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Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the International Day of Peace, “Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future” 21 September 2012

Sep 21, 2012, 10:53 AM

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

These lines open UNESCO’s Constitution, and they have lost none of their powers in a world buffeted by change, where violence remains an everyday reality, where culture is under attack and where discrimination and intolerance remain rife.

To be sustainable, peace must start with the dignity of every man and woman. It must be nurtured through their rights and the fulfilment of their aspirations. Peace is a commitment to a better future that starts today, on the basis of shared values, through dialogue, tolerance, respect and understanding. This is the foundation upon which to build everyday peace in our neighbourhoods and cities, within our societies and between countries.

For UNESCO, this must start with access to quality education for all, especially girls and women, as a breakthrough strategy for sustainable development. It must make the most of the creativity and innovation that comes from cultural diversity and from promoting our shared heritage. Peace must build on concerted efforts to harness the power of the sciences for the benefit of all societies. It must advance the right of every man and woman to speak out and be heard.

These conclusions rang out clearly during the Leaders’ Forum that UNESCO held with Heads of State and Government during the 36th session of its General Conference in November 2011.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year, reaffirmed the vision that lasting peace and sustainable development are two sides of the same coin. Development is not sustainable if societies are not at peace with themselves and their neighbours, or in balance with the planet. Peace cannot be lasting if billions of people remain deprived of economic, social and environmental justice. Sustainability must be the guiding principle for peace and development in the century ahead.

Peace is not an abstract concept, whose success can be decreed. It concerns individual women and men, girls and boys. Everyone must have the right to imagine a better future and the ability to shape reality to their aspirations. These are the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals and the stakes for the global sustainability to follow. This is UNESCO’s mission, and our message on 2012 International Peace Day.