Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Iran
International Day of Peace 2013
Salaam va asr be kheyr
I would like to start by recognizing the work that has gone into the preparation of today’s event, largely with the help of the Director of the Hozeh-Honari, Mr. Moemeni, I’d like to recognize you sir, thank you.
My friend and colleague, Mr. Taghipour, Director of the Tehran Peace Museum, we have now done many things together and I am happy to see you here again sir.
I would like to also recognize Mr. Danesh Eghbashavi. He has done a film which I am hoping we will see later on in the programme.
I would like to also welcome – on your behalf – to the Islamic Republic of Iran my colleague, Hiranand who spoke earlier today. This is his first public appearance in his new job as head of UNESCO.
I would also like to thank our team from the UNESCO office as well for being here and supporting this event.
Ladies and gentlemen, the subject for today is peace and I would like to share with you some reflections on it as a man who has worked with the United Nations in all continents of the planet for the past 26 years.
The organization that I – and the United Nations team here today – represent was built in order to try to stop war.
But in the almost 70 years since it has been created there have been hundreds of wars.
Should we give up the quest to stop war and promote peace? The answer is no.
If I believed that I would not be doing what I do today.
As Hiranand mentioned, the fact of the matter is that peace is more than the absence of war. I believe also that peace cannot be obtained through the presence of weapons. Weapons can deter other weapons, that is true. But weapons really represent symbols of our fear and too easily they can translate right into conflict.
We have a small representation of diplomats in the house today, and one of them is the Ambassador of Belgium. His country was the first in which chemical weapons were used, almost a hundred years ago.
And we all know the sad story of what has happened here – thirty years ago – in the war between Iran and Iraq.
We know the stories of Sardasht and Halabja. This must never be allowed to happen again.
So what is it that creates conditions of enduring peace? I think that is best answered by dealing with the real sources of our insecurity.
Those real sources of future insecurity I would list as follows:
- Threats to our environment
- Lack of water
- Encroaching deserts
- Food insecurity
- Things that make people riot in the streets, when you are poor and unemployed. I remember I was once unemployed for four months, how humiliating it was.
- When people look to their own identity and their race as badges of power – that type of thing – is a real source of insecurity.
So these are what we need to tackle rather than increasing our weapons. If we reduce these causes of insecurity – real human insecurity – we will likely reduce the risk of conflict.
Now the subject for today is Education for Peace. That’s what we are supposed to be talking about and I would like to point to the connection.
One source of insecurity is when people are not allowed to exercise their freedom of choice. That includes the right to be educated.
Not far from here – about one thousand five hundred miles to the east – we saw an incident occur last year which I am sure offended us all. This is when a young girl in Pakistan was shot by members of the Taliban, because she wanted to have a right to an education.
What she was asking for was the right to a future that she could choose. Fortunately for Malala – that is her name – the shot was not fatal and she recovered. And she spoke recently at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. She spoke on the occasion of her sixteenth birthday, and here is what she said:
“One teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
So on this occasion when you have all speared your Thursday afternoons to come and spend time in solidarity with us here let us remember this one fact.
The sources of insecurity come largely from when we are not given due recognition as human beings to our rights to eat, our rights to think and enjoy justice, and our rights to be sheltered and educated.
Tackle these things and we will significantly reduce the risk of conflict in this world.