Open Session on Living Together in Peace

Date | 05 November, 2019

Tomorrow  (5  November),  the  African  Union  (AU)  Peace  and Security Council (PSC) is expected to hold an Open Session  on  Living  Together  in  Peace  based  on  United  Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 72/130. It was Algeria, as chair of the Month that initiated this item as agenda of tomorrow’s session.

During the session, Algeria as the PSC Chair of the month is  expected  to  make  a  presentation.  A  representative  from the UN may also deliver a statement. The presentations  will  be  followed  by  interventions  from  member states and invited participants.

On  8  December  2017,  the  UNGA  adopted  Resolution  72/130, which designated 16 May as the ‘International Day  of  Living  Together  in  Peace’  and  a  means  of  mobilising international efforts “to promote peace, tolerance,  inclusion,  understanding  and  solidarity”.  The  resolution highlights the need to promote the culture of peace and non‐violence and underscores the importance of  respect  for  religious  and  cultural  diversity  across  the  world. It calls on States and world leaders to work in collaboration  with  religious  communities  and  find  ways  to promote reconciliation, resolve differences and pave the way for peace and sustainable development.

Tomorrow’s  open  session  is  expected  to  provide  the  forum for participants to suggest practical steps for the realization  of  Resolution  72/130’s  goals  in  the  political,  economic, social, religious, cultural and educational spheres of public life. Resolution 72/130 recognizes living together  in  peace  as  ‘accepting  differences  and  having  the ability to listen to, recognize, respect and appreciate others, as well as living in a peaceful and united way’. As such, the session is also anticipated to serve as a means for  participants  to  reflect  on  the  value  and  practical  applications of ‘living together in peace’.

The  UNGA,  through  adopting  Resolution  72/130,  called  upon UN Member States, agencies and other International and Regional Organizations, as well as Civil Society  Organizations  including  Non‐Governmental  Organizations and individuals, to devote 16 May to celebrate “International Day of Living Together in Peace” to  respecting  culture  and  other  local,  national  and  regional customs, and taking educational initiatives and sensitization  activities.  It  particularly  tasked  the  United  Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)  to  facilitate  the  commemoration  of  annual  International Day of Living Together in Peace.

María  Fernanda  Espinosa  Garcés,  President  of  the  73rd  Session of the UN General Assembly, in her opening statement  at  the  celebration  of  2019  International  Day  of Living Together in Peace, stressed that all countries across  the  world  should  seek  to  promote  dialogue  and  reconciliation as well as acceptance and respect of diversity and differences.

The  increasing  trend  in  Africa  of  hate  speech,  identity  and religious based conflicts, hatred, exacerbation of ethnic  divisions  and  extremist  ideology  among  religious and  ethnic  groups  has  been  noted  with  concern  by  the  PSC in its decision adopted at its 836th meeting on 3 April  2019.  Taking  account  of  the  multiple  armed  conflicts, political tensions and instabilities disrupting peace as well as social and economic cohesion in Africa, the  PSC  may  use  tomorrow’s  open  session  as  an  opportunity to call on Member States, political oppositions  as  well  as  faith  leaders  to  embrace  and  promote a culture of tolerance and appreciation of diversity.  This  also  highlights  the  need  for  complementing peace‐making, mediation and peacebuilding  efforts  with  interventions  that  leverage  and support advocacy for a culture of peace and peaceful coexistence.

The PSC may in particular highlight the need for putting in  place  policy  measures  at  national  level  to  discourage  the manipulation of ethnic, religious, cultural and social identities for fuelling tension, spreading hate and inciting communal  violence  in  pursuit  of  narrow  political  objectives. Also, of interest for PSC members is the need for addressing the conditions and factors that make the manipulation of identities for political mobilization, inter‐communal acrimony and violence possible. These conditions  and  factors  include  inequality  in  political  representation and socio‐economic opportunities, corruption  and  other  forms  of  bad  governance,  natural  resources curse and forms of political competition (winner  takes  all)  that  accentuate  identity‐based  mobilization.
The concept note for tomorrow’s session also underlines the importance of democracy, good governance and rule of law for the realisation of mutual respect for diversity. This  rightly  highlights  the  need  to  promote,  protect  respect, and fulfil core human rights principles such as the  principle  of  equality  and  the  principle  of  non‐discrimination based on race, religion, gender, language or any other status, which are fundamental for building up a culture of tolerance of diversity.

Adopting  inclusive  government  policies  aimed  at  equitable distribution of wealth plays a significant role in the  realisation  of  the  socio‐economic  dimension  of  Resolution 72/130. Similarly, promoting moderate religious discourses helps to eliminate radicalisation and extremist  religious  ideologies  and  considerably  contributes to the religious aspect of ‘living together in peace’.  Utilising  education  as  a  means  of  instilling  a  culture of peace and tolerance in the minds of the youth and future generations would then ensure achievement of the social, economic, religious and political aspirations envisaged in Resolution 72/130.

It  is  to  be  recalled  that  various  African  countries  have  celebrated International Day of Peace on the 21st of September  over  the  past  years.  Themes  such  as  “Meaningful Youth Inclusion in Peace‐Building” and “Together  for  Peace:  Respect,  Dignity  and  Security  for  All” have marked the celebration of International Day of Peace in African countries. This year it was observed in a high‐level forum that was convened in Luanda, Angola in collaboration with UNESCO. Given that the themes of the celebration  of  21st  September  and  16  May  are  interrelated, tomorrow’s session can reflect on how member  states,  civil  society  and  the  media commemorate  the  two  days  in  a  complementary  way  through public awareness campaigns and education on peace,  unity,  inclusion,  and  tolerance  with  particular  focus on the youth.

In  her  speech  at  this  year’s  celebration  of  International  Day of Living Together in Peace, María Fernanda Espinosa  Garcés  also  particularly  underscored  the  importance of the theme of the day with due regard to the challenges faced at the UN in adopting collective and multilateral  decisions.  Given  the  adverse  impacts  of  unilateralism on peaceful co‐existence within and among states,  tomorrow’s  session  also  helps  to  reflect  on  the  importance of multilateralism and collective action in the promotion  of  peace,  reconciliation  and  mutual  respect  among countries and communities.

The  expected  outcome  of  the  session  is  a  press  statement. The PSC may call on Member States for strengthened  efforts  in  advancing  solidarity  and  reconciliation. It may task the AU Commission to ensure that  on  16  May  ‘living  together  in  peace’  is  commemorated annually.