OPENING AND WELCOME SPEECHES
A. Opening Speech
Your Excellency Mr Nguyen Khanh, Former Deputy Prime Minister of
On behalf of the Viet Nam National Commission for UNESCO, I wish first of all to extend our heart-felt thanks for your presence at this Seminar. This seminar is so significant in a sense that it starts off a host of activities in active response to the International Year of Peace Culture launched by the United Nations. For the realisation of the Seminar, we should not fail to mention the timely response from UNESCO in terms of finance and wisdom as well as the your active response and efficient contributions and the industrious work done by the Organising Committee. I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Viet Nam National Commission for UNESCO and all other Vietnamese delegates to convey our high appreciation and sincere thanks through Mrs Rosario Durand to H.E. the Director-General of UNESCO.
This is the first seminar on Peace Culture to be organised in Hanoi, the Capital City of Viet Nam, where preparation is being made for the commemoration of 990th and 1 1000th birthday of Thang Long Hanoi, and possibly one of the place from where to launch the International Year of Peace Culture in the year 2000 and World Decade for Peace Culture, Non-violence and Children (2001-2010). The participation by numerous representatives from different ministries and branches at central as well as local levels , by professors and scholars from many fields together with those from mass organisations and mass media all testifies to the profound interest and peace-loving tradition of the Vietnamese people. I am confident that this is surely a steadfast guarantee for the success of the Seminar, which will be Viet Nam's active contributions to the common endeavour of world people who are striving for a world of long-lasting peace.
Many of the Vietnamese people's friends would perhaps wonder why a people who have held firm weapons in their hands in the course of thousands of years should be among the first to respond to the International Year of Peace Culture launched by UNESCO.
I wish to think that if they should dig up the thick layers of Viet Nam's history, cultural traditions and its people's characteristics, they would be sympathetic with the misfortune we had endured through centuries, and they would realise how much these people cherish peace.
Though constantly living in the fire storm of wars, the Vietnamese people still always long for peace to live happily with their families, their friends, their land, to develop their talents and creative labour, and to build a more prosperous and beautiful country.
When naming their native localities, the Vietnamese people would entrust in them their aspiration for peace. Just take a few names of villages, districts and provinces in Viet Nam. Hoa Binh, Thai Binh, Ninh Binh, Quang Binh, Vinh Yen, Phuc Yen, Quang Yen, Phu Yen, Yen Son, Yen Phu, Yen Thai, Yen Vien, Yen Binh, Yen Bai, etc... These names all mean "peace" or at least related to peace even in the hardest years of the ferocious wars, many parents named their children after that aspiration for peace.
In the Vietnamese people's concept, however, the aspiration for peace is closely linked with that for national independence and freedom. Peace means national independence, people's freedom and everyone's happiness. There would be no peace when the country is still occupied by foreign aggressors who persecute and exploit the people. Peace is not synonymous with no war. The Vietnamese people accept war when there is no other way to wrest back peace, independence and freedom. They always look at the relationship between peace and war through dialectical views.
When President Ho Chi Minh said, "Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom", he had grasped the core of what is meant by a "life in peace". His words were not only the national appeal in the course of past wars, but they also reflected the age-long and most profound aspiration of the people. Independence and freedom are the prerequisites for the existence as a human being; they are the vital objective of the struggle for peace.
The words also by Ho Chi Minh, "We should sacrifice everything rather than being slaves", embody the will of the entire people who consider independence and freedom as the top values. They are central to all other values. Peace and happiness, beauty. and love should take these as their premises, depending on them for their existence and development. That is why the Vietnamese people would never accept a so-called "peaceful life" at the expense of independence and freedom.
With that notion of the relationship between war and peace, the Vietnamese people have fought valiantly, not only to defeat the aggressors and liberate the country, but to put a definite stop to war so as to build a long-lasting life in peace. Ho Guom (Sword-returning Lake) which you have seen symbolises that relationship between war and peace in the people's mind. When the country was invaded, the golden turtle came to the surface and present the national hero Le Loi with a sword, and when independence was wrested back, the hero returned the sword to the turtle. This means that for the Vietnamese people, war is only when unavoidable. Nguyen Trai, another national hero of the XV century, who is commemorated by UNESCO as an international "l'homme de culture", had said: "in case. of war, concentrate on building up the military strength; in peace time, use culture to govern the country".
In the course of the ferocious wars, the Vietnamese people fought so heroically against the aggressors, but at the same time always considered working people in other countries as their brothers and sisters.
The century-long history has demonstrated that once defeating the aggressors, the Vietnamese people had spared the lives of tens of thousands of the enemy's soldiers, treated them kindly and saw them off on their way home. After the triumph, Viet Nam's authorities would immediately take the initiative to resume the relations, buried the old axes and set down to peaceful Coexistence in friendship.
It is an age-long tradition of the Vietnamese people to strive for peace so as to build a prosperous and happy life for themselves, and to foster the fraternal relations with all other nations. It is also a watchword of the State of Viet Nam at present. It is as well the teaching by Ho Chi Minh to his people before passing away thirty years ago. His Testament reads: "My last wish is: Our entire Party, entire people will unite in an endeavour to build a peaceful, unified, independent, democratic and prosperous Viet Nam, thereby making worthy contributions to the cause of world revolution".
Now the humankind is preparing to say goodbye to the XX century and to go on into the XXI century. The XX century is an effervescent one. Two bloody world wars constituted a destruction never seen before to the life and property of the humankind. But also in this century, the working as well as oppressed peoples had waken up to fight for their own liberation. This century also witnessed the unbelievable development of human intellect, which could bring the humankind to the climax of civilisation and happiness; but it also witnessed the birth of some deformed babies of intellect: the advent of the nuclear bomb, the mass-killing weapons and other lethal weaponry.
This is a century where the struggle is going on between light and dark, the good and the evil, the beautiful and the ugly, the true and the fake. This is a century where the contradiction opens up between the trend of optimally developing the best values of human beings on one part and the accelerated religious and ethnic prejudices together with increased criminal acts of violence.
The Vietnamese people commend UNESCO for the International Year of Peace Culture. They pledge to join the peoples throughout the world in an endeavour to build the XX century to be the opening of a life in its authentic sense worthy as a homo sapient or human beings. It should be a century when the entire human kind strive for the values, the attitude and the conduct from the height of culture.
For conclusion, I wish to extend our he art-felt thanks to the UNESCO representative and other distinguished foreign guests for coming to attend this seminar. I would like also to extend our warmest greetings to the Vietnamese scholars present here with your precious contributions.
On behalf of the Viet Nam National Commission for UNESCO I declare our seminar is now open and sincerely wish that this seminar be steered to a fruitful conclusion. I believe that through discussions and exchange of views, the knowledge of what Peace Culture is all about will be enriched, the Vietnamese people's tradition of peace be further well known, and at the same time we would come to recommendations on what should be done in active contribution to the World Decade for Peace Culture, Non-Violence and Children as well as to the cause of building a peace culture in general in the next millennium.
Thank you for your attention.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
KINH THUA QUÝ VI
It is an honour and a privilege to represent Mr Federico Mayor, Director-General of UNESCO, at the opening ceremony of the National Workshop on a Culture of Peace in Viet Nam.
The Director-General has entrusted me to convey to you the following message that I will read to you now.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Hai Ba Trung, Ngo Quyen, Le Loi and in more recent times, Ho Chi Minh, are some of the heroes who are honoured today among many others in the countless dens throughout your beautiful country. Freedom fighters who fought for independence; for the right to preserve your rich cultural heritage and for self-determination. Their war aims had ultimately a peace objective in mind and their heroic efforts symbolise Vietnamese ideals and virtues of public order, national pride and sacrifice, These war time leaders have been joined in the pantheon of national heroes by many others such as Tue Tinh, the first village doctor in the I 10th century and again Tran Truong Cong, one of the first artisans and "human living treasure" avant la lettre who passed on the art of lacquer in the 15th century. He roes in peace and in war whose courageous and inspiring actions have contributed to building a strong and proud country which continues to follow in the footsteps of these legendary benefactors whose imprint has impacted on the development of the Viet Nam of today.
A development in which peace, after so many years of living through the ravages of war, can finally take centre-stage. The organization of this seminar is a clear demonstration of your national will to look for ways and means through which the notion of peace can be embedded in all facets of society. Ways and means through which a new modus vivendi, indeed a new culture can be adopted by all, so that the change from a culture of war and of violence to a culture of peace can slowly be pursued and engendered.
We salute your efforts and interest in these pursuits and are here to share our experiences in this area. I stress the word "sharing" because we are not here to lecture but rather to relate our experience in this area and to assist you in any way we can through examples and models that may have been tried elsewhere to attain the objectives that you will wish to set out for yourselves.
I believe that a word of clarification on the concept of a "culture of peace" and a brief overview of the history behind this concept maybe in order at this point. This conceptual and more theoretical presentation will be followed by some examples of how UNESCO has operationalized this concept through the programmes of the Organization.
Indeed, the Culture of Peace has already deep roots in all the countries of the world and, it must be added, in all the sectors of the societies concerned. We do have a general definition of what culture of peace is the values, attitudes and forms of behaviour that reflect respect for life for human beings and their dignity and for all human rights, the rejection of violence in all its forms and commitment to the principles of freedom, justice, solidarity, tolerance and understanding among peoples and between groups and individuals".
But this definition can be understood by the different actors of society in many different ways. Necessarily, this definition will be integrated on the basis of their aspirations, and in the context of the issues they have to deal with on a daily basis, at the international, regional, national and most of all, the local level. For if we are dealing with values, attitudes and behaviours, we are also talking about the complex realities with which each of us has to contend with, in the family, in the community, in the school, in the neighbourhood.
The Culture of Peace is therefore a matrix for action at many different levels. At the international level, at this very moment the General Assembly of the United Nations is finalizing its discussion on the draft Declaration and Programme of Action which will make of the Culture of Peace a common objective for the whole of the United Nations system in the years to come.
Moreover, in the year 2000, we will celebrate the International Year for the Culture of Peace, which will be officially launched on September, 14 of this year and to which Viet Nam will make an outstanding contribution with the decade-long celebration of the millennium of Thang Long - Hanoi, which will also correspond to the Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non Violence for the Children of the World 2001-2010, which has recently been proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations. And we have also in 2001, the celebration of the International Year of the Dialogue of Civilizations, which will be an important occasion to reinforce the interaction between cultures and traditions throughout the world.
At the regional level, many intergovernmental organizations are also preparing the celebrations of the International Year for the Culture of Peace. In Southeast Asia, the participants, including an important delegation from Viet Nam, in the Regional Symposium on Co-operative Peace in Southeast Asia, co-organized by UNESCO and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last September in Jakarta, Indonesia, adopted the Statement on Peace in Southeast Asia on the Eve of the Third Millennium, in which the notion of co-operative peace as promoted by ASEAN and the Culture of Peace were brought together in order to create new synergies at the regional level.
At the national level, UNESCO is already co-operating with many countries of Southeast Asia, among them the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and, of course, Viet Nam to further the cause of the Culture of Peace through the implementation of a wide range of projects, in particular in the field of education for a Culture of Peace.
During the next two days we will learn about and discuss the realities of Viet Nam, in the perspectives of the promotion of the culture of peace. I do hope that together we will be able to establish a forward-looking strategy in the implementation of which UNESCO and Viet Nam will closely co-operate as they always have in the past.
XIN CHÚC HÔI-NGHI THÃNH CÔNG
C. Welcoming Remarks
I commend the General Assembly of the United Nations for launching the Year 2000, the first year of the XXI century, as the International Year for a Culture of Peace. It is easy to understand why. The United Nations was born for the purpose of preserving peace, promoting economic and cultural development, and international co-operation. If peace were not preserved, a world war breaking out again, local wars being always in the offing, or if international co-operation, economic and cultural development are not initiated, leading to the aggravation of poverty and ignorance in many continents, then the various large-scale activities by the United Nations would be just the hollow ones.
I am pleased to note that the United Nations, first and foremost UNESCO, has play an important role not only in the development of world culture, preservation and exploitation of world cultural heritage, but particularly in awakening national leaders and effecting the changes in their minds about the role of culture in development, of the state responsibility for cultural development.
We highly appreciate the initiatives as well as activities of effective encouragement and guidance from UNESCO and the Viet Nam National Commission for UNESCO in the last World Decade for Cultural Development.
I fully agree with and respond to the good ideas by the United Nations and UNESCO of launching the International Year for a Culture of Peace aimed at bringing peoples throughout the world to a better understanding of culture and peace, of their two-way relationship, which will help to initiate spontaneous and concerted actions to build and consolidate the culture of peace, making peace and non-violence permeate into people's daily thinking and activities, thus erasing war and violence from the people's minds. Having realised that good, and noble idea will facilitate a better and lasting future for the entire humankind in the XXI century and centuries to come.
I wish to raise one question to be clarified. Is it right to say that in the world and in some other countries there exist two kinds of culture: culture of war and culture of peace? Is it right again to say that there occurs the transition from the culture of war to the culture of peace?
In -my opinion, there is only one kind of culture in the most pregnant sense of the word, inextricably linked with the preservation of peace and opposition of wars. It constitutes both the solid foundation and a driving force for the building of a peaceful and happy life for all peoples and humankind as it contains in itself the affections for our fellow countrymen, the love for nature... It is a culture having the good and the beautiful as its perpetual values. If that is the case, there can't be a so-called "culture of war and violence". Violence and belligerence exist only in the minds of a powerful circle who resorts to war and violence to reach their political and financial goals. To date, war-mongers seem to be those in power who hatch their own schemes of invading other countries, suppressing other peoples. In so doing, they collude with arms traffickers, war-profiteers, not the ordinary and working people. But they at the same time employ propaganda and cultural means to distort, to cover up the real objectives of the war in order to involve a section of the population in acts of killing other peoples and destroying other countries. That is exactly what at NATO is doing, boasting that they launched military attacks against Yugoslavia only to stop a "humankind's catastrophe", and to protect the right to autonomy of the people in Kosovo. This misleading propaganda, even though disguised in some cultural form, is not culture in its substantive sense.
There are cases when a people must take up arms to fight against foreign aggression for the protection of their country. They fully understand that war is synonymous with destruction, deaths and sufferings, but they have to face it as there is no other way to defend their country, to protect their physical and cultural values. That is the case of the Vietnamese people who voluntarily carried on prolonged wars of resistance for national salvation to defeat foreign aggressors, to defeat the war of aggression waged by the colonialists and imperialists, to wrest back peace, peaceful life and national development. During war-time, propaganda, educational, cultural and artistic activities are geared to encouraging the struggle till victory. But that is not the culture of war; the heroic fighters are not war-mongers; they and other ordinary people never like the killings and the consequences of war.
Even during the most ferocious days of the war, the Vietnamese people had tirelessly striven for world peace, for victory and for peace to return to their land. And even when they had to fight the aggressors who committed atrocities against them, the Vietnamese as remembering Ho Chi Minh's teachings still made a clear-cut distinction between friends and enemies, showing respect for, sympathy and solidarity with the majority of peace and justice-loving people in those countries whose authorities waged wars against Viet Nam. With their tradition of humanitarianism and tolerance, the Vietnamese people are always kind enough after the enemy is defeated, being ready to befriend all, including those who had brought them so much sufferings.
In so speaking, I wish to reconfirm that where there is war and violence, there- is a culture of peace and violence is not a true statement.
Culture as such means to enrich people's life. Culture in its substantive sense is always linked with peace, with happiness, with a better, peaceful and lasting life for the people. That culture is the culture of peace.
A culture of peace as above perceived is very close to Viet Nam's advanced culture which is reeked of national identity. This closeness is simply attributed to the fact that the nation and people of Viet Nam, as having endured long years of war and so much sacrifice in their struggle for independence, freedom and peace, know exactly what war and peace, misfortune and happiness, atrocity and humanity, culture and false culture mean.
We agree and actively respond to the International Year for a Culture of Peace with concrete activities. While we prevent, denounce and reject concepts and acts of anti-humanity and false culture by the aggressors, the imperialists, the militarists who resort to all forms of violence to achieve their filthy goals, we join others in an endeavour to erase war from the people's minds, to build a fortress for peace, to protect the values of national and humankind's cultures in the very minds of human beings and of world people as enshrined in the Convention on the Establishment of UNESCO.