Professor Alfred J Vella,
Professor Richard Rubenstein,
Dr Gordon Sammut,
Let me first of all, begin by thanking the Centre for the Study and Practice of Conflict Resolution at the University of Malta, for taking up this initiative in close collaboration with the Presidency.
I take this opportunity to welcome Dr Gordon Sammut in his capacity of Director of the Centre and wish him every success in his work. I also salute Dr Omar Grech and thank him for his cooperation with the Office of the Presidency in his former position as Director.
Professor Rubenstein, I extend my appreciation for your presence in Malta, knowing that you had to take a long journey to join us. We all very much look forward to listening to your thoughts on ‘The Persistent Weakness of Peace Movements, including also a diagnosis and possible remedies.’
With an ongoing war on our continent resulting from the appalling invasion of a fellow European country, and the complete disruption of a rules-based world order, such a detailed assessment as the one we will be presented with, is more than ever warranted and timely.
My cooperation with the Centre for the Study and Practice of Conflict Resolution is a long-standing one, going back to my days as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Very early on, I had sought to involve the Centre, not only in events dedicated to addressing conflict resolution, but also in the academic formation of students, both Maltese and foreign.
A system of scholarships had been introduced, which I am very satisfied to say is thriving and rewarding academics and benefitting students alike.
In the meantime, and particularly following my Inauguration as President of Malta in 2019, contacts started to mature with the Al Babtain Cultural Foundation, which, while based in Kuwait, enjoys a very wide outreach in the Gulf, Europe and the Mediterranean.
It soon emerged that the Centre for the Study and Practice of Conflict Resolution, and the Al Babtain Cultural Foundation are very similar in that they both, in their own ways and with their own tools, work for the promotion of peace and dialogue.
My first hands-on initiative on a global level with the Al Babtain Foundation dates back to 2019, when I participated in an International Forum on Peace in The Hague, only a few weeks into my Presidency.
There, I had the opportunity to meet Mr Abdulaziz Al Babtain himself, and he kindly insisted that the second International Forum takes place in Malta.
This actually took place, and I hosted the 2nd Forum for the Culture of Peace, here in Malta in March of last year, which we organised jointly.
Mr Abdulaziz Albabtain also participated in the Malta Forum, that saw the active participation of numerous international scholars, academics, political figures as well as students and journalists.
The timing of the Forum was a very sensitive one, as it coincided exactly with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which started only two weeks before.
In those early hours and days, a general consensus emerged to condemn in the most categorical and unequivocal of terms, what was happening in Ukraine, while expressing sympathy and full support to a whole civilian population being bombarded from land and air.
The Forum also drew up a number of recommendations, which remain relevant and valid a year on.
These span from the reinforcement of preventive diplomacy, gender empowerment, listening to our youth, the promotion of harmonious multi-faith societies and stronger controls on the sale and distribution of small arms and light weapons.
The goals I have just mentioned also lie at the heart of the Al Babtain Foundations’ work.
This is why when the Foundation approached my Office with the prospects of a project dedicated to a culture of peace, we immediately thought of the Centre for the Study and Practice of Conflict Resolution, as a natural partner.
The two institutions complement each other, as agents of dialogue.
Through this series of Distinguished Lectures, we are implementing one of the provisions set out in the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between the Centre and the Foundation in 2021.
Apart from these lectures, the MOU also establishes an Endowment for Peace which consists of an annual fund that covers a full scholarship as well as the establishment of an annual seminar focusing on ‘Building a Culture of Peace’.
It also envisages academic exchanges between Malta and Kuwait, which is a practice – that of exchanges – that I have supported all through my career, knowing full well that these exchanges lead to an all-encompassing growth while forming durable inter-cultural contacts.
It gives me great satisfaction that my Presidency was a promoter of this innovative pattern of cooperation.
These initiatives further reinforce Malta’s credentials in the interest of stability and peace – not only in the corridors of power at the UN Security Council, where we continue to deliver results with remarkable success – but also at grass roots level through regular lecturer and student contacts.
I thank you for attending and look forward to exchanging a few words with you all in a less formal setting following the lecture by Professor Rubenstein.