Allow me first of all, to extend my warm thanks to all of you who made this Forum for Culture and Peace in Malta, possible.
I start with Mr Abdul Aziz Albabtain and his team for the cooperation extended to my Office before and during this event.
I also heartily thank His Excellency Ilir Meta, Her Excellency Vjosa Osman-Sidriu, and His Excellency Stepjan Mesić for their presence and their very inspiring participation.
This was a very clear sign that against a backdrop of a pandemic, and an ongoing war happening on European soil – people want to come together and talk about a peaceful and just co-existence.
It gave me great satisfaction to meet with some of you – informally during this Forum as I could feel the engagement of important agents for peace first-hand.
Peace is not only the task of elected politicians.
It finds roots and strength in the daily work of multilateral organizations, Ambassadors, academics, civil society, NGOs, voluntary organizations, students, and youth.
This is what enriched the value of this Forum – it was inclusive and had a comprehensive approach.
From a proud national perspective, I very much feel that this Forum continues to strengthen Malta’s international profile as a promoter of dialogue and mutual understanding.
As has been remarked by our distinguished speakers, this has been Malta’s mission along the centuries.
It is this mission – this vocation I would even say – is one we will continue to nurture not only in our immediate neighbourhood in the Mediterranean, with our partners in the Europe and the Arab World but also on a global level when we are elected to the UN Security Council this June, for the term 2023-2024.
I was very impressed by some of the observations made over these two days.
First of all, I refer to the complement paid to Malta by Mr Albabtain himself when he described my country as a rich mosaic of cultures, with a long-standing record of intercultural dialogue. I agree fully with him as he insists on the need to remain unified in pursuing our common objective of peace.
Equally correct is the statement that merely believing in peace in not enough. We have to tangibly promote and apply it in practice.
Our collective efforts need to be geared at finding a path to mutual cooperation.
I highly appreciated the message passed on to us by H.E. Al Ghanim, Speaker of the National Assembly of Kuwait – who referred to a “wisdom of the Mediterranean”. It would be good for us countries of the region to reflect on this phrase and assess where this wisdom could be put to better use.
I also wish to thank President Ilir Meta, for his very interesting intervention and reflections on what is actually happening in Europe and around us. Excellency, I found your thinking of the link between true leadership and democracy as very fitting in the present circumstances. As the President rightly pointed out, expansionism and ethnic divisions continue to threaten stability in our shared region of the Mediterranean, as well as the Western Balkans. I thank the President also for the reference he made to the strong bonds, that exist between peoples, which developed between Malta and Albania throughout the years.
President Vjosa Osmani-Sidri also had an inspiring and heartfelt speech. It very much reflected and was expressing our common feeling for the citizens of Ukraine – our sympathy and our sorrow. The punch line there – one we should all carry in full view – is that “every individual has an absolute right to peace”. An observation which is very pertinent to today’s world. We were reminded of the huge importance in today’s world of the correct use of social media.
Those of you who follow my work locally and abroad, know how strongly I feel about the way on the use of social media for the benefit of society – and not for its disruption.
Yesterday we also had the pleasure of listening to Former President Stepjan Mesić who focused on the qualities we, as political leaders, should put to good use in the promotion of just peace. Allow me to add that at this particular juncture in European history we can all witness what a true leader stands for. This requires a sense of self-sacrifice for the common good and to the benefit of their brethren. President Mesić stated an evident truth – that we sometimes all underestimate – in their vast majorities, he said, all people around the world want peace!
And then we had two sessions on very interesting interventions, which I do not have the time to go into the detail of what each and every speaker said. Obviously, we had the session om the role of government and international organizations, as well as the role of parliamentarians and civil society.
But if you allow me, I can pick some notes which I put down, which impressed me. For example, having the Secretary General of the GCC saying that we have to be moderate and that we have to have the freedom of thinking and also to denounce violence and terrorism and advocate at the same time tolerance and acceptance.
His Excellency Baccouche told us about the cooperation that is necessary between institutions and Salim AlMalik from ICESCO said that there is no development without stability. These are the essence of what has been said in these very important interventions.
Ahmed Yusuf, Former President of the International Court of Justice, talked about the preeminent role of the rule of law and also the rule of education, cooperation, and mutual respect.
Our colleague from the UNHCR, H.E. Khaled Khalifa spoke about the need and that we have to deal with the consequences because of the absence of peace. It is not just the absence of peace, but we have to deal with the consequences of that, and that peace has become a dream and luxury for millions of people around the world.
Our colleague Mohammed Alshafee from ECLASLO spoke about the need for dialogue and mutual understanding and respect to the dignity of the human being.
Professor Alfred Vella spoke about why universities should engage in peace building, repeating that education helps achieve peace and that whatever he quoted from well-known world authorities on the definition of peace and absence thereof has to be implemented.
Then we come to the second session which was monitored by my friend and colleague Dr Anġlu Farrugia who spoke about the role of parliamentarians to maintain peace, but then we had very interesting and emotional, I would say, interventions by Mohamed Nasheed, to start with, about the free and fair political parties and elections, the need for that, and the peaceful transfer of power.
Equally emotional was our colleague Hanno Pevkur from Estonia, and you can understand because he is coming from a country which has a border with Russia and which I was supposed to visit only next week, and I had to cancel because of the ongoing circumstances. He spoke about the future of democracy, human rights charters, and reflections of the danger of dictatorship.
H.E. Abdesselam Lebbar, spoke, again, also passionately and with heartfelt emotions, saying that we have to say the truth with a very strong voice and to denounce war under any circumstance.
Then we had H.E. Struan Stevenson who spoke about the ban that we have to agree to on the political use of religions.
My colleague Jesmond Saliba looked at the attainment and maintenance of peace and the role of voluntary organizations. I was struck by the fact that his children, his wife who is Polish, have got to try to understand what is happening in the country of their grandparents.
Finally, there was Mr Jean-Christophe Bas, who spoke about the nature of modern world visions between countries and within countries themselves.
So I think that from all of this we have to somehow bring ourselves down to some sort of decisions that we must have taken after these two days of discussions. And I am going to mention some points, not in the order of importance.
It has been underlined that we need the involvement of NGOs and regional organizations to maintain cultural peace as well as university think tanks. We reflected on the responsibility of ensuring an effective role of responsible leadership to bring harmony and peace in our societies. We reflected on our commitment to reinforcing preventive diplomacy in order to maintain the global culture of peace, as well as ensuring gender empowerment and the effective role of women who constitute 50% of societies and also assigning to them more importance in all aspects of life.
We repeatedly heard the appeal for more direct involvement of world leaders and institutions in achieving just peace, and we definitely have heard that we have to make sure that youth have an effective voice, that we have to cultivate respect of multifaced societies in different countries and the very important consideration of the control of the distribution of small arms and light weapons.
This meeting has clearly underlined the need of accentuating the power of dialogue because peace cannot be simply taken for granted. The necessity of identifying and eliminating the root causes of conflict and of physical violence as well as the promotion of the dignity of every human being and the recognition of the values of understanding, dialogue as well as solidarity.
Finally, we have to implement the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals relating, especially, to Goal 16 about peace, justice, and strong institutions.
In conclusion, dear Mr Albabtain, Presidents, Speakers, Excellencies, and distinguished guests, I thank you all for your valuable contributions to this global discussion on peace.
It is very important that, precisely because of the persistent aggressions, the breaches of human rights, the threats to sovereignty, the oppression of entire nations, we – the international community – continue to press for democracy, for justice and for peace.
We may not have solved any conflicts or crises through our discussions, but we certainly gave a voice to those among us whose freedom, well-being, and, in some cases, their very existence is put in peril.
My very final words are a reiteration of the message I conveyed yesterday on the ongoing war on European soil.
Our ultimate, collective hope is for credible and effective negotiations that result in a durable cessation of these appalling attacks and relieve the people of Ukraine from the harm, the anguish, and the deep distress they have been experiencing for days.
Yet the violence continues.
The world spoke out loud and clear at the UN General Assembly on 2nd March through the adoption of the Resolution ‘Aggression against Ukraine’ with an overwhelming majority.
I add my voice – and, I am sure, the general feeling of this conference – to this resounding global condemnation of illegal and unprovoked attacks on a sovereign state and the immense suffering they are causing to the people.
We need to stand together to safeguard and defend the rules-based international system and we all have a role to play in our own professions, in our roles as politicians, and in our activities.
No country, large or small, should be threatened and endangered in this way.
This is something that we cannot accept in this day and age – for anyone, anywhere around the globe.
I ask you to take these thoughts with you back home and urge you to be agents of tolerance and peace in all your actions.
Thank you for your attention.