22.09.2012 - ODG

Irina Bokova leads High Level Debate at the UN on Peace and Non-Violence

© UNESCO - UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova with UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon and UN General Assembly President Mr Vuk Jeremic at the High-level debate on Contemporary challenges and approaches to building a lasting culture of peace, New York, September 2012

On 21 September, International Day of Peace, the Director-General chaired at the UN a High Level Debate on the Culture of Peace and Non Violence, organized by UNESCO -- with the participation of the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, UN General Assembly President Mr Vuk Jeremic, Minister of Culture of Kazakhstan, Mr Darkhan Myngbay, and Mr Leonel Fernandez, former President of the Dominican Republic.

The opening addresses were followed by a debate between prominent intellectuals and peace advocates -- including UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Forest Whitaker, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, Lakshmi Puri, Wole Soyinka, Arjun Appadurai, Jeffrey Sachs, as well as Nasser David Khalili.

Secretary-General  Ban Ki-moon called for all men and women to be relentless in standing for our common values, for peace and human rights. "We are here to ring the bell of peace" he said. "I count on you," declared the Secretary-General.

In her opening, Irina Bokova spoke out against recent acts, driven by intolerance and ignorance, that seek to incite hatred against the values and beliefs of other people. She called for a renewed commitment by all to respect, tolerance and mutual understanding.

At a time when peace is failing in many societies, UNESCO Director-General stressed the responsibility of all to defend human dignity by promoting quality education for all, building bridges of dialogue for respect and tolerance, and giving all individuals the capacity to fulfil their aspirations. She also highlighted the importance of education for human rights, especially for young people, to nurture peace.

Mr Vuk Jeremic spoke of the vital importance of education and culture as the building blocks for peace, reminding all that "peace must be the fabric of daily life."

The debate that followed focused on the importance of communication in a world of information overflow, and the need for deeper and stronger dialogue on the basis of a common humanity.

Mr Arjun Appadurai spoke of the mismatch between the slow-paced message of peace and how fast messages of hatred circulate. Ms. Lakshmi Puri made a powerful case for gender equality as a breakthrough strategy for sustainable peace. Mr Jeffrey Sachs reminded all of the importance of conditions that can lead to conflict, underlining the importance of poverty.

"Each of us has the capacity to create peace," declared Forest Whitaker, saying this is also an obligation to act for peace. He highlighted especially the power of education as a force for transformation, to give girls and boys both dignity and abilities.

Forest Whitaker reminded all of the words of Martin Luther King Jr: "I have decided to stick with love -- hate is too heavy to bear."

The debate included questions from a room filled to capacity and also from a special twitter account created for the event.

Answering the question of boy aged 12 years' old, Mr Raj,  taking part in the debate, Irina Bokova stated, "I find great hope in seeing you with us, in seeing your engagement and intelligence." "You are already a global citizen," she continued, "this gives us all hope -- you have to believe you have the power to change the world, you have to believe it, this is the way to peace."

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