By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
As the world was coming out of the debilitating grip of the Cold War, its peace-loving people got truly energized to take steps to shun war and conflict forever and secure peace in a sustainable way for all. Soon after assuming my responsibility as Bangladesh’s Ambassador to the United Nations, I got deeply engaged in these deliberations so that the much promised “peace dividend” has a real impact in making peace take a permanent place in the hearts of men and women and in the policies of the nations of the world.
My faith in the values of non-violence, tolerance and democracy guided me to realize that we need to generate the mindset that is a prerequisite for the transition from force to reason, from conflict and violence to dialogue and peace. We should not isolate peace as something separate or distant. We should know how to relate to one another without being aggressive, without being violent, without being disrespectful, without neglect, without prejudice. It is important to realize that the absence of peace takes away the opportunities that we need to better ourselves, to prepare ourselves, to empower ourselves to face - individually and collectively - the challenges of our lives, the violence in our societies, and, of course, war, conflict and dispute among nations.
That belief was augmented by the far-sighted assertion in 1989 in the Preamble of Yamoussoukro declaration on peace in the mind of men that “Peace is more than the end of armed conflict …. Peace is a mode of behaviour.” The flourishing of the culture of peace will transcend all boundaries and differences – both inner and outer. It is the most universal thing that one can internalize.
That inspired me to write in July 1997 to the then Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan proposing inclusion of a separate self-standing item for the General Assembly on the “culture of peace” for deliberations in its Plenary sessions. After some initial difficulties, the agenda was included and the UN resolution on the International Year for the Culture of Peace was adopted the same year. Next year, inspired by the Nobel Peace Laureates, the UN declared the period 2001 to 2010 as the International Decade for Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World. Subsequently in 1999, the UN agreed unanimously to adopt the Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace outlining actions by all.
The culture of peace should be the foundation of the new global society. In today’s world, more so, it should be seen as the essence of a new humanity, a new global civilization based on inner oneness and outer diversity.
It is, therefore, absolutely essential that human security in a broader sense should receive priority attention of the international community. “Peace does not mean just to stop wars, but also to stop oppression, injustice and neglect.”
In this context, let me also express my concern that continuing and ever-expanding militarism and militarization are impoverishing and maiming both the Earth and humanity. Our planet and its people are being overwhelmed by this expansion and feeling a sense of helplessness to stall this juggernaut.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asserted at the inaugural High Level Forum of the United Nations on The Culture of Peace in 2012 that “A key ingredient in building culture of peace is education…. Through education, we teach children not to hate. Through education, we raise leaders who act with wisdom and compassion. Through education, we establish a true, lasting culture of peace.” All educational institutions need to offer opportunities that prepare the students not only to live fulfilling lives but also to be responsible and productive citizens of the world. Indeed, this should be more appropriately called “education for global citizenship.”
The young of today deserve a radically different education –“one that does not glorify war but educates for peace, non-violence and international cooperation.” They need the skills and knowledge to create and nurture peace for their individual selves as well as for the world they belong to.
To achieve that objective, we must build a grand alliance for the culture of peace amongst all, particularly with the proactive involvement and participation of women and the young people. Recognition of the Human Right to Peace is at the core of such efforts. This is the first priority as we look ahead.
Let us remember that the work for peace is a continuous process. Each of us can make a difference in that process.
Albert Einstein once said, "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."
Let us not sit back any more, lulled by a sense of complacency.
Let us send a strong, loud and clear message to all that there is no place for war in our world.
Ambassador Chowdhury’s legacy and leadership in advancing the best interest of the global community are boldly imprinted in his pioneering initiatives at the United Nations General Assembly in 1999 for adoption of the landmark Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace. He served as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations in New York from 1996 to 2001 and as the Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations, responsible for the most vulnerable countries of the world from 2002 to 2007.