ANWARUL K. CHOWDHURY
AND HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES,
LANDLOCKED DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
AND SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES
"15TH ANNUAL NOBEL PEACE PRIZE FORUM"
AUGSBURG COLLEGE, AUGUSTANA COLLEGE,
CONCORDIA COLLEGE, LUTHER COLLEGE
AND ST. OLAF COLLEGE
IN COOPERATION WITH THE NORWEGIAN NOBEL INSTITUTE
14 FEBRUARY 2003
we embark on our journey for the twenty-first century, we
envisage many promises within the grasp of humankind. We see
immense possibilities. We have the power to change the world
for the better. We have the technology and the wealth. With
collective efforts and will,
we can eliminate hunger, eradicate disease, fight malnutrition
and poverty and create a fulfilling future for all. We pay
tribute to human creativity and genius for the progress achieved
by humankind. For all the advances made - in science, literature,
arts, management and medicine -
the human mind has played the pivotal role. It has made the
world a better place to live in.
there is another side to the human mind as well. That other
side is capable of breeding intolerance, harbouring hatred
and inflicting pain on fellow human beings. It is this side
of the human mind that will pose the gravest challenge for
the humanity. The challenge for us will be to prevent the
human mind from becoming consumed by ignorance, fear, violence,
fratricide and intolerance. We have seen in past century alone
what these can do to undermine the progress of the human race.
We have seen war, intra-state conflicts, endemic violence
and social strife. We have seen ignorance and fear erode our
values. We have seen worst forms of intolerance in racism
and xenophobia. We have seen widespread deprivation, conflict
over scarce resources and suppression of human rights. We
have seen a culture of war and violence spread its venomous
tentacles threatening to destroy all that is good, moral and
and again, we are powerless in the face of continuing conflicts.
The last century has been the most violence-ridden in the
history of mankind. There seem to be no end to the horrors
we witnessed in Rwanda, Srebrenica and Cambodia. The killing
fields are too many, the causalities and suffering endless.
We suffered in a culture of war and violence.
of Peace in a World of Turmoil
theme for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Forum that will focus
on the key issues articulated in Secretary-General Kofi Annan's
Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech last December is not only
timely - it is of great significance in today's world of turmoil.
In that speech,
the Secretary-General said, "We need to recognize the
dignity of one life
saving one life is to save humanity
Today's conflicts are not so much between nations
as between powerful and powerless, free and frettered, privileged
and humiliated." In recent times, we have seen new conflicts
breaking out in many parts of the world. For some of the old
ones - where we thought we were looking at light at the end
of the tunnel - things have gone the opposite direction. It
is therefore important that we take a close look at our approaches
toward bringing peace to strife torn lands and bridging the
gulf of hatred. We have to find out where we went wrong. And
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 for hatred and intolerance claimed their lives
not their souls.
dawning of the new millennium gives us a scope to take lessons
from our past in order to build a new and better tomorrow.
One lesson learned is that to prevent history repeating itself,
the values of non-violence, tolerance and democracy will have
to be inculcated in every woman and man - children and adults
alike. All of you would have heard it many times, but I would
like to quote from the UNESCO Constitution one more time because
of its relevance and value:
"Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds
of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed."
The flourishing of 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. Culture
of peace will then provide the bedrock to support a stable,
progressing and prospering world - a world that is finally
at peace with itself.
Nature of Conflicts
first step towards examining the road to peace should start
with an appreciation of the changing nature of conflicts.
Gone are days of war between states for conquest, extension
of spheres of influence in the name of ideology. The Great
Game is history. So is the Cold War. Today's wars are about
settling border disputes, controlling resources, capturing
power, retaining tribal or clan dominance or continuing instability
in neighboring States and regions to profit in muddy waters.
days we call them "civil conflicts" but there is
nothing civil in the way they are conducted. Genocides, rapes,
lynching, hacking off limbs of innocent civilians are common.
Most disturbing is that often these atrocities are directed
to people living in the same community or neighbourhood. Hatred
and intolerance have blurred the vision of the perpetrators.
world and its problems are becoming increasingly more interdependent
and interconnected due to globalization and advancement of
science and technology. Interdependency of the world, if not
addressed with sanity, can change into a social, economic,
nuclear or environmental catastrophe. The magnitude of these
problems requires all human beings to work together in finding
new, workable, realistic solutions.
need for a culture of peace is evident as we reflect on how
our civilization has succumbed, from time to time, to the
human frailties of greed, ambition, xenophobic myopia,
and selfishness. We have seen that heinous acts are often
committed under the veil of public mandates when in fact they
are the wishes of the few in power, be they economic, political,
military, or even religious. At other times, atrocities are
committed out of a mistaken fear of the unknown.
efforts at peace and reconciliation have to be based on an
understanding of this new reality. Global efforts towards
peace and reconciliation can only succeed with a collective
approach built on trust, dialogue and collaboration.
intensifying its work in these efforts, the United Nations
- as the only universal body - needs the support of every
country and every individual. The world body must take the
lead in fulfilling its Charter obligation of maintaining international
peace and security worldwide. In the responsibility that the
United Nations must shoulder towards this objective, stronger
focus on prevention and peace building is essential. The United
Nations needs to be more than a fire brigade rushing in to
put out the conflagrations.
Movement for a Culture of Peace
need to generate a movement that creates a culture of peace
and non-violence in the world and promotes dialogue among
civilizations. A movement that ensures that amity would replace
atrocity, harmony would overcome hatred and stability would
Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said, "The dialogue
among civilizations must be peaceful. It must occur not just
between societies but within them. It must be a dialogue of
mutual respect, based on a framework of shared values - values
such as those found in the United Nations Charter, like equality,
justice and dignity - within which different traditions can
co-exist. Such a dialogue can serve as an inspiration to all
humanity. It can help us learn from each other. It can help
us rise above the intolerance and conflicts that have blighted
our history and undermined human progress."
can truly flourish when the world is free of poverty, hunger,
discrimination, exclusion, intolerance and hatred. When women
and men can realize their highest potential and live a secure
and fulfilling life. Until then, each and every one of us
would have to contribute - collectively and individually -
to build peace through non-violence. We have to succeed together
or together we shall perish. The choice is obvious.
at the United Nations
United Nations, particularly with the broad-based support
of civil society, has been at the forefront in building a
culture of peace keeping in view the new global reality.
1999, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration
and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace. The adoption
of this document has been the most significant initiative
at the United Nations in promoting culture of peace. To me,
culture of peace is a set a values, attitudes and ways of
life based on principle of freedom, justice, democracy, tolerance,
solidarity, respect for diversity, dialogue and understanding.
Declaration highlights the ideals, norms and objectives of
a global culture of peace. The Programme of Action accompanying
the Declaration identifies major areas such as: education,
sustainable development, human rights, equality between women
and men, democratic participation, advancing understanding,
tolerance and solidarity and international peace and security.
has been an honour for me to Chair the nine-month long negotiations
that led to the adoption of the Declaration and Programme
of Action. I would always treasure and cherish that. For me
this has been a realization of my personal commitment to peace
and my humble contribution to humanity.
consider this document as on the most significant legacies
of the United Nations that would endure generations.
adoption of the document provides all of us a clear set of
guidelines for action. It is a universal document in the real
sense transcending borders, cultures, beliefs and societies.
It identifies actors who have a role in advancing culture
of peace. In addition to States and international organizations
like the United Nations, it includes religious and community
leaders, parents and family, teachers and students, artists,
people from all walks of life.
I would like to make a special reference on the role of the
family in promoting a culture of peace. As the oldest institution
in human history, family is absolutely at the core of promotion
of culture of peace. Younger members of the society, growing
up in a family that teaches them the virtues of tolerance,
harmony and understanding, will grow up with the right values
that inculcate culture of peace and non-violence.
Alliance for Culture of Peace
of a Programme of Action on Culture of Peace is only the first
step. Our success will rest on the strength of our movement,
our partnership for its implementation. For that, we have
to build a grand alliance amongst all, particularly with the
proactive involvement and participation of civil society.
believe that the culture of peace and non-violence is receiving
wider and wider global acceptance. Through the efforts of
the UN, and especially the UNESCO; through projects implemented
nationally and regionally; through declaratory statements
by regional organizations; through symposia, workshops and
forums held in various parts of the world like this one;
and through widespread involvement of civil society, again
you being a part of that, we are witnessing the movement gather
momentum. The United Nations had observed the year 2000 as
the International Year of a Culture of Peace and the present
decade is being celebrated as the International Decade for
a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the
me recall here the point I made on 16 December 1998 at a Security
Council meeting on the maintenance of peace and security and
post-conflict peace-building. I mentioned, "International
peace and security can be best strengthened, not by actions
of States alone, but by men and women through the inculcation
of a culture of peace and non-violence in every human being
and every sphere of activity. The elements of a culture of
peace draw from age-old principles and values which are respected
and held in high esteem by all peoples and societies. The
objective of a culture of peace is the empowerment of people.
It contributes effectively to the overcoming of authoritarian
structures and also exploitation, through democratic participation.
It works against poverty and inequality and promotes development.
It celebrates diversity, advances understanding and tolerance
and reduces inequality between women and men. We regard the
culture of peace as an effective expedient to minimize and
prevent violence and conflict in the present day world.
Over countless years, humankind has failed to abolish or do
away with war. Indeed, persons of the eminence of Nobel Laureates
Lester Pearson and Bertrand Russell have expressed the view
that some people may even be thrilled at the prospect of war.
What is clearly needed, therefore, is,
as the eminent American philosopher William James said decades
before the United Nations came into existence, the moral equivalent
of war, something that would be as heroic to people as war
has often been depicted to be, but also compatible with the
essential human spirit which emphatically it is not. This
is the need that the culture of peace strives to fill."
I strongly believe that lasting peace and true reconciliation
can come from within the society that has gone through the
trauma of conflict. Only when people are able to overcome
the animosity and the suspicion that drove their actions,
can we have a situation where violence does not break out
at every instigation.
can we contribute in enabling societies to rise above all
the divisions and doubt and anger? How can we contribute towards
societies that possess the inner strength to demonstrate their
cohesiveness when time is really difficult?
I address those questions, let me add a word on justice. I
firmly believe that there must be justice for healing the
wounds. A society can exorcise the ghost of atrocities only
when there is justice for its victims and punishment for the
perpetrators. In recent years, international community has
come together in establishing the special courts in former
Yugoslavia, in Rwanda, in Sierra Leone and hopefully in Cambodia.
We have the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court.
Everyone agrees that there cannot be impunity for perpetrators
of atrocities. It is now up to the international community
to back up its intentions with deeds to ensure that these
mechanisms are more than symbolic.
calling for justice, we face a particular dilemma. How best
can we ensure justice when the perpetrators are children,
especially older children? How can they go back to the very
same communities where some of them committed grievous crimes?
visited Sierra Leone and the region as a member of the Security
Council Mission looking for answers to some of these questions
and others. I have seen the ravages and mental scars that
remain in the psyche of the child combatants. They are confused
with the reality and horrified of the future. They feel lost.
They would like to come back to a caring society but have
no idea how.
have to give them the opportunity to return. We have to provide
them useful goals they can work for. Without goals to achieve
in their society, they will look for achievements elsewhere,
even if it is through fighting in the streets or from the
bush. These children - these child soldiers - have to be reintegrated
into their communities without stigmatizing them permanently.
of the Community for Peace and Reconciliation
this process of reconciliation and reintegration, we need
the involvement of the community itself. Four factors are
helpful if we are to see a successful intervention on the
part of communities working for peace, justice and reconciliation
in a post conflict setting:
Strong civil society action at the grassroots level:
Civil society actors can bring about a helpful atmosphere
for promoting peace and
non-violence. Humanitarian organizations too can contribute
greatly in that direction.
Regeneration of traditional values and norms that are eroded
during conflicts: Traditional institutions, like the family
as well as indigenous conflict prevention mechanisms,
are useful tools in this regard.
Involvement of women: From Burundi to Somalia to Northern
Ireland to the Middle East and Cambodia, women have shown
great capacity as peacemakers. They assumed activist roles
while holding together their families and communities. At
the grassroots and community levels, women have organized
to resist militarisation, to create space for dialogue and
moderation and to weave together the shattered fabric of society.
Spreading a culture of peace: This, in my opinion, is most
critical to the society.
If the society is to come out of the shadows of conflict and
make a new beginning, its members must be inculcated in a
culture of peace.
do I put such emphasis on culture of peace? Three reasons.
First, it targets individuals. There cannot be true peace
unless the mind is at peace. Second, it brings together all
In addition to States and international organizations, actions
to promote culture of peace can be undertaken, as I said earlier,
by people from all walks of life. Third, it sets its goals
not on the principle of an eye for an eye, but on tolerance,
solidarity and dialogue to settle differences and heal wounds.
is a prerequisite for human development. And peace cannot
be achieved unless the mind is at peace. Peace is meaningful
only when we have peace within and peace without. In the changed
world we live in, it is time to discard the eye for an eye
approach. We have experienced enough violence. We cannot afford
more. The time to act is NOW. It is in this context I believe
that culture of peace should be absolutely the most essential
vehicle for realizing the goals and objectives of the United
Nations in the twenty-first century.
me end on a note of guarded optimism. I believe the time of
culture of peace has come. It is no longer an idea nor just
a concept - it is growing into a global movement with the
dedicated efforts of people like you. But that only means
we have crossed the first hurdle. The rest of the journey
will take us to our streets where millions are without shelter;
to our schools where children are denied proper education;
to our communities where poverty is endemic and harmony exists
only in hope; to our societies where discrimination and exclusion
is still the order of the day; but most importantly, to every
human mind to rid them of the evils of intolerance and prejudice,
ignorance and selfishness that compel them to repeat the cycle
of violence. Only then, our movement would have achieved its
objective. Only then, we shall have a culture of peace that
will inspire truly universal values.