At the initiative of the President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNPGA), H.E. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, a High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace was held in New York on 13 September 2019, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace under the theme “The Culture of Peace: Empowering and Transforming Humanity”.
As the birthplace of the concept of a “Culture of peace”, UNESCO contributed technically and substantially to the organization of this important event, which hosted a broad variety of eminent personalities and experts such as His Royal Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Asantehene, H.E. Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, H.E. Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, founder of the Global Movement for the Culture of Peace and former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations, and Frederico Mayor, Chairman of the Foundation for a Culture of Peace and former Director-General of UNESCO.
In the opening session, H.E. Espinosa Garcés reminded that the event was the last she presided over as President of the General Assembly. In this context, she highlighted the importance to consider peace as a commitment for life, bringing all voices on the board, as well as her firm engagement during her mandate to make United Nations relevant for all, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“We cannot get there without working together, without reinvigorating multilateralism, without rekindling a connection between ‘we the peoples’ and this institution”, she declared.
The issue of the importance of inclusion to consolidate positive peace and incite positive transformation was also raised by the Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, Ms Nada Al-Nashif, that represented UNESCO and participated in the panel “Culture of peace: Empowering and transforming Humanity”.
“The growing emphasis on promoting inclusive, nationally owned, comprehensive and coherent peacebuilding efforts goes a long way in achieving this, tackling the root causes of conflict – poverty, exclusion, inequality, discrimination, and violations of human rights – and planting the seeds for a culture of peace to bolster the structures, institutions and behaviors that tackle grievances before they escalate into violence”, she said.
Ms Nada Al-Nashif also gave closing remarks at the Working Luncheon of the Culture of Peace, prepared in collaboration with UNESCO and UNAOC, where multi-stakeholder roundtables convened to discuss key issues related to building a culture of peace, and specifically, the role of partnerships for achieving the SDGs.
Participants of the roundtables acknowledged recurrent challenges to the consolidation of a culture of peace such as the need to close the gap in bringing in evidence to support the policymaking, the advent of new technologies, and the safeguard of freedom of expression in view of the rising of hate speeches. They also called for a long-term strategy that should include leveraging the potential of partnership to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies.
The high-level event occurred some days before the Biennale of Luanda, which will be held from 18 to 22 September in Angola. The Biennale is a partnership between Angola, the African Union and UNESCO designed to promote the prevention of violence and the resolution of conflicts by facilitating cultural exchanges in Africa and the African diaspora, and connect organizations and actors working on this field throughout the Continent.
Initiatives such as the High Level Forum of the Culture of Peace and the Biennale of Luanda, which resonate the need for redoubling concrete efforts to reconnect the culture of peace with the real world challenges, are gaining momentum and testify to key role of UNESCO in the United Nations system to advance the culture of peace.