Her Excellency Thilmeeza Hussain, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations
At the Plenary of the Seventy Sixth Session of the UN General Assembly:
Culture of Peace
6 December 2021
Thank you, Mr. President,
It is heartening to once again join the annual consensus, now in its 22nd year, to reassert, reaffirm and renew the dedication of member states to build a culture of peace.
We would like to thank the Secretary-General for his report on this agenda item and also extend our appreciation to UNESCO for coordinating the preparation of the report with the various UN entities.
When we adopted the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace by consensus in 1999, we lived in a very different world. Yet, the notion that we are engaged in a collective commitment to building a culture of peace persists and this shows how fundamental it is to the achievement of any human endeavour.
What the Secretary-General’s report makes clear is that peace is not a goal that can be achieved by itself. It is built on foundations. Foundations such as a healthy environment that provides healthy food, water and clean air, as well as adequate housing, health care, education and social needs that are met. At the multilateral level, we must use our foundational institutions, such as the United Nations, including this august Assembly, to resolve differences, before they become disputes.
As noted in the Secretary-General’s report, COVID-19 has amplified the existing inequalities within, and among societies, and it is particularly affecting the most vulnerable. This includes education. As schools around the world suddenly shifted to remote-based learning, it served as a spark of innovation for some, but for others, it has widened an already existing socioeconomic and digital divide. This digital divide must be bridged to in order for us not to leave the most vulnerable disconnected.
With our increasingly online world, we must contend with the disturbing role social media has played in fuelling discrimination, racism and islamophobia, and in exacerbating polarization. We must ensure that online free speech is not used as an instrument to incite hatred or violence. Steps must be taken to build safe, collective online spaces. We must build an online culture of peace that echoes our words and commitments made here today.
At the international level, the pandemic has laid bare the inadequacies of our international financial system to provide developing countries, and in particular small island states, with the necessary support to ensure that we can build back better, as we emerge from this pandemic. Failure to provide the necessary support to the most in need threatens to create the conditions that may undermine the foundation necessary to maintain the ongoing culture of peace.
Climate change too poses a significant threat to the Maldives and other small island developing states. Climate change encompasses slow onset events such as sea level rise and erosion that displace populations and undermine peace. What makes climate change particularly distressing is that it is also a threat multiplier that exacerbates existing challenges, including extreme weather events. These types of events can set back decades of development gains. Given these dangers, it is imperative that vulnerable populations and their cultural heritage is protected.
Climate change also undermines our ability to achieve the SDGs and our capacity to lay solid foundations for enduring peace. We welcome the outcomes from COP26 in Glasgow, but the message is loud and clear – we urgently need to do more. Climate change places a stress not just on our environments, but also on our people and social systems. Adapting to its effects consumes an ever-increasing portion of our fiscal and human capacity. We must remain vigilant against the compounding and ever-increasing impacts of climate change. These impacts will undermine our food and water security, as well as the global food chains that provide the necessities of life, which, if we do not act with foresight and solidarity, is a threat to the culture of peace everywhere.
The Declaration and Programme of Action on a culture of peace rightly identifies governments, civil society, media, and individuals as key actors for its effective implementation. In the same spirit as your Presidency of Hope, peace requires inclusive and thoughtful engagement between all stakeholders of society, including governments, youth groups, businesses, and religious and cultural leaders. Only through open dialogue can we build a shared purpose and understanding.
We are a small archipelagic nation located in the heart of the Indian Ocean. For centuries, this has given us the opportunity to interact with people of different cultures. Through these engagements, we have also co-opted elements of their cultures into our own – thus making ours richer and also, more peaceful. Our commitment to a culture of peace stems from our core values prioritising development and peace. The administration of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has further enhanced these priorities, including the restoration, revival and protection of our culture and heritage for future generations.
Peace is not a given, it is something we must constantly work towards. Even when we achieve it, we must continue to nurture and protect it, for, as we overcome one challenge, another is on the horizon. Therefore, as we mark the 22nd year of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, let us, together with renewed vigor and hope, assert and re-affirm our commitment to build a culture of peace, a more tolerant global society, and a harmonious and peaceful world for generations to come.
I thank you.