Adopting Two Resolutions, General Assembly Promotes Culture of Peace, Establishing Memorial Wall at United Nations Headquarters for Fallen Peacekeepers
Stressing the growing threat of conflicts and wars worldwide, the General Assembly today adopted resolutions on promoting a culture of peace and honouring fallen peacekeepers through establishment of a memorial wall.
Opening the meeting, Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi (Hungary) said that the United Nations core mission — peace and respect for humanity across its great diversity — is under threat, with dozens of conflicts raging around the globe. One in six of the world’s 1.8 billion young people live in a conflict setting — the highest number in 20 years — and a staggering 100 million people have been displaced by violence — more than double the number a decade ago. “The arc of humanity is at an inflection point — and we simply must shift course,” he said, adding: “Whoever thinks that war is a better way to achieve a country’s ambitions than cooperation has no rightful place in our global community”.
He called for the full inclusion of women in all processes, critical investments in young people and — in the General Assembly — not allowing short-sighted views to prevent vital breakthroughs. Stressing that the United Nations is an institution that embodies the notions of cooperation, understanding, good faith, and tolerance — where inclusive, open, and genuine global dialogue should take place — he called on Member States to “give peace a chance.”
The representative of Bangladesh, introducing the text — “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/77/L.74) — said the Assembly has over the past 23 years endorsed the enduring value of a culture of peace and adopted the flagship resolution by consensus, and called for the same strong endorsement today. This year’s text represents a careful balance between comprehensive updating and streamlining, he said. Major additions from previous years include the recognition of collective efforts in addressing global risks and challenges, with the United Nations playing the central role. He also reaffirmed the invaluable role of women in prevention and resolution of conflicts, as well as the role of youth.
By the text — adopted without a vote — the Assembly stressed the importance of addressing the underlying drivers of violence and conflict to promote a culture of peace. It encouraged Member States, United Nations entities, regional and subregional organizations and relevant actors to consider instituting mechanisms to involve youth in that process, including through education programmes that could discourage their participation in acts of terrorism, violent extremism as and when conducive to terrorism, violence, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination. The Assembly also invited Member States, all entities of the United Nations system and civil society organizations to accord increasing attention to their observance of the International Day of Peace on 21 September each year as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence.
In the ensuing debate, Member States welcomed the resolution, especially given the persistence of conflict around the world, emphasizing their own national efforts in congruence with it.
The representative of Brunei Darussalam, speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted the region is home to over 640 million people with a variety of ethnicities, religions, languages and cultures. She cited the adoption of the Declaration on Culture of Prevention for a Peaceful, Inclusive, Resilient, Healthy and Harmonious Society, which aims to address the root causes of violent extremism, displacement of populations, and destabilizing factors such as poverty and inequality. Promoting a culture of peace, security, stability and prosperity includes key instruments such as the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty.
The delegate for Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends in Defence of the Charter of the United Nations, asserted that the only way to overcome challenges such as the economic and financial crisis, rising energy prices and increasing natural catastrophes is through consolidating a culture of peace and solidarity. Climate change, endemic poverty and inequality, uncontrolled human mobility, transnational organized crime and terrorism will never be overcome without vigorous multilateralism, he insisted, advocating for the urgent repeal of any unilateral coercive measures.
Building on that, Syria’s delegate stressed the need to urgently address growing radical trends, hate speech, racism, stigma, stereotyping, contempt for religion and xenophobia. These obstacles will remain in the path of the culture of peace, deepen the gaps between peoples and weaken trust in the Organization’s performance, he warned.
The speaker for Malaysia, declaring that the status quo is unsustainable, said: “It is imperative that we cast aside inflammatory rhetoric and instead embrace meaningful dialogue.” As a multi-cultural, multi-racial and multireligious country, his nation strongly believes that mutual understanding, respect and tolerance among religions, cultures and peoples form the bedrock of the culture of peace. Embracing and adopting this culture must begin at home, he underscored.
For its part, Morocco is working to be a model State where people of monotheistic religions live together, its representative said. For centuries, Muslims, Jews and Christians have co-existed in Morocco — a crossroads and melting pot of cultures and civilizations. A case in point, it generously hosted and protected thousands of Muslims and Jews as they were escaping the repression of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Morocco’s education system encourages open-mindedness, diversity and the support of human rights from early on — as can be seen by its teaching of Jewish history in Arabic to students, he said.
The United Arab Emirates has made tolerance an integral part of its education system, its delegate noted, as she showcased several initiatives, including its “On the Path of Zayed” project, which focuses on promoting communication and positive dialogue among students. The international community must invest in the potential and ability of young people, and ensure the full, equal and meaningful participation of women given their pivotal role in building and sustaining peace. As well, religious and community leaders have an indispensable role in promoting mutual understanding among different peoples.
In a similar vein, the representative of Barbados — speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) — cited the Caribbean Youth Advocacy and Action Agenda on Violence Prevention actively empowering youth in his region to effectively work on specific issues related to crime and violence. “It is even more critical than before for us to build on the existing culture of peace, enshrined international cooperation and a functioning rules-based international order to combat global threats,” he emphasized, pointing out: “Peace is a prerequisite for us to achieve prosperity and sustainable development — it is much more than simply the absence of war.”
The representative of Equatorial Guinea quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who said: “There is no path to peace, peace is the path.” Armed conflicts, terrorism, tensions between nuclear Powers, pandemics, and the effects of climate change can only be avoided by the whole of humanity if peace reigns — a process requiring creating and enabling an environment for dialogue and discussion to find solutions to problems and tensions, in which everyone is valued, can participate and influence decisions, he said.
On a more contentious note, Armenia’s delegate stressed that armed conflicts and military actions can have devastating impact on objects of cultural heritage — of irreplaceable value to mankind — observing that millennia-old Christian Armenian sites in Nagorno-Karabakh are on the verge of extermination. Citing the previous history of total and intentional eradication of Armenian heritage in Nakhijevan by Azerbaijan, he affirmed it has been extensively monitored and reported. He stressed that those who disregard instances of cultural heritage erasure for the sake of so-called neutrality must recall that State-sponsored policies of hate crimes and violence against culture are followed by other forms of atrocities.
The representative of Azerbaijan called it ironic to hear accusations of hatred and ethnic discrimination from Armenia, where dehumanization and identity-denial of Azerbaijanis is so prevalent that stereotypes are taught to children in school. Attempting to unify Armenians in a mono-ethnic State, the country expelled 200,000 Azerbaijanis from their homes in Armenia and occupied and ethnically cleansed a large part of his country’s territory. He noted that 64 of 67 mosques in the occupied territories were destroyed and 900 cemeteries either destroyed or desecrated. However, after the war, Azerbaijan genuinely proposed normalization of inter-State relations and will continue efforts to advance post-conflict peacebuilding, he stressed.
The representative of Iran, who spoke in explanation of position after the text’s adoption, voiced regret over the inclusion of some new language in the resolution despite the lack of consent by all delegations, citing preambular paragraph 6, as well as the proliferation of repetitive and irrelevant references to national priorities, which negatively undermine implementation of the text.
Next, the representative of India introduced the draft resolution “Memorial wall for fallen United Nations peacekeepers” (document A/77/L.75), pointing out that more than 1 million men and women from 125 countries have served in 71 peacekeeping missions worldwide. Even today, over 80,000 peacekeepers serve in various conflict zones, enduring harsh conditions and risking their lives to keep the peace.
However, this has not been without its cost — more than 4,200 peacekeepers have laid down their lives in the service of the blue flag, she said. These brave men and women — who came from different parts of the world, practice different faiths and follow different cultures — were united by the cause of peace, their spirit of selfless sacrifice, professionalism and resolve. “They made the supreme sacrifice in the pursuit of mandates that we as Member States requested them to carry out,” she said, emphasizing that the memorial wall will be a constant reminder of the cost of Members’ decisions.
By the resolution, which was adopted without a vote, the Assembly welcomed Member States’ initiative to establish — within three years of the text’s adoption — a memorial wall at United Nations Headquarters in New York honouring the memory of fallen peacekeepers. In deciding that its planning, construction, upkeep and maintenance will be funded entirely from voluntary contributions, the Assembly invited interested Member States to provide voluntary contributions to that end. It also decided to give prominence to the memorial wall by including it in the solemn ceremonies conducted on the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers and other United Nations peacekeeping-related events.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 15 June, for its high-level debate on “Equal access to justice for all: advancing reforms for peaceful, just and inclusive societies”.