I thank you, Sir/Mr. Chair.
[I thank you for once again bringing us together; and for ensuring such an impressive line-up of participants despite the challenges of a virtual meeting. The interest and commitment to this issue is evident in the large participation that we have now; and to your amazing convening power.]
Mr. Chair, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Let me begin by expressing my deep appreciation to the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency Volkan Bozkir for convening this year’s High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace. His guidance and leadership in preparing for today’s events provided renewed impetus to the observance of the HLF as we meet amidst the global pandemic crisis.
I thank Ms. Beatrice Fihn for her inspiring keynote speech.
I also thank Mayor Matsui and Special Envoy Wickramanayake for their powerful statements and for sharing their valuable insights.
To me, this particular event is very special. More than 20 years ago, when the idea of ‘culture of peace’ was first mooted by the then Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN, Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, I was privileged to be a part of his core team.
Today, as I participate in this panel discussion, which is chaired and moderated by Ambassador Chowdhury himself, I am filled with nostalgia; humility and pride to see how far we have come from those initial days.
Thank you, Sir, for continuing to provide leadership on this issue, and to the Global Movement on the COP. I am honored and humbled to be able to carry forward your legacy.
The culture of peace is inextricably linked to Bangladesh’s foreign policy vision. As our founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had stated in his maiden speech in the UN; and I quote: “Peace represents the deepest aspirations of men and women throughout the world”. We are committed to “building a world order, in which the aspiration of all men for peace and justice will be realized.” [end of quote]
Inspired by this very commitment, we introduced in 1999, the resolution on the “Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace”. Today, the culture of peace, as an agenda item, hosts multiples resolutions that aims at promoting tolerance, and harmony. And this speaks of the broad appeal and relevance of the concept in our work and our lives.
The theme of this year’s high-level forum – “Transformative Role of The Culture of Peace: Promoting Resilience and Inclusion in Post-Covid Recovery” cannot be timelier.
The Covid-19 pandemic has upended our lives. We are in the midst of the second year of its outbreak, and there seems to be no end in sight as newer variants and new waves continue to ravage globally. The roll-out of vaccines earlier this year came as a huge relief; but the lack of access to vaccines and vaccines inequity, is undermining the prospects of the elimination of the virus from our lives anytime soon.
The socio-economic impacts of the pandemic are severe; inequality is growing among and within nations; while recovery efforts are impacted by conflicts and existing vulnerabilities, including climate change, poverty, debts, etc. During the pandemic we have also witnessed a rise in hate speech, xenophobia, and intolerance.
At this hour of uncertainties and divisions, embracing the culture of peace can help us the most. Allow me to share a few thoughts [in the interest of time, I shall limit this to highlight a few issues]:
First, equal and just societies are central to achieving the culture of peace. The growing “vaccine divide” has compounded the prevailing inequality both within and across societies. According to the World Health Organization, over 44 percent of the people in the high-income countries have been vaccinated, while the rate is less than 1 percent in the low-income countries.
We must eliminate this inequality urgently. Countries like Bangladesh which have the capacity to produce vaccines at a much cheaper cost should be given access to technology and know-how to avert the vaccine crisis.
Second, the pandemic has hit the poorest and the most vulnerable countries the hardest. Poverty has seen its first upsurge in the last two decades. Inequality is on the rise. While the richest countries have been able to roll out major stimulus packages for their businesses and citizens, the poorer economies are being plunged into deeper crises. The Secretary General’s report on the SDGs progress predicts that they will be pushed back by a full 10 years on achieving their SDGs.
It is high time for a new development paradigm that would address poverty and income inequality in a holistic manner. The LDCs and countries with existing vulnerabilities need increased support and solidarity for resilient recovery.
Third, the pandemic has significantly impacted the children, their education, health and overall well-being. It has exposed the ‘digital divide’ that hinders education for all. Over 80 million children are at risk of falling into extreme poverty as a result of the crisis. Globally, more than 1.6 billion children are out of school; and the majority of them are in the developing world without access to distance learning. A large majority may not be able to return to school for reasons ranging from poverty, child labour to early marriages.
To make up for lost grounds, we can leverage the focus of culture of peace on education, to review, innovate and re-structure conventional education, and fill the investment gap, including in research and development.
Fourthly, Bangladesh has always championed the central role of women in peace and security, also instrumental for development. As a non-permanent member of the Security Council, we were closely involved with the process of adopting resolution 1325, which eventually laid the foundations of the women, peace and security agenda.
It was during Bangladesh’s presidency of the Security Council in March 2000, and under the leadership of Ambassador Chowdhury, that the Presidential Statement on WPS was adopted on 8 March on the occasion of International Women’s Day; that PRST was the precursor to resolution 1325. The centrality of women’s role in the recovery from the pandemic is evident; and the need for leveraging on the WPS agenda to promote the culture of peace as we build back from the pandemic is now more relevant than ever.
Finally, addressing hate speech, xenophobia and intolerance is critically important for a resilient and inclusive recovery. Discrimination against migrant workers and other people in vulnerable situation need to stop. In this regard, inclusive and nondiscriminatory recovery support is essential. Equally important is to promote inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue, aiming at bridging divides and discrimination across and within societies, and fostering peaceful settlement of disputes, harmony and non-violence.
To conclude, I call upon all relevant UN entities such as UNESCO, UNICEF, UN-Women, UNAoC and UPeace, who have actively supported the culture of peace process, to continue their good work, especially now as we recover from the pandemic, for the implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action in true letter and spirit. Bangladesh will always support all efforts in this regard.
I thank you Sir, I thank you all.