarily strong, second, its entertainment industry is very influential on people.
Ms. Disney pointed out that popular culture has glorified violence in terms of masculinity. However, glorifying of violence does not only take place in the entertainment industry but also in the U.S. Congress and Ms. Disney underlined that people who defend violence are elected by high margins of votes. Highlighting lack of American responsibility in this cause, she told that one congressman said that the U.S. could either bomb Syria or do nothing.
Furthermore, Ms. Disney emphasized that the culture in the U.S. makes Americans believe that the things they see are normal and the mass media dismisses “a huge amount of sins.”
Recalling the Patriarch’s words, Ms. Disney brought attention on the fact that a fraction of people live in conflicted areas but Americans have not experienced a war at home since the civil war and this might be the reason for their irresponsibility in the cause.
In addition, she suggested that people who produce the media must work on building a culture of peace and the consumers of media must not disregard their capacity to force the producers of the media to act like that.
After telling that the ignorance of Americans looks like cowardice and that Americans will need to ask questions that will challenge them in all their decisions when they try to understand peace-building, Ms. Disney concluded her speech saying, “There is an army of peace-builders and they are waiting for the marching order.”
"We are responsible to love each other and rather than hating..."
Next, Ms. Patricia Smith Melton began her speech and stressed that building the culture of peace is the highest calling. Ms. Melton underlined that peace and safety mean happiness and due to this establishing the culture of peace is an urgent task.
Emphasizing the importance of the next generations in reaching our goals in this cause, she added that every time a child is denied opportunities it is a loss for each of us. Furthermore, Ms. Melton said that we are responsible to love each other and rather than hating, we have to become more peaceful nations.
Ms. Melton concluded by stressing that women’s rights and education are crucial for establishing the culture of peace.
After Ms. Melton’s speech, H.E. Mr. Carlos Enrique Garcia Gonzales summed up the points made in the panel and ended the 2nd High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace.
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