Peace is about preferring ballots rather than bullets, arguments to weapons, democracy to violence," said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in an address at UNESCO before more than several hundred people, included among them the representatives of the Member States, and the organization’s governing bodies.
“But others do not see it that way. For fear, hatred and the desire for vengeance can weigh heavily (…) on the soul of a society," the President and winner of the 2016 Nobel peace prize added. "And our task – whether we're intergovernmental organizations like UNESCO or representatives of each nation in the world – our task is to ensure that those feelings and energies are replaced by the constructive power of love, tolerance, respect of society and compassion."
"I am saddened to say that in Colombia, we were losing our compassion, over the years of watching so many massacres and so many attacks being broadcast daily by the media. Our capacity to feel moral pain had been deadened."
"Today, we are starting to see the future under another angle and consider yesterday's enemies, who agreed to lay down their guns, as members of a society where everyone has their place, even if we might personally disagree," he continued.
"The tools we need to do that are the ones that UNESCO promotes and must keep promoting: education, culture, science and communication" Mr. Santos reiterated, pointing out that "for the first time in the history of Colombia, the biggest allocation in the national budget went to education, before security and defense." He also stated his willingness to launch a civics’ training plan with the support of UNESCO and its experts.
Referring to the organization’s Constitution, which urges the building of peace in the minds of men and women, President Santos stressed that it was "probably the most important written text in the world today, tackling fanaticism, extremism and rampant calls for hate and exclusion. "We, too, in Colombia want to build peace in our minds and we want peace to be a reality in the whole world," he declared.
The President of Colombia ended his speech by evoking five out of the ten points in the Charter of Bogota, signed in the Colombian capital during the Sixteenth World Summit of the Nobel Peace Prize winners, which was held in February 2017 in the presence of the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova. These principles are "Peace is a right. We are one. We are many. We have to educate. We have to understand."
In her welcome address, Ms. Bokova reaffirmed the "total commitment of UNESCO to the support of Colombia during the process of peace consolidation,” adding, “at the end of five years of fratricidal war and intense suffering, Colombia showed us the power of dialogue and of the will to seek reconciliation. More than ever, we need your vision to inspire and guide the other leaders of the world to do the same," she said. "The people of Colombia and you, Mr. President, are now magnificently writing the history of your country, of your continent, for the world," she concluded.
During the visit, the President of Columbia held a bilateral meeting with the Director-General. The meeting was an opportunity for UNESCO to reaffirm its unfailing support to the peace process in Colombia, as the combatants had surrendered their weapons to the forces of the United Nations present in Colombia.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Maria Angela Holguin, the Minister for Trade, Industry and Tourism, Maria Claudia Lacouture, the Ambassador of Colombia in France and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Federico Renjifo, as well as other members of his government accompanied President Santos.