International Day of Peace Celebration -Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara DubaiSep 14, 2017
Your excellency Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance; Excellencies, Honourable Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is always a great pleasure to join our friends at Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara. I am fortunate to have been present in previous events hosted here that celebrated diversity and tolerance. Today we are here to celebrate the International Day of Peace in that same spirit of kindness and inclusion.
Since its declaration by the UN General Assembly more than thirty years ago, the International Day of Peace has been observed as a day for humanity to unite and rise above any difference that could set us apart, both within and among all nations and peoples.
Sadly, in different regions across the globe, we bear witness to a prevalence of violence and hatred within nations. In most cases, these dire conditions initiate as drawn out nervousness and tensions among citizens. Arising from situations of suppression, injustice and inequality, and lack of hope for the future, they ultimately end in regretful conflict situations.
What is more worrisome are the spiraling consequences of these conflicts. Of course, they take a devastating toll on the governance and development of a nation; also on its natural resources and infrastructure. But, it most significantly takes a toll on a nation’s most vital asset: its people.
We see it first hand with the plight of refugees. There are about 65 million refugees around the world as a result of these conflicts. Particularly, the ongoing crises in the Middle East have produced the greatest share of refugees in recent years, where millions of men, women and children were forced to leave their homes, their jobs, their families, their entire livelihoods to seek asylum. All to escape danger in the pursuit of a better, and above all, safer tomorrow.
Which brings me to this year’s theme for International Peace Day: Respect, Safety and Dignity for all. Three brilliant words. Respect, Safety and Dignity for all.
As we engage and mobilize people throughout the world to show support for refugees, migrants, and all those afflicted by armed conflict, it is our hope these three values are upheld.
Fully embodying respect, safety and dignity for all in our actions and our words would guarantee the safeguarding of human rights. It would erode the instincts to discriminate based on differences, and it would assert tolerance for diversity and acceptance of the richness found within it. It would undoubtedly pave a strong, resilient path towards peace.
However, it would also be meaningless to only talk about achieving peace as merely the result of ending conflicts.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr correctly stated: “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”
The aftermath of conflict is equally as devastating for communities trying to rebuild their foundations. Reconstruction, in its broadest sense, takes years. Respect, safety and dignity are strong propellers for the accomplishment of peace, but a guarantee of justice is also essential to its accomplishment. Without justice, a breakdown of peace is almost inevitable. Far too often we see reemergence of conflict after a period of calm. Sustaining peace then has to include addressing the causes of conflicts.
At the core of our work at the United Nations we now have the Sustainable Development Goals: a global to-achieve list, if you will, that tackles the most pressing challenges for our world.
Goal 16 underlines the unbreakable relationship between peace and justice. Under Goal 16, nations have committed to promote peaceful and inclusive societies and to provide access to justice for all their citizens. Both peace and justice are our fundamental freedoms, and both are necessary for real sustainable development.
A true example of the resilience of the human spirit can be found here, in the Middle East. With a history of suffering and struggles, it has continued to this day to stand out for its resilience and desire to survive. We must not forget our common humanity brings with it common aspirations, in which peace is paramount.
With United Arab Emirate’s focus on diversity and tolerance as both vision and practice, there should be no surprise why youth in the Middle East holds the country as an ideal place for its aspirations. I am therefore pleased and honoured to be here with the title bearer of these values, Sheikha Lubna, the Minister of Tolerance, to who I extent my sincere gratitude.
Before concluding, I’d like to thank the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara once more for collaborating with UNDP to make this International Day of Peace event happen. My appreciation also to Mr Surender Sing Kandhari. Thank you all of you for your personal dedication to making the world a better place.