Let me first thank you for convening the fifth edition of this important Forum on the occasion of the upcoming eighteenth anniversary of the Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace.
Sri Lanka asserts and re-affirms its commitment for building a culture of peace, and recognizes the need for continuous support to further strengthen this global movement.
Sri Lanka would like to flag certain issues as important in fostering a culture of peace.
Firstly, Despite our efforts, we still face emerging challenges such as violent extremism, refugees, inequality and climate change; the impacts of which, transcends national borders and require multilateral action to solve. These challenges need to be addressed in an integrated and holistic way with the comprehensive participation of all states as well as multi stakeholders including civil society, the media and individuals.
It is vital to recognize that the most efficient way to prevent conflict is to support and sustain a strong functional multilateral system, where engagement, compromise and mutual respect for each other are key components, and where there is a genuine commitment to a common humanity while fully respecting and embracing diversity.
Secondly, Sri Lanka is of the view that the post-2015 development agenda, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets provides the ample tool kit for the promotion of a culture of peace.
It provides a solid framework to pursue this noble cause. The interlinkages and integrated nature of the Sustainable Development Goals especially between peace and development in Goal 4 and Goal 16 reiterates the importance of the role of peace as the foundation for sustainable and equitable development.
Empowerment of Women
Thirdly, it is also important that Goal 5 is seen as a key component to the promotion of a culture of peace. The empowerment of women and girls and the inclusion of women in all areas of peace and security, including in peace building, peace keeping and peace negotiations is imperative for the world to move forward in peace.
Fourthly it is important to underline the importance of national ownership. Establishing programs at the national and community level that raises awareness and fosters peace and tolerance; especially in a time when the rhetoric of hate and the politics of the ‘other’ has gone mainstream, is more vital than ever before. We have to infuse our societies with a compassion, tolerance and respect for cultural and religious pluralism as well as mutual understanding, including incorporating such awareness through education.
Fifth, if we are to promote the Culture of Peace we must do so with our youth and in our schools. As the great Mahatma Gandhi said “If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children."
Media and technological advances
Sixth, we have to take into account new and emerging trends including rapid technological advances that would impact or impede the promotion of a culture of peace.
It is important that the media especially with the rise in social media tools helps disseminate the values that will foster a culture of peace and a forum for dialogue and understanding rather than a platform for hate and bigotry.
We must actively seek to prevent the abuse of social media to promote the culture of racism, hate and intolerance.
Sri Lanka supports and encourages the role of the media as public interest platform that seeks to turn the spotlight on prejudice. We must encourage a culture of mutual understanding and interfaith dialogue in order to empower moderate voices to take center stage.
In conclusion the effort of promoting peace certainly requires stronger joint efforts by the international community and with multi stakeholder support especially at a time when fear and fear mongering, radicalization, terrorism and violent extremism threaten our societies.
Sri Lanka remains committed to its continued engagement in this common endeavor.