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S. Ramzi: Address to World Summit 2013


PhotoIt is an honor and a privilege for me to participate in this high summit consecrated to peace, security, and human development. These major concerns that bring us together today, thanks to the Universal Peace Federation, shape our lives and determine the future of humanity.

"Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed." The constitution of UNESCO, signed in London on November 16, 1945, stated these concerns with force and perspicacity. The same constitution mentioned democratic ideals and respect for the human being. Also mentioned were the integrity and fruitful diversity of human cultures.

UNESCO is thus the only international organization that, even before the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, mentioned in its founding document the inextricable link between human rights and democracy.

The principle calling of the organization is to contribute to peacebuilding. This ideal underlies all the strategies and activities of the organization in the realms of education, science, culture, the protection and conservation of humanity's heritage, communication, and information.

Maintaining peace is not the realm of UNESCO but rather that of the United Nations. But it is clear that the culture of peace, for which UPF has long been working, relates directly to these competencies.

The culture of peace means above all understanding the Other in its difference, understanding the stranger, understanding the one who belongs to another nation, another ethnic group, another religion. I have heard a great wise man from our Africa say that "Á stranger is a friend whom I have not yet met."

This is not a matter of tolerance, as many think, because in my viewpoint differences need to be considered sources of mutual enrichment.

However, we know that globalization tends to generate and encourage the temptation to reject the Other, the temptation toward isolationism, and the temptation to narrow one's identity.

Today, the world is moving towards oneness through technological advances, rational management practices, and optimizing productivity in the fields of economy and finance. It is becoming one through the universal and instantaneous transmission of information, data, and news. At the same time, it is also clear that the world tends to become divided and increasingly torn apart in terms of interests, ideas, beliefs, and religions. Most of the conflicts that we face today are intra-state conflicts with tribal, ethnic, or religious origins.

For those who don't have the power to participate in the management of globalization, it is generating anxiety, sharpening frustrations, and destroying traditional bonds of solidarity. In this way, it marginalizes countries and even entire regions of the planet.

This situation is not without risk; wars, exclusions, hatreds, and ethnic or religious antagonisms are always fueled in such a climate. Irrational and fanatical people are always on lookout to offer false solutions to those in such circumstances. In testimony of this are the movements that are currently shaking a good number of countries in the Arab region and in Africa.

As Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali said: This is the context for the search for innovative ways of peace, security, and human development. Allow me to insist on the importance, urgency, and imperative of democratizing and humanizing globalization so that it takes into account the development and future of humanity, lest globalization pervert and distort what we have won at great cost over the centuries.

Globalization will be what we make of it. Open, participatory, and fertile globalization will take into account not only the will of transnational corporations and political issues but also the aspirations of social and cultural actors.

People in Arab societies, especially the youth, have shown a willingness to take on a responsible role and practice active citizenship in order to make the changes necessary for the progress of their country. Young demonstrators in Tahrir Square in Cairo expressed themselves loudly and strongly and put into practice their role as citizens speaking about how to ensure a better future for their country. They demanded respect for their rights and their dignity, and they rallied well for these great universal values.

It is important, urgent, and imperative that we give birth to a new strategy to promote and establish a true culture of peace before conflict breaks out, and once the conflict ends, do what Dr. Boutros Ghali called building peace within the Agenda for Peace, which he launched during his tenure as Secretary-General of the United Nations

For many years, UNESCO has been implementing a grand program for culture adopted by its General Conference in 2001, which is working to preserve the diversity of languages, diversity of traditions, and diversity of cultures that globalization threatens by promoting uniformity, as we are all well aware.

It is by operational action, concrete projects, and mobilization that we will be able to achieve the objectives of this summit, not only by good words and good intentions.

I offer you a quick example of two major projects promoting peace, security, and human development that I had the honor and passion to create when I was head of the Promotion of Cultural Heritage, a flagship program of UNESCO.

First is UNESCO's University and Heritage Forum. This network, which today includes more than 300 universities on five continents, has managed to become, thanks to its unifying theme of the heritage of humankind, a common denominator between different countries and cultures. It has implemented hundreds of joint projects in places such as Turkey, Egypt, and Vietnam and has implemented international projects with young people coming together to protect cultural heritage sites in Cambodia, Senegal, Morocco, Romania, etc. Working together to preserve a monument or site encourages a mutual enrichment of cultures and is an operational and concrete practice of global citizenship.

The second project has involved millions of tourists each year who roam the planet, persuading them to be friends of heritage of the lands which they visit and, in addition to making the journey to experience the heritage to contribute to its preservation with at least a symbolic contribution. This has had enduring value and generates momentum for peace and development. To this end, I created a partnership between UENSCO and the world's major tourism industries who have adopted this approach, and we have implemented it with great success by involving their tourists.

An evidence of building world peace is this gathering of the Universal Peace Federation and Women's Federation for World Peace, which mobilizes women of courage and determination with the conviction that the woman who gives life is also the dynamic force to protect life.

We are assembled here in Seoul, Korea, whose rich, exceptional, tangible and intangible heritage is well recognized by UNESCO.

All of us gathered here are tireless builders of peace. I still stubbornly believe that peace within nations and between nations is a Utopia that we can envision and is also feasible.


In response to a question about women's role in peacebuilding, Dr. Ramzi referred again to the UNESCO Constitution, which begins with the statement that since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed. She continued: "There is no mention of women. I think that women who carry life are the force to sustain life. In view of the ongoing violence, it is up to the women to say 'Stop.' With such spirit, women have power. The women of both sides, women from different countries of the Arab region and Israel, can say together 'Stop.'"