Dr. Omar Grech, Director of the Centre for the Study and Practice of Conflict Resolution at the University of Malta
HE. Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf, Secretary General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf
HE. Taieb Baccouche, Secretary General of the Arab Maghreb Union
HE. Salim M. Al-Malik, Director General of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO)
His Honor. Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, Former President of the International Court of Justice
HE. Khaled Khalifa, Regional Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
HE. Ambassador Muhammad Al-Shafee, Representative of the League of Arab States
Prof. Alfred J. Vella, Rector of the University of Malta.
Speech of HE Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf
Secretary General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf
In the Name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.
Your Excellency Dr. George Vella, President of the Republic of Malta, Our dear uncle Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain, Chairman of Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Peace, mercy, and blessings of God be upon you,
I believe I should start my speech by extending a well-deserved appreciation to a thought pioneer, cultural icon, and farewell advocate for peace and security. I am thankful to you, Uncle Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain, for your sincere belief in the message of culture and just peace.
Thanks are also due to the organizers of the “Second World Forum for the Culture of Just Peace,” as represented by Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation, for their kind invitation to us to participate in this important forum. The forum that comes at a time when we are all in desperate need of someone who reminds us that security and peace are blessings that require preservation, a preservation that requires us all to believe in them, work for maintaining them and underpinning them for the sake of humanity.
I would also want to commend the outcomes of the First World Forum for the Culture of Peace, which was held in The Hague in 2019. The very outcomes that emphasized teaching the values and principles of peace through the educational curricula, working on raising an aware generation in a safe environment of peace and respect, the integration of the national awareness that preserves the cultural heritage, and spreading the culture of peace among societies. These outcomes also highlighted enhancing cultural richness and identities of regions, enhancing the values of tolerance and communication among the components of a society, developing strategies needed to prevent armed conflicts, and strengthening preventive diplomacy, especially in light of the ongoing conflicts, turmoil, and constant threats to international security and stability that the world is witnessing.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Second World Forum for the Culture of Just Peace comes today with the theme «Leadership for a Just Peace,» so my speech will focus on two aspects; the first is the efforts of the Cooperation Council for Arab States of the Gulf in promoting the Culture of Just Peace, and the second is the importance of mobilizing and integrating efforts to consolidate the Culture of Just Peace.
In terms of the efforts of the Cooperation Council for Arab States of the Gulf to promote the Culture of Just Peace, the Council has and continues to play a major and pivotal role in promoting security and stability in the region and around the world since its founding on May 25, 1981, and for four decades. It has become a pillar of and a believer in just peace, seeking to maintain and preserve it, and calling for dialogue as a means to resolve disputes under the umbrella of the Charter of the United Nations and the International Law.
The Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf also recognized the importance of the Culture of Just Peace and the necessity to improve peace concepts and collective action in order to achieve it. «May God protect them,» their Majesties and Highnesses, the Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council States, pay special attention to preserving the cultural identity and making it a cornerstone of strategic and development plans aimed at building both the state and the individual.
They have adopted, may God protect them, the Cultural Strategy of the Cooperation Council for Arab States of the Gulf 2020-2030, which affirms that cultural engagement is the right for every citizen to produce, benefit from, interact with, and critique, and to work to absorb the spirit of the age by using science and technology in cultural fields and engaging them in dialogue with other cultures to promote the values of peace as an essential component of human civilization, focusing on the principles of tolerance, coexistence, dialogue, respect for others, and the rejection of manifestations of violence, intolerance, and extremism.
The cultural security side also focused on promoting the values of moderation, tolerance, dialogue, coexistence, and respect for the law among society’s components, as well as supporting freedom of thought and creativity and protecting society, particularly children, from a culture that incites violence.
From this perspective, the Cooperation Council for Arab States of the Gulf seeks, through fostering its participation in international forums and events, to build and activate strategic partnerships with countries, institutions, and international organizations, and to benefit from their experiences in supporting, encouraging, and establishing the Culture of Peace among the spectrum of society, as well as to participate in anything that adds to and enriches the concept of peace. Building the Culture of Peace is a shared duty that necessitates joint worldwide efforts, standing together in the face of intellectual extremism, renouncing violence, and raising the future generations on virtuous values, tolerance, and respect for human rights.
The Culture of Peace is also a concept that includes a set of positive values that are translated into actions and behaviours that lead to changes and outcomes within society by creating conditions conducive to establishing peace, whether at the level of interaction between individuals or groups, or at the national and international levels. In this context, the Culture of Peace may be understood as a methodology as well as a way of life, a global aim, and a necessity for survival.
As a result, the Gulf Cooperation Council States, as peace-loving countries, have paid special attention in all of their strategic and development plans and future visions to involving all segments of society in the Culture of Peace, particularly women, who constitute half of the society, and young people, who represent the backbone of our future and account for more than 60% of our society.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The second axis, about the need to mobilize and combine efforts to consolidate the Culture of Just Peace, is based on what we have heard over the previous two days during this forum’s sessions about the tremendous efforts being made at all levels to promote the Culture of Just Peace.
Using the World Peace Forum platform, which was adopted by Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation, as a global platform that brings together decision-makers, thinkers, civil society, universities, specialists, and those interested, may represent a historic opportunity to mobilize and integrate global efforts to consolidate the Culture of Just Peace through the initiative and Leadership for the Just Peace. All of our efforts to promote the Culture of Just Peace, as a way of coexistence and necessary need to ensure a better future for all, will remain incomplete when achieving their objectives unless they take into account all of the threats to that just peace and all of the factors that undermine and reduce it.
Today, as we discuss efforts to foster the Culture of Just Peace, the world is living in unprecedented turmoil; with the drums of war beating in multiple places and disasters and crises that man is facing, which we now have to see here and there with their ugly face of destruction, horrific famines, bloody explosions, and natural disasters.
While we hope to promote the Culture of Just Peace, there are millions of displaced families and millions of children who have been deprived of education due to wars, disasters, and conflicts, and who are easy targets for extremist ideology and terrorism. While we are working to promote the Culture of Just Peace, there are organized actions against that to happen, through some media and some social media platforms, which aims to fuel conflicts, disputes, and terrorism.
At a time when we are mobilizing forces and efforts to promote the Culture of Just Peace, millions of young people in many parts of the world have lost hope and surrendered to despair and frustration, causing the spark of optimism and hope to fade. The thing that I feel necessary that all of us, as a voice for peace and out of our full belief in the need to promote the Culture of Just Peace, should include these threats in the goals of collective action and to give young people, wherever they are, hope for a better tomorrow.
To conclude, I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to encourage all parties involved at the social, political, and scientific levels to focus on policies of moderation, tolerance, and coexistence among different generations, cultures, and races in order to ensure the world’s future security.
I also want to thank everyone who contributed with the preparation, organization, and participation in this forum, as well as the Republic of Malta, His Excellency the President, the government, and the people for hosting the forum in this beautiful country.
Thank you for listening.
Peace, mercy, and blessings of God be upon you.
Speech of HE Taieb Baccouche
Secretary General of the Arab Maghreb Union
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To begin, I would like to express my appreciation to Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation for organizing the “Second World Forum for the Culture of Just Peace,” themed “Leadership for the Just Peace,” which is being kindly hosted by the Republic of Malta under the auspices of His Excellency President Dr. George Vella.
I am delighted to speak about the second axis of the Forum, which is the «Role of Intergovernmental Organizations» in embodying the concept of «Leadership for the Just Peace».
I will proceed in this regard, not from the theoretical, philosophical, social, or jurist aspects, but from my personal experience as Secretary-General of the Arab Maghreb Union, who, prior to taking on political responsibilities, held positions in Civil Society Organizations, whether they were jurist organizations, trade unions organizations, or Intellectual Organizations.
During the last five years, in which I assumed the responsibility of the General Secretariat of the Maghreb Union, I was fortunate to have concluded an agreement of understanding with the African Union, from which the General Secretariat was absent, unlike the previous seven continental groupings that had signed the Memorandum of Understanding since 2008, so we managed to join them after ten years, specifically in the year 2018.
One of the most important African structures, in which we have fully and effectively integrated, is the Peace and Security Structure, which has developed a peace system to prevent terrorism and has organized numerous seminars and workshops with the goal of silencing guns, disarming light and heavy weapons and confronting their flow, reforming the security sector and establishing border governance, reducing disaster risk, and regulating migration to curb illegal migration, which opens the door wide to smuggling migrants, labor and human trafficking. This illegal migration also started to expand and included goods smuggling, which has become something much connected with terrorism. If we take a look, we will find that some groups finance such activities, while others do the protection issues, until we reached that point when we see that organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering have become security concerns.
Given the complexity and interdependence of these issues, in addition to capacity building, early warning units were established to prevent these pests, at the African
In view of the complexity and interdependence of these issues, early warning units for the prevention of these pests have been concentrated along with capacity building at the African and then the Maghreb level.
Within the framework of the continental program for the peace and security structure «ABSA 4», the General Secretariat of the Arab Maghreb Union, in collaboration with the African Union and sometimes with the support of the European Union, implements activities aimed primarily at spreading a culture of peace and security and non-violence at the regional and continental levels, and urging adherence to international human rights principles, international treaties, and international conventions.
In the same context, these activities fall under three main indicators: first, improved conflict management within the framework of the APSA programme, with a focus on effective early warning systems and the African Standby Force. Second, improved cooperation within the framework of the APSA work programme and related activities (including civil society organizations); and third, increased inclusion of youth and children within the framework of this programme.
During the previous five years, the General Secretariat of the Maghreb Union participated in around forty of these events, which included summits, sectorial ministerial councils, expert and senior official seminars, and joint African-European initiatives in the framework of 5 + 5.
However, experience has shown us over and again that official organizations are insufficient. Rather, regional organizations that connect the governmental and civic sectors must be involved, because people are the greatest victims in the absence of security and peace.
That is why we worked on coordination among Maghreb municipalities, with some of them cooperating with the International Organization of Francophone Municipalities (Association Internationale des Maires Francophones “AIMF”), as well as with youth organizations, pioneering women, universities, and banks through the Union of Maghreb Banks.
There is no doubt that investment, creating jobs for young people, making profits, raising the level of production, and equitable distribution of the product of growth by translating it into comprehensive sustainable human development are all tributaries to stability, human security, and a just peace that is expanding from the national to regional, continental, and international frameworks.
Finally, because it is one of the values related with the principles of justice, security, and peace, it is vital to spread the culture of work and human rights.
Thanks for your attention.
Speech of HE Salim M. Al-Malik
Director General of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(ISESCO)
I have the pleasure of greeting you with the great peace greetings on one of the few days of peace embodied in this promising international conference, so Peace, Mercy and Blessings of God be upon you.
We gather today in this forum, which demonstrates seriousness, rationality, and responsibility in the midst of some extremely complicated world circumstances, to deliberate and share opinions and wisdom on the matter of the hour, and of every hour, which is peace. Peace, which always requires intellectual and practical support, since international mobility has no value unless peace is maintained by the desires, wills, and the great actions of peace.
Greetings to their Excellences the honorable Presidents of Malta, Albania, and Kosovo, Excellences, and to all of the distinguished attendees, for whom I know how grateful they are to those in charge of this conference, which requires us to be enlightened implementers of the steps of peace and faithful bearers of its torches in a world witnessing transformations that seek everything that achieves stability, which is the foundation of development, because there is no development without stability, and no stability without peace.
While calls in the name of peace have proliferated recently, both institutionally and theoretically, the concept of just peace remains the most important aspiration that our societies look forward to and await as they wage a war against backwardness, poverty, and ignorance; a war mainly caused by the injustice of man to his fellow man.
Believing in every effort made to promote peace as a crucial life value, the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), has been working to consolidate the foundations of peaceful thought and to avoid extremism, fanaticism and hatred, in order to stimulate the spirit of intercultural dialogue and with the certainty that dialogue is the foundation of peace.
Following the same approach, ISESCO has taken a practical step forward by establishing the «ISESCO Ambassadors for Peace» programme, through which it aspires to develop young leaders from various countries around the world who will carry the banner of peace, thereby making the world a more spacious space for creative human coexistence in the fields of science, arts, sports, and literature.
With the same vision, the Organization recently established a specialized Center for Civilizational Dialogue, dedicated to promote the concept of civilizational dialogue within member states and adjacent communities, in addition to the organization’s endeavor to integrate peace into basic education curricula, with a focus on making artificial intelligence applications in the service of peace concepts, and emphasizing the need to limit the growth of the phenomenon of using electronic games among young people, with all the misconceptions these games hold, which lead to the spread of violent crimes and deadly racism.
Thus, ISESCO does not stop at saying “No to War,” but rather says “Yes to Peace,” and it also aspires, through the Leadership for Peace program, to see its five hundred young ambassadors wandering the world by the year two thousand and twenty-five.
It is an efficient strategy when we consider giving culture the attention it deserves, because peace perceptions, which include priceless relics that help to embody the wonderful humanitarian diversity with all of its variations, are a source of power and richness, rather than a source of hatred and hostility, as some people believe.
It is in this spirit that this conference must agree on a vision that will pave the way for groups eager for a spirit of peace to prevail in the world, which will spare humanity the vow of ruin and support the paths of creative reconstruction.
Let the baths of peace flutter, the locomotive of security move towards their noble goals and the human and humanitarian rights win, these rights that always seek extraordinary pioneering figures that recognize well the meaning of peace, adhere to its principles, and bear the huge sacrifices required by its challenging path.
Civil Society Organizations hold a great amount of responsibility for the consequences of spreading the Culture of Peace, especially in circumstances where many formal government organizations fail to fulfil these responsibilities. Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation demonstrates a great example of the ability to advance and protect the foundations of the Culture of Peace. Therefore, I would want to express my gratitude to this Foundation, which is deeply committed to culture and intellectuals, for the excellent organization of this conference. Thank you also to the Maltese government for their great hospitality in this wonderful part of the world, which has promised to be a Land of Peace.
From here, from the Malta of Peace, and from this Conference, which has put the justice of the Culture of Just Peace in our souls and spirits, I announce the launch of the second session of the programme «Leadership in Peace and Security», and I call on young people from all nations of the world to come forward to apply and join this promising programme.
I would like to conclude my speech by quoting this verse from the Holy Qur’an that glorifies the importance of peace that our God Almighty has taken as His name; “But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things)”.
May God bless you, and peace be upon you again and at all times.
Speech of HH. Abdulaqawi Ahmed Yusuf
Former President of the International Court of Justice
President George Vella, President of Malta,
Mr. Abdulaziz Albabtain,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I look at the theme of this forum, and I am reminded of the mission of our Court, the International Court of Justice: Peace and Justice. This mission was entrusted to the Court by the United Nations Charter. It is carried out by the Court through the settlement of all disputes submitted to it in accordance with international law.
The greatest innovation of the UN Charter, 75 years ago, as compared to the League of Nations Covenant was the prohibition of the use of force. Instead of recourse to the use of force, the Charter introduced the peaceful settlement of disputes as one of the cardinal principles of the Organization.
Through this undertaking in the UN Charter, mankind had finally come to the realisation that the old system which had made war permissible to right wrongs was not only barbaric and brutal, but fundamentally unjust. “Might is right” has never helped humanity to live together in peace or in harmony.
In the past 75 years, the International Court of Justice has proudly assumed its role as a guardian of the international rule of law. It has substantially contributed to the avoidance of war among States. As was stated by St. Thomas Aquinas already in the 13th Century: “peace is the work of justice indirectly insofar as justice removes the obstacles to peace.” That is what the Court does: it removes the obstacles to peace among nations. That is what the Court will do next week when Ukraine and Russia will appear before it.
The action of the Court is based on the consent of states. The parties in dispute must be willing to accept, or must have accepted in advance, the jurisdiction of the Court to resolve their dispute peacefully. In other words, they must have faith in the rule of law, and in the capacity of an independent judicial body to interpret it and apply it. The good news is that this faith has substantially increased in the past 75 years. More trust is placed today in the work of the Court than ever before.
The pre-eminent role of the rule of law as a factor for harmony and security in any society cannot be questioned. However, the law is always an instrument and never constitutes an end in itself. The end is the well-being of human society and the promotion of the greater good. Peace, stability, and justice are the most important symbols of such greater good.
We have to acknowledge that there are many disorders and disputes, which by their very nature, may elude the grasp of the law, and hence the courts. Even the laws of the most advanced societies cannot cover everything in society. The law cannot claim, by virtue of its instrumental dimension, to apprehend all aspects of life and of social reality.
The peace-making role of a court, be it at the municipal level or the international level, may thus encounter its first limitation on the degree to which the law permeates social relations and on its effectiveness. The extent of this limitation depends on a given social milieu with its societal values, its ethical imperatives as well as the political, economic cultural and other factors.
That is the reason why, in the search for peace and justice, such factors need to be taken into account. They can complement the role of the law to bring about peace and harmony in the society. I am referring here to education, to shared cultural values, to the marshaling of moral solidarity and to the imperative of social and economic justice, and of course climate justice. That is where the contribution of institutions such as the Albabtain Foundation and the World Forum for Culture of Peace is most needed.
I will conclude with a few words on the theme of the conference “Just peace.” Peace and Justice are indivisible. They are intrinsically connected. It is by cultivating justice that peace can best be harvested. Just peace cannot be one nation’s or one group’s own kind of peace. Peace is a shared value. Just peace is that which encompasses moral and ethical imperatives. A peace which ensures social and economic justice, and the protection of human rights.
Just peace is not the opposite of Just war. There is no just war. War can never lead to justice. The UN Charter did the right thing for humanity in prohibiting the use of force in international relations. We must now find a way to banish the use of violence and armed conflict as a means of settling disputes in all organized human societies. I personally believe that it is not an impossible goal. We should strive to achieve it.
Speech of HE. Khaled Khalifa
Regional Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Adviser to the High Commissioner for Islamic Finance,
Excellency President of Malta, Dr. George Vella,
Mr. Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain, Chairman of Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation,
Honorable Heads of State,
Representatives of International Organizations and Civil Society Institutions,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be with you today in the second edition of the World Forum for a Culture of Peace, launched by Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation, in light of such time when the culture of peace is mostly needed.
By virtue of the roles and responsibilities entrusted to me by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; I witness on daily basis the impact of missing peace and its implications on the lives of thousands of vulnerable families and individuals who were forcibly displaced in search of safety, security, and a decent life. The Global Trends report we launched late last year shows that forced displacement continues to rise to break new records, with more than eighty-four million people fleeing violence, insecurity and climate change, the majority of whom are women. Coupled with the pressing psychological effects of the absence of peace, especially in light of protracted conflicts, which often leave a major impact on children and growing feelings of fear and anxiety in a painful reality among refugees and displaced persons, while draining energies and squandering the dreams of generations on which the future depends.
Building a culture of peace and maintaining its sustainability in societies torn by conflict is one of the most difficult challenges, as it requires concerted local and international efforts in various sectors, and the inclusive involvement of various segments of society to develop practical plans to ensure stability and create an environment for building a secure and prosperous future.
UNHCR’s mandate is indeed a living example of that. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established in 1950, and its tenure was scheduled to end after three years, However; with the emergence of new conflicts and the increase in humanitarian needs, UNHCR resumed its tasks and expanded its activities in pursue of humanity in a journey that extended for more than 71 years, during which it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize twice in recognition of its efforts in the service of humanity and peace. Allow me to quote the High Commissioner’s words: “on UNHCR’s 70th anniversary, my challenge to the international community is this: put me out of a job. Make it your goal to build a world in which there is truly no need for a UN refugee agency because nobody is compelled to flee. Do not get me wrong: as matters stand, our work is crucial, yet the paradox is that we ought not to exist.” This confirms the position of UNHCR on the necessity of establishing peace.
It is only possible to establish a culture of peace through the generation of leaders, because our reality today shows with deep regret that we have failed to achieve it, and we must invest in efforts to establish it through targeted educational programs at various stages, to include the principles of brotherhood and altruism and to highlight the importance of diversity and enhance the spirit of community citizenship and the unity of destiny, to reach a bright future for all with a culture nurture diversity as it prevails, and not disputes.
Among the initiatives taken by UNHCR is the establishment of the Council of Multi-Religious Leaders in cooperation with the Religions for Peace organization, with the aim of supporting the joint efforts of religious leaders in different regions and of all faiths to address the root causes, by supporting global efforts to mobilize support, prevent conflict, enhance reconciliation initiatives, peace building and social cohesion.
In conclusion, we value the deep partnership we have with the esteemed Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation, represented by Professor Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain, which aims to support efforts to promote peace around the world for groups that need it the most. We must always remember that we are still facing many challenges in our world today, and that peace has become a luxury for many people and turned into a dream for others. Our duty today is to affirm that peace is a right that can only be achieved through concerted efforts.
Speech of HE. Ambassador Mohammed Al-Shafee
Representative of the League of Arab States
In the Name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
Your Excellency Dr. George Vella, President of the Republic of Malta,
Mr. Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain, Chairman of Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Peace, mercy, and blessings of God be upon you,
I am delighted to be here today as the representative of His Excellency, Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, and to take part in the “Second World Forum for the Culture of Just Peace,” organized by Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation in collaboration with the Government of Malta.
To begin, I would like to convey to all of you the sincere greetings of His Excellency the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit’s, wishing the activities of this international conference success and achievement of the targeted objectives.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Convening of this forum comes at a very delicate time, given the rise of hate speech, high rates of discrimination and xenophobia, and the spread of extremist ideas. The rapid increase of these phenomena confirms the urgent need for dialogue as the only way to enhance respect and mutual understanding among different peoples, and as one of the ways to contribute to the consolidation of the Culture of Peace and the values of peaceful coexistence among peoples, by enshrining the culture of multiculturalism and religious pluralism as an enriching factor rather than a source of sedition.
Peace is a positive participatory process that is linked to the achievement of democracy, justice, and society development in a way that respects diversity and encourages dialogue. Building the Culture of Peace requires comprehensive educational, social, and civic work, as it is a set of values, traditions, customs, behavior patterns, and ways of life that express respect for human beings and their rights while rejecting all forms of violence, as well as the recognition of human rights to; freedom of expression, upholding to democracy, justice, development, tolerance, and understanding among nations.
In light of the rising rates of terrorism, extremism, and racial discrimination, and the United Nations’ awareness of the dangers of these phenomena and their negative repercussions on various political, economic, social, and intellectual levels, the United Nations General Assembly declared the year 2000 as the “International Year for the Culture of Peace” by resolution 52/15 on November 20, 1997.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution No. 2 on December 8, 2017, declaring May 16 as the “International Day of Living Together in Peace.”
Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to commend the efforts of all international and regional organizations in spreading the Culture of Peace and tolerance among peoples and nations, as well as confronting the phenomena of extremism, terrorism, and racial discrimination based on colour, religion, race, or gender.
In light of the current challenges, the League of Arab States is working with all its might to urge member states, on the one hand, to cooperate and coordinate with all regional and international organizations and civil society institutions, to engage in peaceful dialogue and manage differences within a democratic framework that preserves dignity, freedom, and human value, and, on the other hand, to work toward achieving the “Sustainable Development Goals 2030,” particularly the sixteenth goal, which calls for work to be done to create cohesive, inclusive, and peaceful communities in order to ensure justice for everyone and to develop effective and responsible institutions at all levels
The General Secretariat of the League of Arab States also works to develop communication bridges between different communities, cultures, and religions in order to enhance understanding and promote peaceful coexistence between the generations of today and tomorrow.
Realizing that international and regional institutions are the main players in advancing development alongside governments, the Arab League has been keen to build partnerships with Many institutions in this field, including the “Al-Azhar Al-Sharif” Foundation, “Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation”, the “Global Council for Tolerance and Peace”, the “Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue Between Cultures” and the “Group of Friends of the Alliance of Civilizations”, in order to promote dialogue between followers of various civilizations and cultures and spreading the values of tolerance and acceptance of the other, supporting mutual understanding and respect between different nations and peoples, spreading the Culture of Sustainable Peace and achieving Sustainable Development Goals.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to the organizers of this important forum, and we hope that it will contribute significantly to efforts to promote the Culture of Sustainable Peace, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence among societies, as well as to combat in-tolerance, violence, and discrimination.
May God grant us all assistance for the good of nations and peoples.
Speech of Professor Alfred J. Vella
Rector of the University of Malta
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Firstly, I would like to thank HE. President Vella and Mr. Albabtain, Chairman of Albabtain Foundation, for the invitation to address this prestigious event, now in its second edition. I am delighted to associate the University of Malta with this initiative.
On behalf of the University, I would particularly wish to record my appreciation to Albabtain Cultural Foundation for supporting the work of our Centre for the Study and Practice of Conflict Resolution. In recent months, Albabtain Foundation has established an endowment for peacebuilding within the Centre, which I am sure will bear considerable fruit.
Before focusing on my remarks on the relevance of higher education and universities within higher education and peacebuilding, I want to express my solidarity to all of the people of Ukraine who are currently the victims of a horrific military aggression that is causing havoc, destruction, and the loss of many lives. In particular, I think of the Ukrainian students, academics and teachers at all levels, whose lives have been shattered and whose educational journey so brutally interrupted by bombs. The University of Malta currently hosts 13 Ukrainian students who are studying with us on campus and nine staff members from that country; besides, we have an important number of Ukrainian alumni, who I hope are keeping safe in this terrible context.
In my brief remarks today, I will share some thoughts on why Universities should engage in peacebuilding and also suggest some of the ways in which we can do so. In this context, I will first offer a few reflections on the purposes of universities and why their mission must necessarily include the building of peace.
The Role of universities in peacebuilding
Firstly, I ask: What are universities for? Universities and higher education institutions more generally, should not simply be viewed through a drably utilitarian lens of their contribution to the economy, industry, or the labour market. Universities’ role is far more multifaceted and goes beyond the purely utilitarian or economic one. As the Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Lord Patten, has remarked universities serve the future by shaping the citizens who will create that future. If we are doing our job well, we shape citizens by passing not just knowledge and skills but also a commitment to civic engagement and ethical behaviour that will affect communities and the broader world around us.
It is incumbent on universities to encourage students to consider and actively engage with notions of citizenship and public ethics. Anyone who has attended university should have a basic understanding of and a positive disposition to the rights and duties associated with citizenship, the principles of sustainability as well as the different aspects of justice such as intergenerational and social justice.
Peace and Justice
Indeed, it is noteworthy and commendable that this event is titled ‘Leadership for Just Peace.’ It is nowadays accepted that there can be ‘no peace without justice’ and in this context, universities have a special role to promote justice as a fundamental value. The link between peace and justice unpacks numerous perspectives: the need for equality between states and between individuals, the need to respect fundamental rights and freedoms including the right to self-determination for nations as well as the right to be free from discrimination of any kind for every community and every individual.
Achieving these objectives is an extremely urgent but also complex endeavour. It requires efforts across the globe and across societies not just at the level of governments and political leaders but especially, I would argue, in the educational sector, the place where citizens and leaders are formed.
One of the most distinguished educationalists of the twentieth century Maria Montessori in her collection of essays titled «Education and Peace», stated unequivocally “Establishing a lasting peace is the work of education. All politics can do is keep us out of war.’ This is not to minimize the role of political and national leaders in the sphere of high politics and diplomacy, but as we are witnessing today and as we have learned throughout the ages, while political leaders may be crucial in negotiating cease-fires to stop armed conflict or bring about de-escalation to avert conflict when it is brewing, the deep-rooted causes of war, be they structural, cultural or psychological, will not be resolved simply by negotiation, diplomacy, legislation or political diktat. The root causes of conflict need exploration, analysis and addressing and education is pivotal in such processes.
The realities which Montessori highlighted in 1949, i.e., that real peace is more than the absence of war, were confirmed by the founders of conflict resolution and peacebuilding as distinct academic disciplines. Pioneers like Johan Galtung and John Burton developed ideas which helped us better understand the nature and types of conflict as well as develop processes through which conflicts may be addressed.
Johan Galtung developed and expanded the concept of positive peace. He argued that the mere absence of physical violence (which he termed negative peace) is an insufficient conception. What conflict resolvers and peace builders needed to focus on was addressing structural and cultural forms of violence. Structural forms of violence, according to Galtung, occur when societal structures oppress groups and communities or even entire nations and continents. Racial or religious discrimination, unfair and unequal economic structures as well as patriarchal structures are examples of structural violence. Only when these structures that cause violence and conflict are re-imagined and reformed can positive peace be achieved.
John Burton, on the other hand, developed the ‘human needs’ theory of conflict which postulates that one of the key drivers of conflict is unmet human needs. These needs range from the basic need for food to that for recognition, equality, and respect. Unmet human needs, according to Burton, cause disruptive and conflictual responses. An appreciation of the needs of others is another critical perspective, which universities should foster.
In this context, it seems self-evident that higher education has a pivotal role not only in leading peace research but also in forming citizens who are attuned to the requisites of peace and justice.
Universities are unique spaces where, often, all of the actors in peacebuilding which this conference brings together meet and interact.
National leaders, in most cases, have been educated within university structures as have parliamentarians and protagonists from civil society. Indeed, it is common for today’s political and civic leaders to have been involved in university activism as students where they would likely have played leadership roles. Universities are thus spaces where such leaders may experience how ideas are formed and challenged; and where they learn and acquire values that remain embedded in their psyche and mindset to later influence behaviours that permeate national and international life.
If universities take this responsibility of promoting a culture of just peace seriously, the dividends could be enormous. This requires universities to be given the resources to fulfil their mission but also have their academic independence sustained and protected.
Cooperation amongst institutions engaged in higher education is another invaluable aspect of the peacebuilding agenda in academia. We need more cooperation not just regionally but also across regions and globally. Such cooperation yields fruits in numerous ways; academically, scientifically, and economically because when universities pool their resources, they can more effectively develop new knowledge, procedures, and products, which can improve our quality of life and wellbeing as well as contribute to economic development.
Interuniversity cooperation creates bonds of friendship between academic communities and contributes to a better understanding and appreciation of each other’s traditions and cultures. When such cooperation is extended to students, the multiplier effect of such connections is even more impressive. In this context, I would argue that one of the European Union’s most successful and impactful projects has been the Erasmus exchange programme. I hope the EU will continue in its efforts to extend this programme wider and deeper to include as many students as possible from across the world (not just Europe).
I would like to conclude my intervention by reiterating the commitment of the University of Malta to contributing towards peacebuilding. This commitment is two-fold: firstly, by promoting positive values such as social justice, environmental ethics, human rights, equality, and cultural dialogue; and secondly by cooperating in peacebuilding initiatives with likeminded academic institutions as well as governmental and non-governmental actors.
Let me here refer to an observation by Professor Juliet Milican, which I find particularly apposite and worth reflecting upon:
“Universities are complex institutions with specialists in many areas, invariably separated into different disciplinary silos. A cross-institutional or interdisciplinary response, in which researchers, practitioners and students from all disciplines work together to address the triggers behind conflict, may be the most viable approach to managing and minimizing conflict in the longer term. We need a structured, systemic approach to recognizing the existence of conflict and the responsibility of higher education to address it.”
I fully subscribe to this view of the role of universities in resolving conflict and building positive peace. Our university is certainly committed to this vision, and we look forward to working with others to contribute to positive peace based on justice. I sincerely hope that the peacebuilding platform being created through the excellent efforts of the Albabtain Foundation will accord due importance to the potential of universities to be a crucial pillar in this noble venture.