Speech on International Peace Day

21 Sep 2013

Speech on International Day of Peace, Kunming, Yunnan, China - Renata Dessallien, UN Resident Coordinator in China

Honorable Vice-President of China Lǐ Yuán Cháo,
Honorable CPAPD President Hán Qǐ Dé,
Honorable Governor of Yunnan Province Lǐ Jì Héng,
Honorable Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament, Dr. Shirin Chaudhury
Honorable Speaker of the Lower House of Afghanistan Parliament, Dr. Ibrahimi
Excellencies and Distinguished Guests from South Asian countries,
Ladies and Gentlemen, friends,

A very good morning to all of you!

I’m so delighted and grateful that we have all gathered to commemorate the International Day of Peace in Kunming, the City of Eternal Spring and a gateway to the ancient Silk Road. I would like to thank the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament for their diligent promotion of peace all year long, and for their partnership in organizing this special event each year for Peace Day. My sincere thanks also go to the Yunnan and Kunming government authorities for their wonderful and gracious hospitality. And warm thanks to visiting dignitaries from South Asia, who have journeyed far to be with us today. Finally, I thank each of you for joining us to commemorate International Day of Peace.

The theme for today’s celebration is “Education for Peace”, as the United Nations continues to promote the broader role of education in cultivating peace and global citizenship. It reminds us that it is not enough for our schools to teach our children how to read, to write and to count. Education must also help our children to understand, to accept and to appreciate differences, to share, and to further develop their passion for a more just, inclusive and peaceful world.

Of course when the UN talks of education for peace, we are not just thinking of children.  In the school of peace, we are all students.  And all of us must work hard to improve our performance in this school.  This starts with valuing peace more, and taking a more proactive role in spreading peace and protecting peace when it is threatened, in our own lives and in the world around us.   

The observance of the International Day of Peace provides a valuable opportunity for us to assess our progress in the school of peace, and to resolve to do more.  It reminds us that in our current day and age of immense scientific progress and global development, peace is still a fragile dove. It reminds us that our precious dove still needs much more care and protection.  And it reminds us that conflicts can only be solved in a sustainable manner if we address root causes, and that these root causes often relate to unfairness, injustice, poverty and inequality, disempowerment, disrespect, and a “me and mine” attitude rather than a “we and our” mindset.

Today’s observation of the International Day of Peace is very special because it unites China with many South Asian countries. I spent most of my professional life working for the UN in South and South-East Asia, so it means a great deal to me personally. Each country in this region was built on ancient civilizations, inspired by the world’s great religions and philosophies that remind us that peace begins at home, in the recesses of our hearts. 

Many countries represented here have done great things for peace both at home and as contributors to global peace. The world’s foremost troop contributing countries to UN Peacekeeping Operations are from this region:  Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal.  And of course, China is the largest contributor of the five UN Security Council permanent members. But despite all our efforts, much remains to be done and the road to abiding world peace is still long.

With such a wealth of wisdom and commitment to peace represented in this room today, we are well placed to raise the bar in our peace endeavours, and to imagine better ways to achieve deeper, lasting peace.  We are also well placed to infuse our lessons learned into the global multilateral arena. 

After all, the tectonic plates of geopolitical power are shifting, and many say the shift is back to Asia.  An Asian 21st century is a wonderful prospect indeed, but only if it makes for a better century than the ones that preceded it. And, I personally believe, that a better Asian Century can only be realized if Asian countries infuse their domestic, regional and global interactions with the values of peace, fairness and human dignity.  Wouldn’t it be marvelous if the Asian 21st Century came to be known as the century of deep and lasting global peace!  There is no good reason why this cannot be. All the resources for a peaceful Asian 21st Century are at our disposal. The only real obstacle is our old and narrow habits of thinking and response.
In closing, let us all resolve to be better students in the school of peace, so that our homes and neighborhoods, our countries, and our 21st century can radiate peace.

I wish you all a very meaningful and inspiring International Day of Peace!