The Adoption of “Culture of Peace” in the United Nations: Recognizing Bangladesh’s Role in Advancing Global Peace

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Bangladesh has achieved another global recognition in its persistent endeavours to contribute to global peace, cooperation and development. The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has unanimously adopted Bangladesh’s flagship resolution on the Culture of Peace on 14 June 2023. The Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN in New York Ambassador Muhammad Abdul Muhith introduced the resolution at the UNGA for its adoption and the UNGA adopted it unanimously. More significantly, Bangladesh’s resolution has been cosponsored by more than 100 countries, demonstrating a broad-based endorsement from a diverse representation of UN Member States.

Bangladesh is a champion of unity, solidarity and multilateral cooperation in the world. Bangabandhu’s speech in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September 1974 is an epitome of Bangladesh’s unwavering commitment to maintain global peace, humanity and prosperity. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Bangladesh has always pursued multilateral cooperation for building a peaceful and poverty free world. Through the experiences of colonial rule, Pakistan’s oppressive rule and the War of Liberation in 1971 Bangladesh learned how people can suffer from hegemony, discrimination and conflict at national, regional and global levels. During the first tenure of her rule in 1996-2001, the then Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina introduced the idea in the UNGA and the resolution of “culture of peace” was first adopted on September 13, 1999.

Bangladesh’s relentless efforts to engage the world in the pursuits of peace is a hallmark of its foreign policy. It is also linked with the strong presence of Bangladesh in international relations for ensuring collective goods, resolving conflicts and harnessing multilateral cooperation to overcome common global challenges. The world is facing a very difficult time in its recent memory. Hence, while introducing the resolution, Bangladesh highlighted the continued relevance of culture of peace in today’s world characterized by complex challenges and boundless opportunities. As the permanent representative, Ambassador Muhith says, “Indeed, it is more urgent today than ever to promote a culture of peace; to prioritize dialogue and rapprochement over violence and confrontation”. It may be mentioned that Bangladesh has been facilitating this resolution at the assembly every year and also convening a High-level Forum on the Culture of Peace in the General Assembly. This recent High-Level Forum which was held on September 6, 2022, focused on transformative role of culture of peace to ensure justice, equality, and inclusion for advancing peacebuilding.

In 2023, the resolution rightly highlighted collective efforts to address global risks and challenges with the United Nations playing a central role. The Secretary General of the United Nations is making his determined efforts to keep this global body relevant and active in this era of uncertainty and crisis. Bangladesh’s proposal underscored the importance of strengthening preventive diplomacy, dialogue and healthy debates at all levels. While reaffirming the invaluable role of women in conflict prevention and resolution it called for full equal and meaningful participation of women in such processes. Among others, the resolution stressed the need to address the underlying drivers of violence and conflict and also to promote a culture of peace in the context of ongoing digital transformation. The culture of peace has over time, grown in relevance, and evolved into a dominant theme finding larger footprints and recognition in all major UN discourses. According to the resolution, in the rapidly changing global situation, it has proved to be a useful means to complement UN Charter obligations of maintaining peace in the world.

The resolution matters for Bangladesh’s leadership in the world, particularly in the global forums. It has given another mandate from international community about innovative ideas and actions that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been continuously upholding and drawing global attention to collective and common challenges. The resolution on “Culture of Peace” stands as a testament to the international community’s profound confidence in the country as a steadfast advocate for global peace.

The adoption of Bangladesh’s resolution at the UNGA is a message against power politics and geopolitical game in the world. Millions of people are suffering from starvation, malnutrition, ultra-poverty, and resource constraints due to inaction of global institution and great powers. The consequences of the ongoing Ukraine War, diametrically opposite narratives of global powers, persistent desire for expanding sphere of influence in every corner of the world and unleashing sanctions regimes in the world are making a heavy toll in global economy. This has particularly caused inexplicable sufferings and deprivation to the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Known as the Global South, this region witnesses a lack of strong voices to stand up against the ills of mindless game of geopolitics in the world. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has always displayed a strong voice from Global South to the world whether it is an issue of global climate change, COVID-19 vaccine, sheltering the Rohingya refugees, women empowerment and many more.

Another major significance of the resolution is that it reflects a stark contrast with policies and attitudes of certain powers towards Bangladesh. This peace-loving and freedom-loving nation has recently been subject to their undeserved actions. While these attempts are part of global politics and diplomacy, it surely makes people of the developing world suspicious, frustrated and infuriated about double standards and contradictions in international politics. Bangladesh has transformed its economy and society over the past fifteen years through visionary leadership and far-reaching development programs for the future. It has made determined efforts to lift its 170 million people to a new status of economic developed. Bangladesh has a great success what many international observers call a ‘development miracle’ in the world. Bangladesh became a lower middle income nation in 2015 and is in the process of graduating to a developing nation by 2026. Meanwhile the country has become 35th largest economy in the world with GDP, surpassing Pakistan and many developed nations. Bangladesh achieved fastest economic growth in the recent years.

The ‘Culture of Peace’ is an effective and powerful tool for ensuring international peace and security. It is aimed at bringing about positive changes at micro level through practicing tolerance, justice, equity, equality and humanity in human behaviours as well as state policies. The original resolution of Bangladesh passed by the General Assembly on 10 September 1999 at its 53rd Session calls for “Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace”. Under the program of Action on a Culture of Peace, the resolution promotes actions of the UN and its member nations on a range of areas intrinsically linked with peace and development. These include fostering a culture of peace through education; promoting sustainable economic and social development; ensuring equality between women and men; promoting respect for all human rights; fostering democratic participation; supporting participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge and promoting international peace and security.

The unanimous adoption of the “Culture of Peace” by the UNGA in June 2023 recognizes and reiterates the significance of the role of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in global arena as a strong voice for change and champion the rights and dignity of the marginalized and underprivileged people in the world.

– Delwar Hossain, PhD is Professor of International Relations, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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