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Remarks at the Opening Ceremony by Renata Lok-Dessallien, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in China


 

Renata Lok-Dessallien

UN Resident Coordinator and

UNDP Resident Representative in China

 

 

Honorable General Secretary of the CPC Guangdong Provincial Committee, Wang Yang,

Honorable CPAPD President Han Qi De,

Honorable Statesmen and Distinguished Guests from South -East Asian countries,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m so delighted and grateful that we have all gathered today to commemorate the International Day of Peace in the beautiful and pioneering city of Shenzhen. I would like to warmly thank the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament for their tireless promotion of peace all year long and for their partnership in organizing these special events around this special day. My sincere thanks also goes to the Shenzhen municipal government for their wonderful arrangements and gracious hospitality. I also extend a special thanks to our visiting dignitaries from South-East Asia who have journeyed from far away to be with us. And finally, I thank each and every one for joining us.

For over thirty years, people around the world have come together each year on the International Day of Peace to reflect on the value of peace and on the toll that war and conflict take on our lives, and on the lives of future generations. We also pause to recommit ourselves resolutely to the pursuit of peace, both in our own lives and in the world around us.

Peace is humanity’s most precious asset. It underscores our greatest achievements, our fundamental wellbeing, our happiness and our progress. Yet it is also among our most undervalued assets. It is like good health; we often take it for granted and only remember how much we need it once it’s gone. When we’re healthy, we focus on other things; sometimes we even gamble with our health. But the moment we fall sick, how we pine for good health again! Likewise, we often take peace granted. We don’t value it enough until it disappears and conflicts erupt.

So the observance of the International Day of Peace is very important. It reminds us of the fundamental imperative of peace. It reminds us that peace is not the mere absence of war. Neither is peace merely tolerant and respectful behavior between people and nations, although that certainly helps. No, peace is much more. In its essence, peace is the dynamic and energetic presence of love, harmony and oneness in the world family. It is the essential interconnectedness between all human beings, and it is the harmony between us and our natural environment.

This year’s theme for the International Day of Peace is “Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future”.

It underscores that sustainable peace depends as much on sustainable development, as it does on arms reduction, conflict resolution and security measures. This is because the root causes of conflict can often be traced back to inequitable access to development opportunities and to natural resources. In fact, more than half of the UN Peacekeeping budget goes to operations where natural resources have fueled conflict. And a good portion of the rest goes to conflicts caused by other development inequities. China itself has contributed tremendously to UN peacekeeping efforts, sending 21,000 personnel on 30 UN peacekeeping missions over the years. China understands that peace, security and equitable, sustainable development are inextricably linked.

China’s principles of peaceful, scientific, harmonious development unite the objectives of economic growth, stability social justice and inclusion, and environmental sustainability. China’s 12th Five Year Plan reflects these mutually reinforcing objectives beautifully. But realizing the noble goals of this Plan will require huge efforts. Getting the balance right between economic, social and environmental objectives is extremely difficult. There are very few role models around the world to be guided by. And the overall international and domestic structure of incentives continue to favor unbalanced development. So it will require all the combined efforts of Government, private sector, social and civic organizations and communities, all working together to achieve balanced, sustainable development.

Many innovative companies, here in Shenzhen and around the country, have embraced the principles of sustainable development. For example, collaboratively with the UN and the government, they have created new fuel efficiency strategies for China’s automotive industry that will help China shift toward a low-carbon economy. They have introduced important energy and clean energy technologies. They have helped address environmental degradation and ecosystem depletion.

The impact of Corporate Social Responsibility and social enterprises is also growing. In 2006, only 18 Chinese companies issued CSR reports. Today, that number now stands at over 600. Each day more companies internalize the benefits of social investment and the principles of sustainable development.

Social and civic organizations are also essential for sustainable development. They provide valuable avenues for extending services for social and environmental sustainability. Just as Shenzhen pioneered China’s economic reforms and opening up, so has it fostered the growth of NGOs and social innovation, with very encouraging results. I had the good fortune to visit several of these organizations in Shenzhen in the last two days and they were impressive. So we salute our hosts for their continued pioneering spirit and creativity, and innovation.

Today’s observation of the International Day of Peace is very special because it unites China with many South-East Asian countries. I spent most of my professional life working for the UN in South and South-East Asia, so it means a great deal to me personally. Each of your countries was built on ancient civilizations, inspired by great religions and philosophies that remind us that peace begins at home, in the most recesses of our hearts.

So today, on this International Day of Peace, your collective wisdom inspires us all to join hands and resolve to cultivate peace more resolutely in our daily lives and to inspire those around us to do more for peace. Be it though sustainable development, or conflict mediation and prevention, or simply acts of human kindness, let us all do our part to build sustainable peace for a sustainable future for all...

To conclude, I would like to share with you a short video film that the United Nations System sponsored in China this year.

It captures the hopes and dreams of ordinary Chinese from across the country, from different walks of life, young and less young. They were asked what kind of future they want. And we can see through their own very different and very personal perspectives that they all want, in their own unique way, sustainable peace for a sustainable future.

I hope you enjoy it and I wish you a very meaningful and peaceful International Day of Peace!