At the close of the 2019 World Summit on Peace, Security and Human Development, on behalf of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), allow me to thank you for inviting me to join the current and former heads of state and government gathered here in the big city of Seoul with a common goal: to promote and maintain peace as a whole, with respect for human rights, universal values and of human dignity. These values are at the heart of the UNESCO Constitution which stipulates that peace must be based on the intellectual and moral solidarity of humanity, if it is not to fail.
In recent days, we have had the unique opportunity to hear the thoughts and opinions of world leaders who shared their experiences to address some of the critical challenges of our time, as well as the prospects for peace in the region.
The establishment of the International Peace Summit Council, which took place just two days ago, should be seen as a laudable effort by current and past heads of state and government to contribute to peace, stability. international security. This World Summit was held at a crucial moment in the history of our world, and the comments and ideas expressed here will certainly contribute to shaping the global agenda for the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we have heard, the world is rapidly globalizing and societies have never been so connected. But that does not mean there is more cooperation, respect or understanding. We see new dividing forces emerge, spreading hatred, intolerance and ignorance. We see conflicts continue to tear societies apart, with the rise of violent extremism and terrorism attacking societies around the world. And new technologies that can better connect people and communities are being misused to create division and misunderstanding.
In this context, we need a new commitment to dialogue from all sides at all levels, as recalled by the vice-president of Afghanistan. The First Lady of Palau, among others, has implored us to look after gender equality. In this regard, it is essential to empower women and men to understand and overcome challenges together.
This is vital to bolster inclusion and cohesion in societies undergoing deep, sometimes unpredictable transformations—or, to quote the president of Trinidad and Tobago, for us all to become lightening rods of transformative change. His Highness the head of state of Samoa also called on a need for everyone to protect our planet from the devastating effects of climate change—especially felt by small island states but which affects each and every one of us in this lifetime.
These transformative changes are important to catalyse the innovation every country needs to advance the ambitious vision of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, as established by all countries of the United Nations. In this regard, there is no room for unilateralism or exclusion.
Change is racing across the world (this cannot be undone), and our goal must be to embrace change on the basis of human rights and mutual respect, to shape it in positive directions, to craft a future that is more just, inclusive and sustainable for every women and man. For this, UNESCO believes that dialogue is key.
Intercultural dialogue is both the standard and the instrument to sustain peace for the benefit of more inclusive and equitable development. This idea stands at the heart of UNESCO’s mission to build the defenses of peace in the minds of women and men.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Diversity is our key resource for achieving inclusive and sustainable societies, the overarching aspiration of the ambitious UN 2030 Agenda. And intercultural dialogue is the key tool for exploiting and protecting this resource.
As UNESCO’s director-general said on the International Day for Tolerance, held on the 16th of November each year, “All cultures are different, but humanity is a single community, sharing values, a past and future. All people are different, and this is a strength for all societies, for creativity and innovation. There are seven billion ways of ‘being human,’ but we stand together as members of the same family, all different, all equally seeking respect for rights and dignity.”
Let us continue to work together to find ways to promote dialogue in order to understand our differences, reinforce our common values, and cooperate together for our common good.
Author: Mr. Frederick Russell-Rivoallan
Head, Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO Beijing Office