7 Dec, 2015
UN General Assembly Resolutions Urge Concerted Global Efforts to Advance Culture of Peace, Non-Violence
United Nations, UN media release, Dec 3, 2015 – Confronting an increasingly polarized world where religious intolerance, discrimination, xenophobia, conflict and the emergence of new extremist ideologies abounded, the General Assembly today adopted, without a vote, two resolutions that stressed the advancement of a culture of peace and non-violence based on education, tolerance, dialogue and cooperation.
By the terms of the first text, titled “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/70/L.20), the Assembly, among other measures, emphasized that mutual understanding and interreligious and intercultural dialogue constituted important dimensions of the dialogue among civilizations and of the culture of peace. It also condemned any advocacy of religious hatred which induced discrimination, hostility and violence.
The representative of Pakistan, who, along with the delegate of the Philippines, introduced the text, said the common vision of a peaceful and harmonious world was far from being realized. The world was witnessing a growing trend towards xenophobia, religious intolerance and the emergence of new extremist ideologies. Such complex phenomena required concerted global action and a comprehensive long-term strategy that addressed the root causes of violent extremism and terrorism.
In a related resolution, “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace” (document A/70/L.24), the Assembly encouraged the United Nations peacebuilding architecture to continue to promote peacebuilding activities and to advance a culture of peace and non-violence in post-conflict peacebuilding efforts at the country level. The resolution also urged the authorities to provide education in children’s schools that built a culture of peace and non-violence.
The representative of Bangladesh, introducing the second text, emphasized that inculcating a mindset of a culture of peace was the essence of the United Nations Charter. The world currently faced too many problems, including inequality, discrimination and intolerance. In addition, climate change, terrorism and violent extremism were major impediments to global peace and development. Education was the most critical element for institutionalizing a culture of peace.
The importance of education in the fight against intolerance was also highlighted by Indonesia’s delegate. Pointing out that his country had the largest Muslim population in the world, he said education, dialogue and cooperation promoted a culture of peace and was essential in shaping minds of the future generation.
That sentiment was echoed by the delegate of Morocco, who described Morocco’s project, the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, which taught tolerance in Islam. More so, he underscored that a country’s wealth lay in its youth, who should be at the heart of all peace processes. The international community should strengthen its commitment to young people who could build bridges and promote peace.
The representative of Kazakhstan also underlined the importance of youth in advancing understanding among nations. Implementing the resolutions called for well-coordinated action by the United Nations system, Member States, regional organizations and all other stakeholders to reduce poverty and foster social inclusion for all, including women, youth and children.
Jamal Fares Alrowaiei, of Bahrain, speaking on behalf of General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, underscored, in his introduction of the Secretary-General’s report on the topic, the link between the culture of peace and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a theme also emphasized by several delegations. He stressed that the rapid implementation of the 2030 Agenda was an opportunity to combat intolerance. The Agenda’s goals and targets sought to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies that addressed the drivers of conflict, such as exclusion, inequality and the absence of the rule of law. That would advance a culture of peace in line with the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures 2013-2022.
The Assembly also adopted, without a recorded vote, a resolution on the credentials of the Member States for the Credentials Committee.
Also speaking were representatives of Austria, Iran, Philippines, Paraguay, Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Thailand, Kuwait, United Republic of Tanzania, Tunisia, Egypt, Cambodia, Cameroon and the United States, as well as the State of Palestine and the European Union.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 7 December, to hold a debate on the report of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).
The General Assembly met today to consider a report on the Credentials Committee (document A/70/573). It also considered a report of the Secretary-General on the culture of peace (document A/70/373) and took action on two related draft resolutions (documents A/70/L.20 and A/70/L.24).
Introduction and Action on Draft Resolutions
JAN KICKERT (Austria), Chair of the Credentials Committee, introduced the report of the Credential Committee (document A/70/573), containing a resolution recognizing the credentials of Member States for the Committee for the seventieth session of the General Assembly.
The Assembly adopted the draft resolution without a vote.
The representative of Iran, speaking in explanation of position, voiced his reservations about the resolution which could be viewed as contributing to the recognition of the Israeli regime.
Turning to the item on the culture of peace, the Assembly then heard the introduction of the report of the Secretary-General on the subject (document A/70/373).
JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain), speaking on behalf of General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, said the Secretary-General’s report on the “Promotion of a culture of peace and interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” was very timely given the recent terrorist attacks and intolerance towards forcibly displaced persons. The Secretary-General’s report captured the dynamics which were giving rise to conflict, violence, and discrimination and highlighted the trends in migration, media, trade, tourism and climate change which afforded opportunities for advancing mutual respect and understanding. However, the report also recognized that in addition to inequality, prejudice and conflict, communication mediums such as the Internet were being seized upon as vehicles of divisiveness and incitement to hatred and violence.
The international community must adapt to current trends in the world and align strategies and provide resources commensurate to the task, he stressed. Rapid implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was one such opportunity. Its goals and targets sought to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies that addressed the drivers of conflict such as exclusion, inequality and the absence of the rule of law. That would advance a culture of peace in line with the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures 2013-2022. National capacities for managing conflict were also vital. Conducting wider civil dialogue, building effective and sustainable capacities for conflict prevention and resolution would contribute to the transformation of governance institutions.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) introduced the resolution entitled “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace” (document A/70/L.24). By the terms of the text, the Assembly would, among other things, reiterate that the objective of the Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace was to strengthen further the global movement for a culture of peace following the observance of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World, 2001-2010. The Assembly also would request the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly at its seventy-first session a report on actions taken by Member States, as well as those taken system-wide by all concerned entities of the United Nations to implement the resolution.
He went on to say that inculcating a mind-set of a “culture of peace” was the essence of the United Nations Charter. Stressing that the world currently faced too many problems, including inequality, discrimination, and intolerance, he pointed out that the number of displaced populations was the highest in recent history. Furthermore, climate change, terrorism and violent extremism posed major impediments to global peace and development. The draft resolution, among other measures, underscored education as the most critical element for institutionalizing a culture of peace. It also highlighted the need for women to be more involved in the prevention and resolution of conflicts. The 2030 Agenda, which depicted the critical link between peace and development, in its entirety and by its target 4.7, specifically recognized the importance of learning a culture of peace and non-violence for sustainable development.
IRENE SUSAN BARREIRO NATIVIDAD (Philippines), introducing the draft text titled “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/70/L.20), said that the recent adoption of the 2030 Agenda was in perfect harmony with the vision of the draft presented today. That text built on nearly a decade of experience on interreligious and intercultural dialogue. Such dialogue was an important foundation for lasting peace and sustainable development.
By the terms of the draft resolution, the Assembly would, among other measures, condemn any advocacy of religious hatred that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, whether it involves the use of print, audio-visual or electronic media or any other means. It would further emphasize that everyone had the right to freedom of expression. It would also reaffirm that the exercise of that right carried with it special duties and responsibilities and might therefore be subject to certain restrictions. However, those restrictions should be only those provided by law and necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), also introducing resolution “L.20”, said the common vision of a peaceful and harmonious world was far from being realized. Armed conflicts continued in several parts of the world, the number of refugees and forced migrants had increased, and terrorism continued to pose a global threat. At the same time, the world was witnessing a growing trend towards xenophobia, religious intolerance and the emergence of new extremist ideologies in different parts of the world. Such complex phenomena required concerted global action and a comprehensive long-term strategy, addressing the root causes of violent extremism and terrorism. Cultural diversity, he stressed, could be used as a positive force to promote harmony and cooperation in multicultural, multireligious and multiethnic societies. He expressed his hope that the General Assembly would once again lend the resolution unanimous support.
OSCAR CABELLO SARUBBI (Paraguay) said that the international community had to continue to strive to achieve the ideals of the United Nations to ensure that all humans could live better lives. Irreparable damage was being done to the world’s environment and cultural heritage. The Culture of Peace was defined by the United Nations as a set of values and ways of life that rejected violence by tackling its root causes. The scope of that definition illustrated that the international community had to address the root causes of conflict. Having learned that peace was not only the absence of conflict, he noted that States were obligated to reduce gaps so individuals could fully enjoy their rights.
DATO ABDUL GHAFAR ISMAIL (Brunei Darussalam), on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the ASEAN Community, to be formally established on 31 December 2015, was characterised by the rich diversity of people who lived in the region. The 2030 Agenda complemented the community-building efforts of ASEAN, which reaffirmed its commitment to strengthen its partnership with the United Nations. Voicing his appreciation for the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations, he added that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was playing an important role in countering radicalization and extremism, especially among youth.
The diversity of Southeast Asia, home to more than half a billion people, was a source of strength and harmony, he continued. Moderation and understanding were fundamental values that were part of everyday life. Closer coordination was needed to stamp out terrorism and violent extremism and best practices on countering radicalization needed to be shared. It was encouraging that the Global Movement of Moderates had received widespread international support. ASEAN aimed to uphold a culture of peace and tolerance, and its collective efforts in that regard would contribute to the work of the United Nations in promoting peace, security and stability in the world, he said.
VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), associating himself with the ASEAN, said that peace was not simply the absence of violence. Rather, it was a process that ensured political and social inclusiveness, access to justice and rights to development among other rights. In support of moving from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention, he said that his country would be hosting an international symposium on interfaith dialogue next year, co-organized with the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture. Thailand had also hosted “One Young World Summit 2015”, an international event gathering of young leaders aimed at enhancing their social entrepreneurship skills. Sharing the view of many States that peace, security and development were mutually reinforcing, he therefore urged the full implementation of Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda.
FAHAD MOHAMMAD (Kuwait) said that what the world was living through today included rejection and the language of exclusion. The international community needed to look at causes of intolerance and think about what caused people to use extremism. That required efforts at all levels to move towards a culture of intellectual coexistence. No State was spared the dangers of terrorism. That was a challenge to the culture of peace and dialogue, and required the international community to promote peace and coexistence. Recently, the world had seen criminal terrorist acts in a number of States. His Government sought to promote tolerance and freedom, with a constitution that enshrined those values, he said, reiterating that justice, freedom and equality were pillars of Kuwaiti society.
ALMAGUL KONURBAYEVA (Kazakhstan) expressed support for all resolutions under the “Culture of Peace” agenda item, as they advanced understanding, tolerance and solidarity within and among nations. Implementing those texts called for well-coordinated action by the United Nations system, Member States, regional organizations and all other stakeholders to reduce poverty, foster social inclusion, cohesion and sustainable development for all, including women, youth and children. She then underlined the importance of addressing the needs of ethnic and religious minorities, indigenous peoples, refugees, displaced persons and migrants, and of respecting human rights, pluralism and gender equality. Noting that her country had about 130 ethnic groups and almost 20 different religious denominations, she explained that Kazakhstan had established the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan as a unique mechanism of inter-ethnic and interfaith dialogue, and presented some legislation enacted with a view to promote mutual respect, dialogue and understanding at all levels.
RAMADHAN MWINYI (United Republic of Tanzania) voiced his deep concern about the growing wave of extremism, violence and conflicts that were engulfing many societies. More shocking was the emergence of non-State actors whose brutal transnational operations posed an imminent threat to global security. The international community needed to act collectively to suppress criminal activities by blocking their means of survival, including weapons, funds, and supporters. Military measures were not an antidote of terrorism; they could only lead to further radicalization and an upsurge of terror sympathizers. Drawing attention to the international cooperation in addressing violent extremism and tackling its root causes, he welcomed interventions that took into account national and religious priorities. Stressing the importance of youth empowerment as means of addressing violent extremism, he also emphasized the important role played by the faith-based organizations and religious leaders who exhibited tremendous influence on the communities. It was, therefore, crucial to engage with those stakeholders to foster a culture of peace, mutual respect and tolerance.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said that, to understand the importance of the culture of peace, it was enough just to examine the Charter. It was important to realize that peace, as defined by the Charter, was not a static state of affairs, but a dynamic one characterized by respect for each other. Dark forces of violent extremism were trying to impose their absurd views by resorting to terror. A change in the mindset of those who preferred to solve every problem by the use of force was an imperative. To build a culture of peace, courage was needed to tackle underlying problems. Only by taking serious action to address poverty and occupation, among other problems, could the culture of peace get the oxygen to breathe.
MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia) said the alarming rise of extremism was underpinned by violent ideologies based on exclusion of others. Unfortunately, those beliefs found fertile ground in a lack of respect for human rights and social justice, and disparities in levels of development. All those factors required that the international community, more than at any time in the past, make concerted efforts at all levels. He recalled the important role undertaken by four national bodies in national dialogue which had enabled Tunisia to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2015 in recognition of the country’s democratic experience. In the face of raging conflicts and violence, the international community was called upon more than ever to spread the culture of dialogue.
OSAMA ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) said that increasing incidents of violence, negative stereotyping of religions and increased incidence of religious hatred were a matter of concern; they were being clearly manifested in the insistence by some to defame religions under the guise of “freedom of expression”. Equally alarming were attempts to conflate combating terrorism with unjustified discrimination against individuals or groups on ethnic or religious grounds. A comprehensive approach should be adopted to address the root causes of violence, extremism and terrorism. Such efforts should not be limited to military and security aspects, but should also include such factors as economic and social development and rectifying religious discourse. A culture of peace through promoting notions of tolerance, respect, understanding and mutual coexistence was vital to combating terrorism. He said he looked forward to the plan of action on preventing violent extremism to be presented by the Secretary-General.
MOHAMMED ATLASSI (Morocco) underscoring that religious intolerance was the scourge of the time, cited the King of Morocco who said that the world was grappling with a disappearance of benchmarks and a perversion of religious and human values, as well as myths about the clash of civilizations. The world was at a historic turning point where the space for dialogue such as the Alliance of Civilizations must be preserved. With a view to thwarting those who championed radicalism, his country had inaugurated the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, which was a project teaching tolerance in Islam. The main source of a country’s wealth was its youth, who should be at the heart of all peace processes. The international community should strengthen its commitment to young people who could build bridges and promote peace.
DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia), aligning himself with ASEAN, said education, dialogue and cooperation promoted a culture of peace. Education was essential in shaping minds of the future generation. Cooperation between the United Nations, regional organizations and other actors should be enhanced to ensure that peace and non-violence were fostered. The culture of peace was very relevant in today’s world given its polarization, which impeded development. The 2030 Agenda highlighted the linkage between peace and development, and the global efforts to promote the culture of peace were timely. Grass-roots faith-based organizations were key to preventing extremism and resolving conflicts as they could act as mediators. The role of the media in combatting hate speech was also very important. However, the main responsibility rested with Governments, he stated, adding that Indonesia, which had the largest Muslim population in the world, was committed to promoting a culture of peace.
RY TUY (Cambodia) said his country highly valued the report which highlighted United Nations activities in promoting peaceful and inclusive societies. Despite challenges ahead, the cycle of deadlock and conflict had to be eliminated if the international community was to achieve lasting peace. That required commitment from all. He pointed out that, as a post-conflict country, Cambodia had envisaged a culture of peace as its core value. It was unfortunate that conflicts claimed the lives of civilians around the world. Some conflicts stemmed from people being left out. Hence, people could easily fall into the trap of violent extremism.
MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) said the world remained a crucible of destructive conflict, old and new. There was a current trend towards the growth of religious intolerance. That justified efforts to uphold everywhere the creative management of dispute and divisions, with the aim of promoting a state of mind based on a culture of peace. The terrorist sect Boko Haram was raging in the far north of his country. It was an outgrowth of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS), which was causing suffering to so many families around the world. Citing the President of his country, he said it was a global threat that required a global solution. The international community’s challenges around peace issues remained significant. Platforms welcoming the values of understanding, mutual respect and dialogue remained necessary, allowing the international community to combat extremism and other forms of discrimination.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, stated that peace was impossible in the absence of respect for international law, human rights and human dignity. The establishment of a just and viable peace continued to be among the top priorities of the Palestinian Government, despites the many setbacks and painful tragedies endured during the past decades. It was committed to bringing an end to the Israeli foreign military occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people since 1967. The Palestinian people remained patient and resilient in pursuit of their inalienable rights, including to self-determination and return, and pursuit of freedom and peace based on international law and the provisions of the Charter. Palestine’s commitment to international law was further reaffirmed by its recent adhesion to core humanitarian and human rights law instruments, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and by its application for United Nations membership in September 2011. Time was running out and the window of peace was rapidly narrowing, he said, calling on the international community to urgently act to compel Israel to bring an end to its occupation of Palestine and oppression of the Palestinian people.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The Assembly then adopted draft resolutions A/70/L.20 and A/70/l.24 without a vote.
The representative of the European Union, speaking in explanation of position, acknowledged that the text had improved over the years. However, it was regrettable that this year’s timeline for negotiations was limited and that the primary concerns of the European Union were not reflected in the text, notably with regard to preambular paragraphs 14 and 22. The European Union continued to attach importance to mentioning “religion or belief” in conjunction. Freedom of religion or belief applied to individuals, as rights-holders, who could exercise that right either individually or as part of a community, including a religious minority.
The representative of the United States said that her country firmly supported efforts to promote intercultural dialogue and cooperation. She voiced her strong belief in encouraging a culture of peace through freedom, justice, democracy, human rights and rejecting violence. As a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation, dialogue and understanding among individuals were important to the development of peaceful and harmonious relations. While joining consensus today, however, she stressed that that did not imply that the United States was in full agreement with the declaration from the Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions held in Kazakhstan in June. She also reaffirmed her strong support for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression.
Right of Reply
In exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel said the Palestinians were not implementing peace. The statement made to the Assembly today was nothing but a call to the destruction of the State of Israel. The wave of terrorism Israel had faced in the last months was leading Palestinian children to murder women and children from Israel; that did not support any culture of peace. Peace would come only through negotiations and not violence. The Palestinians had to stop incitement and turn towards negotiations. They should not rely on outside compulsion because that would not come, and time was running out for them.