Distinguished Delegates and Dear Colleagues,
At the outset, allow me to express our deep appreciation to the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency Csaba Kőrösi for convening this year’s High-Level Forum (HLF) on The Culture of Peace. His guidance and leadership in preparing for today’s event provided renewed impetus to the notion and philosophy of the culture of peace, especially at a time of when the world is experiencing a paradigm change through a rapid and overwhelming trend of digital transformation. The theme of this year’s high-level forum – “Promoting Culture of Peace in the Digital Era”, effectively encapsulates the intricate intersections of the shifting dynamics prompting formidable challenges we confront today, vis-à-vis the tremendous transformative power of technology.
The challenge which is being faced by all of us
today is to ensure that this game changing transformation positively and adequately contribute to our peoples’ political and cultural aspirations and economic progress, and thus harness peaceful and prosperous societies free of exploitation, discrimination and violence.
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 in1974, and I quote: “peace is an imperative for the survival of mankind. It represents the deepest aspirations of men and women throughout the world”.” [Unquote]
And that has shaped our enduring commitment to the cause of global peace and security which inspired Bangladesh delegation introduce in 1999, the resolution on the “Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace”. Today, the culture of peace holds a pivotal position in our multilateral agenda, hosting multiple resolutions aimed at promoting peace, tolerance, and harmony, while also firmly rejecting violence, stereotyping and intolerance, and thus proactively preventing conflicts.
Year after year, the General Assembly has, through consensus adoption of the resolutions reenforced the abiding value of Culture of Peace; recognizing its potential to benefit not only the present but also the future generations.
Undeniably, digital transformation has been profoundly impacting the promotion of culture of peace which is observed in all eight areas outlined in the Programme of Action of the Culture of Peace; especially in fostering inclusive and sustainable development, protection of human rights and gender equality, enabling democratic participation, nurturing tolerance, ensuring information freedom, and facilitating peaceful conflict resolution. The values enshrined in culture of peace are indispensable in addressing digital divides, protection of privacy, combatting social inequalities and corruptions through digital platforms, and promoting responsible online behavior – which are imperative for full realization of the potentials of digital transformation.
Allow me to share a few thoughts of our own:
First, as we reflect upon this ongoing digital metamorphosis, we cannot ignore the dual nature of technological advancements. While digital technologies have given us unprecedented access to knowledge and opportunities – which can advance our common ambition to achieve sustainable development for all, they have also unleashed a torrent of mis- and disinformation, hate speech, xenophobic, intolerant and divisive narratives, exacerbated by the emergence of deepfakes.
In our region, we witnessed how digital social media platforms had been misused in spreading communal and xenophobic hatred against the Rohingya population, resulting into the atrocities and their subsequent mass forced displacement into Bangladesh. The digital platforms are also continued to be used for spreading violent extremism, and intolerances based on religion or race, among others, at different corners of the globe.
Recent data suggests that individuals spend approximately 6 hours and 37 minutes per day on digital platforms. It is imperative that we navigate this landscape with caution, especially for youths and adolescents, as failure to do so may endanger the harmony we strive to achieve. Given the profound impact of digital interactions on our perceptions and attitudes, it is vital that these interactions actively contribute to fostering a culture of peace.
Second, the digital landscape provides an unprecedented platform to amplify messages across the globe instantaneously. Cultivating a culture of peace on digital platforms, especially in social media, we can leverage digital media’s power to raise global awareness about peace across diverse backgrounds, cultures and religions through dissemination of facts and encouraging healthy debates on various contemporary issues. These activities can contribute in countering hate, conflict, terrorism, and violent extremism, as well as promote conflict resolution and reconciliation.
In this regard, governments, tech companies, academia and civil society must work together to ensure responsible online behavior and the promotion of positive narratives.
Third, our digital world is one of divides and the divide persists across regions,
gender, income, language, and age groups. Approximately 2.7 billion people, constituting about one-third of the global population, lack access to the internet, forming a stark modern-day poverty and social exclusion. Equally alarming is the emerging data gap, where developing nations are at risk of becoming data providers while bearing costs for services derived from their data. This divide fundamentally undermines peace efforts, as it excludes a significant portion of the global community from benefiting from the economic dividends of digital technology, and also from engaging in meaningful online discourse, collaboration, and the dissemination of peaceful ideas.
To that end, ensuring equitable access to digital technology and enhancing digital literacy are crucial. Therefore, we must equip individuals and communities with the necessary skills to harness digital platforms for promoting sustainable development and sustaining peace. This is important to ensure meaningful efforts to narrow the digital divides among and between the countries and peoples, in the spirit of forging inclusiveness and equitability.
Fourth, a gender-inclusive and gender-responsive digital sphere is not just an option but a must, for fostering a culture of peace in the digital era. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by online violences and harassment, and they are often excluded from online spaces. In many cases, their access to digital domains, that are promoting economic activities or social integration, are limited. We must address these challenges by creating digital platforms that are safe and accessible for all, regardless of gender. Equally important is to address gender digital divide, which is existent in many societies, in order to achieve gender equality – an aspiration enshrined in the notion of the culture of peace.
Fifth, the rapid evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and, in particular, Generative AI*, has profound impact on human’s thoughts and beliefs, potentially altering their perspectives and opinions even without anyone knowing. Safeguarding the ethical deployment of AI technologies is of paramount importance, as their unregulated advancement could potentially end or at least extensively curtail the human dominance and thus threaten our way of life. Therefore, appropriate policies and binding regulations, at national, regional and international levels are to be developed, with the view to harness AI for fostering peace within and among societies and nations, upholding human dignity and values, and ensuring a harmonious future.
Finally, Bangladesh would continue its efforts, at all levels and in collaboration with all our partners including the UN, to foster peace-centric benefits from the technological advancements, and to safeguard our people from possible malice in the digital domain or, to say the least, to strike a balance between technology’s benefits and demerits. balancing technologies’ benefits and demerits. In line with these aspirations, we look forward to the conclusion of a Global Digital Compact, and the Pact for the Future. And, we hope these global multilateral commitments, which are to be later domesticated at national and regional levels, would enable us to collectively ensure an open, free, secure and people-centric digital future for all, where no one would be left behind.
I thank you all.