26 March 2001


NEW YORK, 23 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan today in New York to the Advisory Meeting on the Academic Programme of the University for Peace:

Let me, at the outset, congratulate everyone involved on their commitment to the University for Peace and its new mission. Let me mention, in particular, Martin Lees who is here with us, Graça Machel, David Hamburg and, of course, Maurice Strong -- without whose tireless work we would not be gathering here. Thank you all very much.

In the two decades since the University for Peace was first established, our world has changed almost beyond recognition. The nature of conflict and tension, and their underlying root causes, are very different from what they were 20 years ago. To adapt our approaches to preventing and resolving conflict, we must improve our understanding of what it takes to build and maintain peace.

It was against that background that the work to revitalize the mission of the University for Peace began two years ago.

I commend the Council for rising to that challenge, and for the promising programme you have drawn up so far.

Maurice, as you have said many times, one of the hallmarks of our age is that none of the main issues that affect the life of the human community can be managed in isolation. It is increasingly understood that just as no nation can resolve global challenges on its own, neither can any one sector alone build and maintain peace.

The work for peace is far too important to be left only to decision-makers, politicians or bureaucrats. It is the work of a partnership that must engage everyone.

And that, I believe, should be the underlying ethos of the new University for Peace and the academic programme you are here to discuss today. Knowledge, research and teaching are vital in our new global environment. To achieve effective education for peace, we need to reach out to as many actors as possible to devise new approaches to challenges that are, in themselves, only beginning to be fully understood.

How do we address the inequality among social groups that are increasingly understood as key factors in the eruption of conflict? How do we do that? How do we promote the good governance needed to underpin stable and transparent societies? How do we make the unprecedented opportunities offered by science and technology work as a tool for peace? How do we move from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention?

Building a culture of prevention is not easy. Like reforming the United Nations, it is a process, not an event.

Achieving decent, just and peaceful relations among diverse human groups is an enterprise that must be constantly renewed -- and education for peace is a fundamental part of that enterprise.

Yet, the world's record on education for peace has been weak indeed. Single-cause explanations of armed conflict have invariably been too simplistic. Simple, all-embracing solutions are doomed to failure. To address complex causes, we need complex, interdisciplinary solutions.

That is why, in the next generation, we have a mission to stimulate large numbers of students on every continent to reflect seriously on human conflict, its causes and its consequences, and ways to prevent its deadly outcome. An awareness of growing dangers in the new century might help us consider fundamental changes in our relations with groups beyond our own, and accept the mutual benefit that can be gained through political accommodation, respect for diversity, and the active promotion of social justice. It might enable us at last to move beyond the ancient habits of blaming, dehumanizing, repressing and attacking "the other side".

Those of you assembled in this room possess a wealth of expertise and wisdom on these very questions. The University for Peace can play an important part in helping to organize and channel that pool of wisdom far and wide.

By disseminating your course materials and by supporting long-distance learning, you can be an important partner for other universities and students in countries throughout the world -- especially developing countries.

I hope that this partnership will be a truly two-way street: by strengthening developing countries' own expertise and by helping their academics to play an active part in the global community of scholars; by drawing on developing countries' own bank of knowledge and by building programmes not only for, but with, the communities they are intended to serve.

By focusing on all sectors of the community, you can help encourage all of them to play their part in education for peace. Take, for example, your programme's emphasis on the relationship between peace and the media.

You have understood that in an age when information is power, a free and vibrant media is an indispensable partner in creating a true culture of peace. Just as the media can be an important factor in fomenting hatred and tension, so can it play a powerful part in promoting the reconciliation of differences. By giving voice and visibility to all people -- including especially the poor, the marginalized and members of minorities -- the media can help remedy the inequalities, the corruption, the ethnic tensions and the human rights abuses that form the root causes of many conflicts.

Equally encouraging is your focus on gender and peace. Your proposal to make this a cross-cutting theme in all your courses is, in my view, the only way to go. Women, once seen as mere victims of conflict, are now recognized as an essential part of the solution.

They are the key to developing the kind of healthy, equitable societies we need to build for peace. No development strategy is likely to work unless it involves women as central players. Their involvement has immediate benefits for the level of the family, the community, and ultimately for the whole country.

Similarly, no peace strategy is likely to produce lasting results without the involvement of women as equal partners. If they are given an opportunity to make their voice heard, and bring their own perspective to the table, the chances for lasting peace and reconciliation will improve immeasurably.

And so, just as peace is the work of many partners, so is the University for Peace a component of a large and rich partnership of educators for peace. You will be an especially valuable partner to the United Nations University.

I look forward to extensive collaboration and carefully calibrated complementarity between the two institutions.

And I can think of no better location for the University for Peace than Costa Rica, an oasis of peace with a long and remarkable history of democratic rule. The surrounding region of Latin America is one where many countries have inspired the world through their steps towards democracy, their work for development, their advances in education and their commitment to peace -- yet where many challenges remain.

The University for Peace and these nations have much to contribute to one another, and I hope the cross-fertilization between you will come to benefit education for peace in the entire world.

As former President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica said when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize: peace has no finishing line. It is the result of immeasurable decisions made by many people in many lands. It is an attitude, a way of life. It cannot be forced on the smallest nation, nor can it be imposed by the largest.

It can neither ignore our differences nor overlook our common interests. It requires us to work and live together.

For your part in furthering that understanding, I am truly grateful.

Thank you very much.

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