HE Mrs. Joke Brandt, Representative of the Dutch Government and the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Erik de Baedts, Director General of the Carnegie Foundation Peace Palace, Netherlands
Mr. Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain, Chairman of Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation
HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal Al-Saud, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
HE George Vella, President of Malta
Speech of HE Mrs. Joke Brandt
Representative of the Dutch Government and the Secretary General of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Your Highness, your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is indeed an honor for to, on behalf of the Dutch government welcome you all to the Netherlands, to the Hague; the international city of peace and justice, and indeed to the wonderful to the wonderful surroundings here of Peace Palace, of course I’m delighted to see and I’d like to extend a special welcome to the heads of state, government, ministers and representatives gathered here today and of course a very special welcome to the chairman of the foundation, we feel really honored to have you all here..
I think it is special that we are meeting here today at the Peace Palace. It is special because this is a place of historical importance where the seeds for The Hague’s reputation as the legal capital of the world were sown.
The Peace Palace as you have seen in the video in the video is the seat of several judicial institutions: The International Court of Justice, The Permanent Court of Arbitration and The Hague Academy of International Law.
The palace was awarded the European Heritage Label because of the ideals it represents ideals of peace and justice. But it is also special because it was here, on the 14th of May 1954, so 65 years ago, that an important treaty was signed: the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
After the human political economic but also cultural destruction brought about by two world wars, the international community saw the need for a treaty to protect cultural heritage during armed conflict.
When a second protocol was added to the convention in 1999, the meeting and signing ceremony were again held in The Hague. And as you know, the Hague is also home to the International Criminal Court where in 2016, for the first time in history, an individual was convicted for crimes against humanity, for destroying cultural heritage in Timbuktu.
So, I think we would be justified in calling The Hague not only the city of peace and justice but also the city that stands for the protection of cultural heritage.
The 1954 Hague convention is UNESCO convention and UNESCO, of course, plays a vital role in the international protection of cultural heritage. The Netherlands is one of its long-standing supporters and contributes actively to its mission and work. For example, in combating illegal trade in cultural artifacts and protecting world heritage.
The Netherlands is very committed to the protection of our cultural heritage and to the Hague convention. We support the Secretariat by funding and staff, and we have contributed to the second protocol fund ever since its establishment and we hope, of course, that more parties will follow this example. Our continued and joint commitment is important now more than ever as cultural heritage continues to be threatened by conflict situations.
We need to work together to protect the world’s cultural heritage. International cooperation is key and that is also why our meeting here today is so important.
Historical buildings, archeological fines, documents in archives, objects in museums, stories, songs, traditions and as we have seen just now, poetry, together they form our collective cultural memory; providing us with a sense of our past but also helping us understand the present and helping us chart the future. Our heritage tells us who we are, how we came to be but also what we will become, and it helps shape our identities as peoples. This is true for the Netherlands as it is for every country in the world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our cultural heritage is precious, but it can also be vulnerable especially in times of war and conflict. Recently, the destruction of historical sites and buildings by Daesh in Iraq and Syria and the bombing of centuries old treasures in Yemen have presented us with grim reminders of this.
To be able to protect cultural heritage in times of conflict, measures must be put in place before hand. Even in times of peace, we need to be prepared for war or disasters. Peace education and training are crucial elements of this. This is why the Dutch government provides financial support to the Prince Claus Fund, a major player in safeguarding cultural heritage in crises. This organization, together with partners including the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, UNESCO, and this institute train professionals to improve their emergency response to natural or man-made disasters that affect cultural heritage.
The Dutch government feels that today’s conference marks an important next step in the international community’s efforts to protect cultural heritage for the entire world.
I would, therefore, like to conclude by expressing our gratitude to the conference organizers for putting this important subject on the agenda today.
We remain very committed to the protection of cultural heritage and we look forward to working closely with all of you not only today but also in the future.
And I hope for all of you for a successful conference.
Thank you very much شكرا....
Speech of Mr. Erik de Baedts,
Director General of the Carnegie Foundation Peace Palace, Netherlands
It is my honored privilege to wish you a warm welcome to the Peace Palace.
السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته، مرحبا بكم في قصر السلام.
I am particularly delighted with today’s events. The World Forum for the Culture of Peace. I am also happy with the participants today. The situation, of course, in the Middle East is of great concern to the entire world and especially to all of us, too.
In fact, it is important that the courts here at the Peace palace can do their important work in this regard. I will not interfere in cases in front of the court nor with politics. In fact, I just saw this interesting film and I also saw a notion of religion and I will not interfere in religion, either because religion, although it is perceived nowadays as a source of conflict to many is also a source of inspiration…and as a faith says: لكم دينكم ولي ديني.
It is important that, indeed, religion can be celebrated in friendship. In fact, it is public news that a call has gone out on behalf of us for the spiritual leaders of the world to come together here in peace with a view to make friends across religious campaign. Let me now then come to the culture of peace. We work here on peace every day. At the Peace Palace, it is peace in action. Peace through law: that was the notion that prevailed in 1899 when the first world peace conference was called in The Hague by the last Russian Tsar. It was then that it was decided how important it is if countries would not settle their cases on the battlefield with a loss of human lives but peacefully in the court room by means of arbitration.
Therefore, the Permanent Court of Arbitration was established and, of course, it should be housed at a place that should embellish the ideal of world peace; hence the Peace Palace was erected with a support of the then richest man of the world Andrew Carnegie, the Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos of his time.
And he had a vision. He wanted to provide the means for this courthouse .But since he believed in education, also a notion that is important today, he wanted there to be a standard library for international law, too. So, he initiated the Peace Palace Library and this Carnegie foundation that was established to manage the Peace Palace. He also entrusted us to manage the Peace Palace Library. So now you find yourself on top a million publications stored here in this tax on international law, on international cooperation and on peaceful settlement of disputes. In fact, it was since then that The Hague could develop as the international city of Peace and Justice. And then the League of Nations also decided, in addition to arbitration, to have its principal judicial organ: The Permanent International Court of Justice also be established at the Peace Palace. It was the predecessor of the United Nations International Court of Justice that the Carnegie foundation is so happy to house today. So you saw the UN flag waving in front of the Peace Palace because the one and only principle organ of the United Nations that is not based in UN headquarters, that is founded through the UN charter; we are happy to house it here at the Peace Palace; working on peace through law.
In fact, it was one of the people who was very active during these Hague peace conferences; Tobias Asser who was the one and only Dutch Nobel Peace Prize Laureate to date who then also initiated an ideal that was already vivid at the time; to not just practice international law to several issues peacefully but also educate and study it. So, we are happy to house here The Hague Academy for International Law. In fact, I am showing this because you will find yourself in the auditorium for The Hague Academy for International Law, and every year since this year, a thousand students are educated here from over a hundred nations to work on peace through law. They form, what Andrew Carnegie called for, a league for peace.
Let me then come to culture. We are also here at the premises that are cultural heritage themselves. We are a national monument here. But the Peace Palace also happily carries the European Heritage label and in fact this monument was also supported by many countries that wanted to show their support for peace. So, if you enter the magnificent entrance hall, you will find the marble that was given by Italy. You will find the Russian vase; you will find when you continue the Japanese room with wonderful tapestries, and you will find carpets. Let me mention the carpet from Turkey and we also have carpets that were donated by the Shah of Persia and the sheikh of Mecca.
These are all elements of cultural heritage here cherished by our Carnegie foundation and indeed I am happy that the secretary general for the ministry of foreign affairs mentioned this convention that was agreed here in 1954 on the preservation of cultural heritage, the global convention; and we were happy to celebrate the sixtieth-year anniversary in 2014 here at the Peace Palace.
It is our concern to preserve cultural heritage here and elsewhere. In fact, it is our mission to work on peace through law, to not kill men and women. We recently had a conference here with an organization called: “Save the Children” and with some of the distinguished speakers of today, we just shared the first front page of our cell phone prior to this meeting where we all had pictures of our kids and our grandchildren.
So how important is the work that we do today for our children! Let us not kill men and women and settle conflicts peacefully. Let us not kill the best of mankind in cultural heritage. May peace prevail on earth, in the Middle East, in Africa, Central Africa.
Many of you just celebrated Ramadhan, a time of reflection, a time full of good intentions. So, may the best intentions to cooperate in peace prevail, as Andrew Carnegie would have wished when he founded this Peace Palace. In fact, may his lifetime be an inspiration to you. He came from humble origins. I had the privilege of being in his house of birth. There was only one room for the family on the second floor. The first floor was for the weaver installation of daddy who went broke when the industrial revolution broke out, with a large plan beside. They had to go to the United States as a family on a loan, and as an immigrant, he realized the American dream and became the richest man of the world. That is what a man can do in the span of a lifetime. He decided to give all his private wealth back for the public good to work on peace.
I hope this legacy may also inspire you to make the best of today’s conference and I wish you a very inspiring conference.
Thank you so much for your attention.
Speech of Mr. Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain
Chairman of Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Your Excellency, President of the Republic of Malta, Dr. George Vella,
Your Excellency, President of the Central African Republic, Mr. Faustin-Archange Touadéra,
His Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal Al Saud,
Your Excellency, Speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly, Mr. Marzouq Al-Ghanim,
Ladies and gentlemen, Presidents,
Ladies and gentlemen, Ministers,
Ladies and gentlemen, Ambassadors,
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests,
Peace be upon you and may the mercy of Allah and His blessings be upon you.
We are pleased, within the framework of cooperation between the Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation, the United Nations General Assembly, the International Peace Institute, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Leiden University, and the Carnegie Peace Palace Foundation, to welcome you all to this global forum at the International Court of Justice at the Peace Palace in The Hague. We gather here today in the presence of this esteemed assembly of leaders, thinkers, academics, and journalists from all corners of the world.
This forum, which has been blessed by His Highness the Amir of the State of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who was honored by the United Nations with the title of Humanitarian Leader, has turned Kuwait into a hub for humanitarian work. We continue to follow in his footsteps and adhere to his vision in this field.
This Forum is the culmination of our initiative under the banner of the Albabtain Foundation on "The Culture of Peace for the Security of Future Generations." We presented this initiative in two consecutive sessions to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), first on September 7, 2017, and then on September 5, 2018. The aim was to impart the principles of the Culture of Just Peace to students from preschool to university. At that time, we had introduced the "Model Curriculum" developed by the Foundation, which was subsequently unanimously approved and endorsed.
Our institution, in collaboration with an international committee and experts from around the world, has developed these specific curricula. There are a total of seventeen curricula, all based on the ideas we presented to the United Nations General Assembly. We will present them to you during the closing session of this forum.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are all living in a painful reality, marked by destructive wars and fragile conditions in several countries and communities. As a result, social peace is in grave jeopardy, and the human cultural heritage is deliberately and purposefully subjected to destruction. Social relationships have deteriorated, and local and global citizenship are experiencing a genuine crisis.
We have chosen the theme of the first session of this international forum to focus on teaching the culture of peace and the protection of cultural heritage. Specifically, our emphasis has been on Iraq and Yemen for the preservation of cultural heritage in these two countries. Additionally, we have directed our attention to the Central African Republic to teach the culture of peace, especially after significant violations of civil peace there that necessitated a peaceful resolution.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation has organized a series of its special courses and seminars on the topic of intercultural dialogue and religious coexistence in several cities and capitals across Europe and beyond. This initiative began in 2004 in the city of Cordoba, Spain, under the patronage of the Spanish monarch, King Juan Carlos. In 2006, the tenth edition of these courses was held in the French capital, Paris, under the patronage of President Jacques Chirac.
In 2008, the Foundation held its eleventh session in the State of Kuwait under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of the State of Kuwait. The session was titled "Cultures and Interests" and focused on two main themes: the axis of conflicting interests and its impact on the global cultural scene, and the axis of cultural dialogue as a means to resolve issues.
In 2010, the Foundation held its twelfth session in Sarajevo under the patronage of His Excellency Dr. Haris Silajdžić, the then Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and we are delighted to have him with us here today.
In 2011, we organized a session in Dubai under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, focusing on poetry and peaceful coexistence.
In 2013, the Foundation organized its thirteenth session in the city of Brussels, titled "Arab-European Dialogue in the 21st Century... Towards a Common Vision," hosted at the European Union Parliament and under the auspices of the then President of the Parliament, Martin Schulz.
In 2015, the Foundation held its fifteenth session in Oxford, United Kingdom, in collaboration with the University of Oxford. It was titled "Our One World... Common Challenges Ahead" and was under the auspices of Lord Patten, former Governor of Hong Kong and Chancellor of the University of Oxford.
All of these courses and seminars were attended by distinguished political, intellectual, and media figures, representing heads of states, parliamentary leaders, media institutions, and prominent academics from various countries around the world.
Our ultimate goal has been to establish the principle of dialogue and understanding among human cultures and different religions, with the aim of ending religious and ethnic conflicts and upholding the values of truth, cooperation, and peace among the peoples of the world as a whole.
This has had a significant positive impact, especially in the cultural and academic realms. It is evident through the establishment of dozens of chairs dedicated to intercultural dialogue and historical studies in universities across Europe, America, Asia, the Arab world, and Africa.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today's forum is not the culmination of the Foundation's journey but rather the beginning of a new path, as challenging as it may appear. It is within our reach, provided we have sincerity and determination. We hope that nations around the world will incorporate the seventeen principles of peace into their educational curricula, and we express our readiness to assist in this endeavor.
We eagerly anticipate, along with all those who believe in the principles of just peace, to work tirelessly to preserve the humanity of humankind and the lofty values of humanity, along with its ancient heritage. This can only be achieved by making just peace a culture of daily life, by placing it at the core of our thinking, and by infusing our everyday language with the essence of peace.
The Culture of Just Peace makes us beings of peace. This is what humanity needs: just peace and harmony.
O world leaders, please engrave in your minds that you have come to rebuild the earth and protect those on it, not to destroy it with these deadly weapons, so that future generations may thank you and remember you with gratitude and praise.
We must all work together to dry up the sources of terrorism, and this begins with addressing the sources of injustice, such as the injustice inflicted upon the Palestinian people.
Peace, mercy, and blessings of God be upon you all.
Speech of HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal Al-Saud
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, and may peace and blessings be upon all the prophets and messengers.
Mr. Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain, thank you for the gracious invitation to attend this great forum and distinguished gathering.
Allow me to address you in English, if you please, and I hope you will forgive any shortcomings in it. However, there is an Arabic translation that I have provided to the translator to carry out that task.
"Do not betray. Do not be zealous. Do not deceive. Do not disfigure the dead. Do not kill a child, nor an elder or a woman. Do not cut down a palm tree and burn it, nor a fruit bearing tree. Do not slaughter a lamb or a cow, or a camel except for food. You will encounter people who have devoted their lives to monasteries and places of worship, so leave them to their devotions. And you will come upon people who will bear you offerings of different foods, so if you eat some of their offerings remember to call upon the name of God on these offerings."
These, ladies, and gentlemen, are the words of the first successor of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Caliph Abubakar Siddiq with which he admonished the commander of the Muslim army that was to go into battle against the Byzantines.
We gather here today to address the common thread that ties the topics of education peace and heritage, specifically in Iraq and Yemen; two countries with rich history and culture, and Central Africa and its heritage that stretches back millennia and stands tall as some of the proudest achievements of humanity.
Of central importance today is the following question: Is there a correlation between peace and heritage? Can education help us protect cultural heritage? And what active steps must we take to protect preserve and promote our heritage sites in those countries? And I will include in Syria and Libya as well. Firstly a few brief remarks on the general understandings of cultural heritage. It is an expression of the ways of living developed by a community and passed on from generation to generation including customs, practices, places, objects, artistic expressions, and values. Often experts speak of two types of cultural heritage: intangible cultural heritage and tangible cultural heritage. Tangible cultural heritage includes representations of the value systems beliefs traditions and customs of life. The essential part of the tangible human cultural heritage is visible and usually includes objects such as buildings, landscapes or archaeological remains. Sometimes tangible cultural heritage is rooted in the natural environment and rural landscapes, shorelines, or agricultural space. More prominently, tangible cultural heritage is found in old books and documents in manuscripts composed centuries before the present and other pre-modern forms of communication such as inscriptions and graffiti.
Today, we find that heritage is not only tangible visibly to the naked eye through forms such as buildings, books landscapes but also includes intangible cultural manifestations of heritage such as values, traditions, and oral history. Intangible cultural heritage is expressed in a variety of forms; in cuisine, clothing, traditional skills, and technologies. Religious ceremonies are storytelling and much more.
Tangible cultural heritage is inextricably bound with the intangible cultural heritage. Our main challenge as advocates of peace promoters of heritage and admirers of great civilizations is how to preserve and protect cultural heritage in our countries and regions especially the cultural heritage that stems from our religions and beliefs. Although our medieval library collection of Arabic and Islamic manuscripts can never stop a bullet, religiously and culturally significant manuscripts can stop a bullet from being fired.
Culture and religion can be a central component of conflicts between different groups of ethnicities. What could be more appropriate than using culture and religion as tools for conflict resolution? As Arabs and Muslims, we have something to learn from our European friends. After centuries of war, Europe has a particular experience in how to create peaceful and cooperative ways of coexisting. Hopefully, we have witnessed before our very own eyes the deterioration of those countries’ cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible through shelling, gunfire, looting, corruption, deceit, and theft. There are no international conventions to protect the heritage from these crimes; yet conflict clearly encourages very strong emotions such as greed or destructiveness in relation to heritage.
Ladies and gentlemen, there are four essential elements binding for all states during armed conflicts, whether they accede to or acknowledge the legal framework, or they do not. The first three elements are applicable both in international and non-international armed conflicts, while the fourth is applicable only in the international armed conflicts: First is the obligation of each party to the conflict to respect cultural property. Second, the prohibition to use cultural property of great importance for purposes which are likely to expose it to destruction or damage unless imperatively acquired by military necessity. Third, all seizure of or destruction of or willful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion, charity, education, arts and sciences, historical monuments and works of art and science are prohibited. Any form of theft, pillage, or misappropriation of and any acts of vandalism directed against property of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people is prohibited; and fourth, the obligation of the occupying power to prevent the illicit export of cultural property from occupied territory and to return illicitly exported property to the competent authorities of the occupied territories.
Our societies and education institutions should labor hard to instill in young minds the value and significance of protection and preserving cultural heritage. They established world conventions that protect heritage that should become part of curricula in all education and institutions. The Geneva Convention of 1949 which forbids pillage and destruction of cultural property by invading or occupying forces, the Hague Convention of 1954 which is the only international instrument aimed specifically at protecting cultural heritage during an armed conflict and occupation, the UNESCO’s convention of 1970 which is the most broadly ratified international convention that exists on the issues of illicit trafficking and cultural poverty, the World Heritage Convention of 1972 which sets out the duties of States Parties in identifying potential sites of outstanding importance to mankind and their role in protecting and preserving them and other similar conventions.
It is true that even the best policy makers and astute politicians cannot predict or anticipate all disasters and conflicts, but risk management is possible and essential. Dealing with emergencies requires an understanding of the role of the use of cultural heritage in conflict. How to protect and preserve sites and objects, communications strategies logistics and planning? We would do well to commission studies and establish international outfits that plan ways to protect and preserve cultural heritage in times of disaster and conflict as Sheikh Abdulaziz mentioned. We would invite special consideration of potential threats, develop peace living strategies to prevent problems arising and the breakout of conflict, mitigate belligerent threats wherever possible, train staff and professionals to deal with preservation of cultural heritage in times of disaster and conflict and develop contingency plans. Our immediate focus in the countries I mentioned given their significance as bastions of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic cultural heritage should be on museums libraries and archives, religious sites, and places of worship, although many of these points are also applicable to archaeological sites and monuments.
For millennia, attempts have been made to limit war and set standards for troop conduct. Military theorists from Sun Tzu, in sixth century B.C. China to Von Clausewitz in 19th century Europe have argued that damaging and destroying cultural heritage of vanquished enemies is a bad military practice. As I mentioned, our Islamic heritage is equally cognizant of such standards. But how to convince nihilistic groups such as ISIS to uphold the ethical and moral principles that require us to remain unhateful of cultural heritage even in times of war? The answer is not so easy, and I will not pretend to have an immediate solution.
This is a Gordian knot that we must learn to untie together. One thing I know for sure however is that peace building, communal harmony, social and political coexistence and mutual respect and tolerance are the perfect and ideal antidotes to tensions and charged emotions that oftentimes pave the ground for the kind of armed conflict and civil strife that brings damage and detriment to human life and cultural heritage. And it would be very remiss of me to end my remarks without accentuating the role cultural heritage plays in intercultural dialogue among civilizations, cultures, and peoples.
Like all of you. I insist on protecting and preserving cultural heritage precisely because our differences in language, religion, culture, customs ethnicity and ways of life, the cultural heritage we invented from our ancestors is an unrelenting reminder that for millennia human civilizations have pursued the same things: love of arts, appreciation of natural and human made beauty, desire to reflect and contemplate the cosmos and the world around us, desire to learn and to teach, desire to build great monuments and the possession of insatiable appetites to grow and expand our horizons.
When all else fails, when communications break down, when basic human decorum falters and when violence and war become the dominant language of discourse and cultural exchange, the last glimmer of hope rests in turning our reflective attention to the extant cultural heritage of the world. The one thing that reminds contemporary societies of today is that societies of yesteryear had more in common than not.
Thank you very much.
Keynote Address by HE George Vella,
President of Malta
Mr. Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain,
Your royal highness,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am deeply honored to have been asked to deliver this keynote address at the opening of this important conference dealing with a fundamental challenge for all of us today, Peace Education for the Protection of Cultural Heritage. Today, we are witnessing conflict in Syria, in Libya and in Yemen, increasing tensions between the United States of America and Iran as well as conflictual relations between the European Union and Russia.
We live in a time when the values of wise listening and intelligent compromise are much blinged and not easily available, a time when the Palestinian people are seeing no prospects whatsoever of fulfilling their inalienable rights to self-determination. A time when respectful dialogue and democratic disagreement has unfortunately been replaced by invective insults and conflict. At this time, it is more necessary than ever to rediscover the basis of sustainable peace in our world, our regions, in our countries and in our communities.
Sustainable peace is not simply about lack of physical violence, although this is as you know a Sine qua non for all of us. Sustainable peace is about identifying and eliminating the root causes of conflict and the physical violence. In this context, sustainable peace relates to the existence of structural and cultural forms of violence which oppress individuals, which oppress groups and sometimes entire nations. Structural violence exists when society structures are unfair or oppressive for individuals or for groups. Such types of violence exist when our normative frameworks discriminate against an ethnic or a religious group.
This type of violence exists also when laws and policies discriminate against any group on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, disability, religion, or any other round.
Such violences are also present when economic structures are dominated by models which oppress those who are most in need of support, when the economic system is designed to benefit a few rather the many.
It is nowadays widely accepted in the academic discipline of conflict resolution that the presence of such indirect forms of violence may very well lead to physical violence and violent conflict. If we are to achieve a sustainable peace, we need to create communities, societies and international order based on justice. In such societies, every human being lives in dignity and in respect and lives a life that he or she, has reason to value.
In such societies, the possibility of violent conflict is greatly reduced, and whenever conflict emerges, they are dealt with positively and productively. You may very well be asking yourselves: “How do we move from the current state of affairs to the somewhat blissful societies I have just described? How do we know and how to achieve sustainable piece?”
My answer is derived from the well-known educationalist Maria Montessori, who in 1949 wrote and I quote: “Establishing a lasting peace is the work of education. All politics can do is keep us out of war.” This does not mean that political leaders have no obligation in this respect. In fact, I want to argue we have a very important obligation in this context. Our obligations, individually and collectively, relate to the promotion of education that is inclusive , that promotes the dignity of every human being, and that recognizes the values of understanding, dialogue as well as solidarity.
We are gathered here today in the building which houses the International Court of Justice. This is the ultimate interpreter of international law. The Peace Palace par excellence, and it is two instruments that have codified international human rights that I now term. Namely, first the universal declaration of human rights and the international confident on economic, social, and cultural rights. In the United States diplomatic and consular staff case, the ICJ in 1979 relied on the universal declaration of the human rights as a source of fundamental principles of international law. The confident stipulates social economic and cultural rights recognized by the international community. Both these instruments as well as the convention on the rights of the child, one of the most widely ratified treaties in history, refers to the right to education. The right to education is recognized as an essential human right for everyone, without distinction of any kind. It is how very useful to remind ourselves of the obligations which the fulfillment of this right engenders. We too often think that the right to education is simply a matter of access. National agencies and international organizations expand energies and resources to monitor the extent to which states are providing educational opportunities to their citizens. These are necessary and praise-worthy efforts. However, the right to education requires much more than this. Article 26 of the declaration and the other treaties I mentioned provide for two distinct and equally important dimensions. The first dimension is access to education. “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.”
This is a dimension we have measured and focused upon so heavily in the last fifty years. What I would call the quantative dimension of the right to education. The second dimension required by the declaration in other international law instruments is that , and I quote: “ Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. I shall promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.” This relates to what I rather would refer to as the quality dimension of the right to education. Regrettably, this dimension has not been sufficiently emphasized and measured in our national and international efforts. How are we monitoring and measuring whether our educational systems and curricula are conforming to the requirement that education enhance human rights, understanding and peace?
National jurisdictions need to take stock of whether their educational systems processes and curricula are helping or tendering the promotion of peace, of dialogue and human rights found these need to be addressed and peace and education should be a cross-cutting issue across the whole educational system. Successful practices and processes and peace and education should be shared across regions, and regional organizations should be more active in this context.
Furthermore, international agencies within educational mandate should refocus their attentions towards monitoring compliance with the whole of article 26 of the universal declaration rather than to only parts of it.
The drafters of the declaration in the immediate aftermath of the second world war, were fully aware that the access to education alone was an insufficient condition for human progress and for a peaceful world. They recognized that values we promote in schools, in college and in universities are equally important to the kind of society in which we live. Thus, they remind us through the decades that this is incumbent upon us as states and international actors to act, to instill in our children and our youth the values of compassion, of empathy, dialogue, and human dignity. I firmly believe it is time for us to hail the school. We can do this if our teachers are themselves fully on board with these efforts.
Our societies need to value teachers more and we need to equip them with the values base that they need. The resources and the respect whereby they can meet their vocation . Our teachers should transmit positive values of respect and equality in the classroom and outside the classroom. They should nurture their constructive dialogues in our classrooms, and they should also nourish sentiments of economic and social justice.
It is only , and I repeat only , when our children are educated that the widest sense possible of the term education , education in its widest sense, that they can then be sensitized and made to feel responsible for their history, for their culture and for their heritage. Unless they are educated, they will not have the capacity to fully appreciate and understand these three important issues. This implies the development of pride in one’s national identity without going to the extremes of nationalism or ideas of superiority of any one particular country or race or people over another. Culture, as the word implies, has to be cultivated and given care to grow in our children. It is only then that a wider and deeper appreciation of our cultural heritage starts to be appreciated. An educated people not sensitized to appreciate our cultural heritage destroy such heritage with no remorse or hesitation at all as we have unfortunately witnessed in Iran, in Yemen and in other places.
I would like to conclude my address with a salutary reminder that as political leaders at the national level on the international stage, we cannot legislate for peace but what we can do is promote an education for peace. This is the challenge that is before us now and in the words of one of the greatest national and global leaders, Nelson Mandela, “ Education is the most powerful weapon which one can use to change the world.”
On a final note, I would like to thank again the organizers of this meeting, the Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation, and I have the pleasure to inform that the second forum, is to be organized under my patronage in Malta next year in cooperation with the Foundation.
This forum will also focus on peace education, but this time dealing mostly with the cultural heritage of Syria and Libya.
Thank you very much.