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A.K. Chowdhury: Address to World Summit 2014

Address to World Summit 2014, Seoul, Korea, August 9-13, 2014

Holding the summit at this time is very significant as the drums of war are being sounded now. Peace-loving peoples of the world are holding their breath and praying intensely that another avoidable war does not break out.

It is my faith that the values of non-violence, tolerance and democracy which augment the flourishing of the culture of peace will generate the mindset that is a prerequisite for the transition from force to reason, from conflict and violence to dialogue and peace.

My work took me to the farthest corners of the world. From Sierra Leone to Sri Lanka, from Mongolia to Mauritius, from Paraguay to the Philippines, from Kosovo to Kazakhstan, from Bhutan to the Bahamas to Burkina Faso, I have seen time and again how people – even the humblest and the weakest – have contributed to building the culture of peace in their personal lives, in their families, in their communities and in their countries.

One lesson that I have learned from this is that we should never forget that when women – half of world’s seven billion people - are marginalized, there is no chance for our world to get sustainable peace in the real sense.

While women are often the first victims of armed conflict, they must also and always be recognized as key to the resolution of the conflict. It is my strong belief that unless women are engaged in advancing the culture of peace at equal levels with men, sustainable peace would continue to elude us.

Without peace, development is impossible and without development, peace is not achievable, but without women, neither peace nor development is possible.

In recent times, we have seen new conflicts breaking out in different parts of the world.

Obviously, we have to find better ways to establish peace. We need to remember that in the hate- and violence-filled 20th century, we have seen the power of non-violence in the sacrifices of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Forces of hatred and intolerance claimed their lives…but not their souls, not their ideals.

We should not isolate peace as something separate or distant. We should know how to relate to one another without being aggressive, without being violent, without being disrespectful, without neglect, without prejudice. It is important to realize that the absence of peace takes away the opportunities that we need to better ourselves, to prepare ourselves, to empower ourselves to face the challenges of our lives, individually and collectively.

Here let me also express my concern that continuing and ever-expanding militarism is impoverishing and maiming both the earth and the humanity.

The culture of peace should be the foundation of the new global society. In today’s world, more so, it should be seen as the essence of a new humanity, a new global civilization based on inner oneness and outer diversity.

In this context, a critical dimension is worthy of our particular attention. Poverty and lack of opportunities deprive people of their dignity as human beings, leaving them hopeless and incapable of pursuing the kind of life they may deserve. We must not forget that it is not only morally unsupportable but also practically unrealistic to achieve sustainable peace without addressing squarely the crushing problems of poverty and human insecurity.

It is, therefore, absolutely essential that human security in a broader sense should receive priority attention of the international community. “Peace does not mean just to stop wars, but also to stop oppression, injustice and neglect.”

How can we build the culture of peace? In 1999, the United Nations adopted the Declaration and Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace, a monumental document that transcends boundaries, cultures, societies and nations. It was an honor for me to chair that nine-month long negotiations which led to the adoption of this historic norm-setting document. Though this landmark Programme of Action is an agreement among nations; governments, civil society, media and individuals are all identified in this document as key actors.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asserted at the inaugural High-Level Forum of the United Nations on the Culture of Peace in 2012 that “A key ingredient in building culture of peace is education. We are here to talk about how to create this culture of peace. I have a simple, one-word answer: education.Through education, we teach children not to hate. Through education, we raise leaders who act with wisdom and compassion.Through education, we establish a true, lasting culture of peace.”

All educational institutions need to offer opportunities that prepare the students not only to live fulfilling lives but also to be responsible and productive citizens of the world. Indeed, this should be more appropriately called “education for global citizenship.” Such learning cannot be achieved without well-intentioned, sustained and systematic peace education that leads the way to the culture of peace.

Albert Einstein once said, "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

Let us not sit back any more. The time to act is NOW.

Let us send a strong, loud and clear message from this forum that there is no place for war in our world.

Let us embrace the culture of peace for the good of humanity, for the sustainability of our planet and for making our world a better place to live.

For more information about the World Summit, click here.