UN High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace

A talk given at the United Nations High Level Forum on Peacebuilding and Global Citizenship. September 9, 2014.

I want to open by thanking and acknowledging everyone at the United Nations. As we know, September 13th is the 15th anniversary of the consensus adoption of the UN Declaration and Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace. This is a time of celebration and rededication of our efforts.

As I have pondered the theme of Global Citizenship as a Pathway to the Culture of Peace, there is one essential component that stands out: a shift that humanity is experiencing and expressing in both painful and joyful ways, from I or me to we.

When we speak of global citizenship we speak of a place beyond our separating views and actions. It is the land of WE, not he and she. Not even you and me. WE.

Perhaps offers the best glimpse of this reality from me to we to peace.

We instinctively know that we are part of something greater than ourselves. We long for that world we know in our hearts, a world in which humanity recognizes that we are part of a sacred system of All Life and that we share a responsibility to help create this ever-emerging society as stewards of the planet and elder brothers and sisters to animals, plants, vegetables, and minerals.

Let us define peace. First, from the Declaration and Programme of Action: “a culture of peace is a set of values, attitudes, traditions and modes of behavior and ways of life.”

And a definition from the Earth Charter: “peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part.”

Simply put, peace is living in harmonious relationship with self, others, and all life.

So what does it mean to live in a global society? We are Solutionaries! Both humanity and Mother Earth are in crisis—representing both danger and opportunity. There is the danger of doing business as usual as well as the opportunity to build a new system that works better than the prevailing system whose use-by date is up.

We face the shared responsibility of taking a whole systems caring approach to all life on Earth—the separative attitudes are not serving us well.

Dag Hammarskjöld said, “God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.”

A new story is emerging. It is based on new tendencies and trends. A time of cooperation, peace, goodwill, and pragmatic approaches to living together, such as a sharing economy, global commons, bio-regional dialogues, education for all, clean water rights, and so much more.

Secretary General of the UN, Ban Li Moon, opens the High Level Panel on the Culture of Peace, 2014.
Secretary General of the UN, Ban Li Moon, opens the High Level Panel on the Culture of Peace, 2014.

I offer five themes for the global citizen on the path to the culture of peace.

First, peacebuilding is an inside job. We are each of us called to be a demonstration model; this means grounding ourselves in our truth, our knowing, becoming whole ourselves, and offering our unique contribution on behalf of the common good. A personal practice of peace—of kindness, of mindfulness—is essential.

Second, this is a time of group endeavor, a time of cooperation. The spirit of goodwill is alive and well, and goodwill is love in action. Humanitarianism is foundational for the global citizen.

Third, it is all about relationships. The science of relationships and the skills of relationship-building are paramount in a culture of peace. Social-emotional skills are necessary components of the peacebuilder’s toolbox: empathy, anger management, nonviolent communication, de-escalation of violence, deep listening and dialogue, and the understanding that unmet needs drive behavior.

Fourth, conflict is inevitable, yet violence is not. Nor is it sustainable—everyone can learn to resolve conflict wisely and responsibly before it escalates to violence.

Fifth, restorative justice is at the heart of peacebuilding. By this, I mean restorative justice as a way of life, a way of addressing and repairing harm in circle with community. What happened? How did it impact others? What will we do to repair the harm? How do we ensure it never happens again? A shift from punitive to restorative.

So now we must ask the question: What can I do as a global citizen on this pathway to a culture of peace? Four things:

First, I can take personal and shared responsibility for being the change I wish to see in the world.

Second, I can encourage and express goodwill—love in action—and begin naming and appreciating the signs of goodwill everywhere.

Third, I can seek out others who are inclined to a spirit of cooperation and who demonstrate a willingness to work for what they want instead of fighting against what they do not want—an attitude of positive peace, not anti anything.

Fourth, I can offer my unique contribution on behalf of the common good, knowing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Invocation is a powerful thing, especially when intentionally utilized by a group. In fact, that is what we are doing today and what
the UN invites on September 21st, the International Day of Peace—a mass appeal for peace.

Again, I turn to Dag Hammarskjold, “The pursuit of peace and progress cannot end in a few years in either victory or defeat. The pursuit of peace and progress, with its trials and its errors, its successes and its setbacks, can never be relaxed and never abandoned.”

We know that energy follows thought and that whatever we choose to focus on we will get more of in life.

At this intense moment on our human journey, let us sacrifice personal differences, bridge ideological cleavages, and harmonize polarized schools of thought—personally, socially, and between countries. We can do this. In fact, we are doing this, all over the world. Let us live the new ancient story, beginning with each one of us.

Now let us take a moment and unite our hearts across distance, including all those who stand in the fire of love and are walking the pathway of global citizenship, creating the culture of peace, and invoke together:

May the Spirit of Peace be spread abroad
In our hearts
Through our groups
And throughout the world

May Peace Prevail on Earth