Mr Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain,
Speakers of National Assemblies,
It is indeed a pleasure to welcome you to Malta for the Second World Forum for Culture of Peace. Today we come together to discuss various aspects of ‘Leadership for Just Peace’.
I want to express my gratitude to the Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation for choosing Malta to hold the Second World Forum for Culture of Peace.
And it is a most opportune moment to discuss an agenda of peace.
What the word is witnessing at the moment is an atrocious attack on all notions of democracy, stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity. The world is witnessing a complete disregard of agreements and international institutions. I am sure that this conference joins me in hoping for a quick ceasefire, a return to the negotiating table and finding diplomatic solutions. The humanitarian tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes is unacceptable.
Indeed it is a sad moment for Europe, and for the international community as a whole.
Let me at the outset, state, and repeat, that what we are witnessing on the European continent is a threat to global stability and a direct affront to humanity. With a heavy heart, one observes that this is not an isolated case. From around the world, human beings continue to face persecution, threats, military violence, and a constant dissolution of harmonious existence.
These events have unfortunately brought us face to face with the very dire consequences of war – something that Europe had thought was something that we had relegated to the past.
The classical Roman poet Virgil was right to state in the Aeneid: Bella, horrida bella. War, horrid war.
These harrowing events, bringing poverty and death to millions of innocent people, echo other destructive state-sanctioned foreign and domestic policies.
There is no space for aggression and defiance of international law and human rights treaties at this day and age.
In a post-pandemic recovery period, we should not be talking about war, but about dialogue, social justice, and peace.
And this is exactly why most of you have travelled long distances to join us here in these exchanges.
In this audience here we have many countries represented from around the world and many people from different walks of life.
Over the next two days, we will exchange and debate on how we can all be promoters of just peace, irrelevant of nationality or status.
If we analyse the history of civilizations, we come to a stark reality that most often peace has been unjust, and what was projected as justice was more hostile and aggressive than peaceful.
Where the victors impose their idea of peace without consultation with the affected peoples and describe the resultant situation as ‘peace’.
Very often, this resulted in an imposed, temporary end to violence and the creation of a feeling of dissatisfaction in most or in all parties.
Immanuel Kant in his book Perpetual Peace had already stated that peace agreements should avoid clauses that carry the seeds for the outbreak of further war. Kant very famously stated as well that there is a moral obligation to peace.
Some immediate questions come to mind. What do we intend by peace? How does one make it just? And above all, how does one make it last?
Professor Johan Galtung, who is a leader in contemporary theories of peace, suggested that defining peace is a never-ending task. There is a lot of truth in this phrase.
The definition of peace has been evolving since time immemorial. We have moved from the concept that peace is just the absence of war or violence, or as a political situation that is the opposite to war.
By just peace, contemporary scholars understand that it is a social state of well-being in which all relationships are in harmony. Just peace addresses both structural violence and direct violence as it embraces restorative justice, trauma healing, conflict transformation, and peace building strategies that put the human being at the centre.
It also puts in equal balance peace and justice. This nexus between peace and justice is at the core of the functioning of the United Nations.
In fact, the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Peace states that peace is not only the absence of conflict but also requires a positive, dynamic, and participatory process where dialogue is encouraged and conflicts are solved in a spirit of mutual understanding, and that socio-economic development is ensured.
Furthermore, the United Nations Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace (adopted unanimously on 13 September 1999) describes a culture of peace as a set of values, attitudes, traditions and modes of behaviour and ways of life. These are to be based on a respect for life, ending of violence, and the promotion and practice of non-violence through education, dialogue, and cooperation.
Whilst definitions and theories help us understand the process we need to uptake and also the new tools we have to develop to aim for peace, we also have to have a realistic overview of the situations on the ground.
It has been said that the link between justice and peace is often overshadowed by more immediate concerns like security and stability. Very often, the semantics change to accommodate own interest and the spirit of common good dies out.
It is on this point that we have to work together as leaders, parliamentarians, academics, and civil society.
We cannot have just peace if we still live in a world of inequalities, big or small.
There cannot be peace when people are hostile to each other just because they are different or treated differently. There cannot be peace where there are social injustices, where there are chronic industrial disputes. There cannot be peace where there is racism, where there is xenophobia and ostracism.
Passivism is also very dangerous.
We cannot turn a blind eye on those who are living in poverty or in other vulnerable situations. We cannot ignore the plight of those affected by disabilities, by chronic unemployment, by addiction or by criminality.
These are some of the areas that we need to tackle in this regard.
The role of women and girls in all aspects of life needs to be reinforced and sustained through active and meaningful participation in societal life. Women make up half of the population of the world and their contribution is indispensable to ensure a just and peaceful existence. We have woken up to this reality rather late, but that does not justify not changing our old habits. On the contrary, these should spur us on to make up for all the time that has been lost in not putting to best use the latent capabilities in women and girls.
We also need to listen more to the voice of young people. They are not the future, they are a living present and our actions will influence theirs in the coming years. We need to understand that the involvement of many talented young people will help in the development and transformation of better systems that possibly will make our world a more just one.
Another important consideration in creating an environment of peace and dialogue is that of respect of different beliefs. Too often beliefs are used as an excuse to start conflict. More tolerance and acceptance will build trust and reduces fear of imposition from one group over another. Hence fostering a sense of understanding and reducing to the minimum the need to resort to violent practices.
The change in climate, including food and energy security, is another area that deserves our attention. The well-being of many people depends on them. Drastic changes in the natural environment forces displacements and the search for a better life and opportunities. Drought, crop failure, desertification, are some of the environmental conditions that could disrupt whole societies and end any existing peace.
Another concern which I am sure many of us would share, is the easy access to small arms and light weapons. It is with such weapons that most conflicts, big or small, are fought. Better controls on the distribution of small arms and light weapons would reduce in no small manner, violent and aggressive activities, which lead to conflicts, to the displacement of whole populations and subsequently to humanitarian emergencies, at times even death due to hunger, if humanitarian aid and medicines fail to arrive, or are prevented from arriving.
We can all make a difference in promoting a culture of just peace. The global pandemic has taught us all how international cooperation and multilateral solidarity are essential in ensuring that no one is left behind.
The United Nations 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals set 17 criteria to have a more just and equitable world. It is up to us to determine their fulfilment. And may I point out that 2030 is only 8 years from now.
We have the responsibility to continue working on a local level to achieve these aims. I also felt this urgency to contribute here in Malta to foster more our national unity. To this effect, in the coming weeks a foundation will be set up to see that dialogue and understanding continue across all future presidencies.
On the multilateral level, Malta is aiming to be elected to the United Nations Security Council later on this year. As a small neutral country placed strategically in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta has always acted as a bridge between nations of the northern and southern shores. Our aim is to continue being propagators of peace, even more so, within the structures of the United Nations.
I look forward to hearing the debates and views on how leadership can promote a culture of just peace in the next two days and I do hope that you have a good stay here in Malta.
I want to share with you an observation from Graeme Simpson who is a Lead Author on Youth, Peace and Security and was tasked by the Secretary General of the United Nations to carry out a progress report as mandated by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security.
He said that justice and peace are a part of a continuum, meaning that we need to work on their balance every day to ensure that just peace is transformed into a sustainable and lasting peace.
I conclude by expressing my full support to the thoughts expressed by His Excellency Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain in his book ‘Contemplations for Peace’ for all mankind to embrace peace as a value, a goal, and a way of life.
Thank you for your attention.