Building peace in the minds of men and women

UNESCO celebrates the International Day of Peace 2014 in Iran

UNESCO’s Office in Iran and the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO joined the international community in celebrating the International Day of Peace, 21 September 2014, with an event that was held at the Cinema Hall of the Mellat Palace Museum in Sa’adabad Historical and Cultural Complex in Tehran.

This ceremony was to mark the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on “The Right of Peoples to Peace”, theme for this year, as well as the 25th anniversary of the creation by UNESCO of the concept of “Culture of Peace”. It gathered members of international organizations, representatives from the international diplomatic corps based in Tehran, scholars, academia, artists and the civil society.

In her opening remarks on this occasion, Ms Esther Kuisch Laroche, Director and Representative of the UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office indicated that the International Day of Peace 2014 was commemorated while both human lives and identities were under attack in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, with recurrent violence that aims to strike at the cultural and religious values of peoples.

She furthered echoed the theme for this Day and its importance to all nations of the world and stressed some alarming figures; that more than half of the world population was under the age of 25, that 90 percent live in developing countries and face ‘crisis of future’, due to the absence of knowledge and skills to have appropriate jobs. She noted that this situation points at the lack of free access to education and health, but also to challenges for sustainable environment faced by societies around the globe. Over one billion people still live in extreme poverty and could not therefore enjoy fully and equally all their human rights, she added.

Quoting the Preamble of UNESCO’s Constitution, she warned that peace based exclusively upon political and economic arrangements of governments, can never be a lasting peace. She called for more solidarity among human kind; by fostering greater dialogue, understanding and trust among peoples, particularly welcome in the context of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022), for which UNESCO is the lead agency for the United Nations system.

In concluding her statement, Ms Kuisch Laroche reiterated a key aspect of UNESCO’s mandate: “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”. The Organization promotes this vision, more than ever pertinent today, through all its fields of competences of UNESCO: education, the sciences, culture and communication and information, fundamental to bring peoples closer together and to build more inclusive, peaceful and sustainable societies in our 21st globalized century.

As co-host of the ceremony, Dr. Saeidabadi, Secretary-General of the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO emphasized the need to involve peoples from different backgrounds, including diplomats, artists, officials and NGOs, so to collectively commit to the institutionalization of peace across the world. He urged for the respect for and promotion of cultural diversity and the need to avoid religious and political discrimination among and within nations. He also made an urgent appeal to refrain from using cultural diversity and differences to fuel conflicts.

In taking the floor, the UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Gary Lewis, first delivered UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s message on the occasion of the International Day of Peace 2014. Referring to the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of the Peoples to Peace adopted in 1984 and based upon which this Day was celebrated, Mr. Lewis highlighted that every right carried with it an equivalent obligation, and that a successful culture of peace resides in a good balance between rights and obligations.

He also identified important challenges, such as poverty reduction, but also the importance of education, failure in which may contribute to fuel more conflicts. Added to this, he underscored the need to better care for our environment to reducing water scarcity and desertification, which are drivers for unsafe migration and increase conflict over the management of more and more scarce resources. In this regard, he underlined in particular the challenge of climate change for the Middle East and in Iran and the environmental and human security crisis this may lead to.

Professor Kayhan Barzegar’s statement highlighted the importance of peace as a human legacy. Considering that efforts towards building peace was becoming more regional, owing to characteristics and specificities of each country and region. He insisted in this regard on the role and responsibility of each State to promote education of people to the concepts of peace; through cultural education at schools and universities, so to prevent war and conflicts.

The celebration of the Day in Iran also included a cultural and artistic note, in line with the “C” of UNESCO. This included a piece of solo classical music and Iranian traditional music from Gilan province, performed to highlight the respect for the right to participate in cultural life, and the need to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions. It is in the same vein that the art exhibition entitled “Season of Peace” was inaugurated at the Museum of Fine Arts, showcasing 350 artworks of 80 self-taught artists of the country. This connects the celebration to UNESCO’s work to enhance the link between culture and development, and the role and importance of the arts to promote mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence.

Earlier in the day, the Director of the UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office also delivered a speech at a Peace Day event at the Tehran Peace Museum, with the participation, among key speakers, of the former President of Iran Mr Mohammad Khatami.

The ceremony ended with the symbolic act of releasing of white balloons with peace messages attached to them.