Remarks at the International Day of Non-Violence 2019

Your Excellency, Mr. Vijavat Isarabhakdi, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand,
Your Excellency, Ms. Suchitra Durai, Ambassador of India to the Kingdom of Thailand,
Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Gandhi Speaker and Former Chairman, Khadi and Village Industries Commission of India,
Welcome to the commemoration of International Day of Non-Violence. Allow me to begin by sharing a message from the United-Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
“This International Day of Non-Violence marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the renowned global icon of peace. His vision continues to resonate across the world, including through the work of the United Nations for mutual understanding, equality, sustainable development, the empowerment of young people, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

In today’s turbulent times, violence takes many forms: from the destructive impact of the climate emergency to the devastation caused by armed conflict; from the indignities of poverty to the injustice of human rights violations to the brutalizing effects of hate speech.

Indeed, online and off-line, we hear loathsome rhetoric directed at minorities and anyone considered the “other”. To address this growing challenge, the United Nations has launched two urgent initiatives: a plan of action against hate speech and another on the protection and safety of religious sites. And last week, I issued a global call for a decade of action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, our roadmap away from violence and towards peace, prosperity and dignity on a healthy planet.

Gandhi constantly highlighted the gap between what we do, and what we are capable of doing. On this International Day, I urge each and every one of us to do everything in our power to bridge this divide as we strive to build a better future for all.”

Excellencies, distinguished guests,
This is a message directly relevant to Asia and the Pacific, where non-violence must continue to underpin and shape our efforts to foster inclusive equitable growth. It is an approach which the United Nations and the diplomatic community have a special responsibility to uphold, especially where tensions exist. One that remains relevant because despite the phenomenal development witnessed in recent decades, extreme poverty has not been eradicated and inequality is rising within and between countries. Challenges which threaten our economies and fray the fabric of our societies.

As we work to overcome these challenges, there is great scope to draw on lessons from Gandhi’s life.
His belief in non-discrimination is a precursor to the approach taken to sustainable development by United Nations 2030 Agenda. A commitment to inclusiveness has shaped member States’ pledge to leave no one behind and the recognition that dignity, equality and equity are fundamental for every human person.

Gandhi’s commitment to dialogue, to religious tolerance, to arming ourselves with moral force rather than physical power – remain pertinent to all of us who believe in a more integrated, prosperous and equal Asia-Pacific region.

The earnest belief that persons involved in public service should lead a simple life should serve as inspiration to all public officials – local, national and international. It is an essential means of retaining the respect of the citizens we serve.

With these principals in mind, UN ESCAP remains committed to working with all of you to quicken our efforts to achieve sustained and inclusive economic growth at every level. Gandhi showed the world that peace, respect and equality are the most powerful forces for change. It is incumbent on us to build on this legacy.

Thank you for your attention.