Opening remarks by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
“United Nations Peace Essay Contest for Students of Geneva Secondary Schools”
It is my pleasure to welcome you all here today and I would first like to give my thanks for the hard work of the young people in our local schools who have taken part in this competition. Those of you that have made a contribution are truly the peacemakers of our future. For peace comes from within us – from our thoughts, from our words, and from the way we show the world the way forward through our actions.
This year we celebrate the 30th year of the United Nations International Day of Peace, which recognizes the importance of promoting a peaceful way of thinking and living. Across our world, and across generations. And as you no doubt know from your studies, there are many great figures from our past that have led us through difficult times. I am sure that you, and I, can learn from them to together build a better future.
This year, in particular, we think of those who hold peacekeeping as their first priority, as we marked the 50th anniversary of the death of the second United Nations Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld. He led the United Nations at a time when war was a fresh and painful memory for many nations. When the world needed to reflect and heal its many divisions. And when someone with vision and compassion could shape our world for the better.
And still today we continue to strive for the goals he set out so early in the life of the United Nations – to do more, to help more and to be there when we are needed. I am sure that as a man of peace, Dag Hammarskjöld would be pleased with the work being done by our peacekeeping, peace-building and humanitarian operations across the world. Though in fact, every UN agency, every fund, every programme, every partnership, every action we take as proud employees of the United Nations has a part to play in shaping, promoting and encouraging an environment where peace can prevail. For this is what the United Nations stands for. For cooperation between peoples, for making our world a safer place, for helping countries to develop and grow in a sustainable way, for social progress, for human rights and above all, for allowing one person to have dialogue with another, without prejudice, and so with hope.
For peace is more than the absence of war. It is also when we can relate to each other in a healthy way, across divides and with clear vision. It is when our societies and economies are prosperous, work in our favour and can support our needs. And it is when we are all truly equal in each other’s eyes.
Here in this room I know you come from many places and speak many languages. Just by attending your schools, with children from all over the world, you know the importance of listening and sharing between different cultures. You know the importance of accepting other people’s ideas and of learning the lessons of our past for the benefit of our future. For if peace truly is to come from mutual understanding, then surely you are already halfway there.
I hope you therefore might eventually come join our work at the United Nations, for our doors are always open to those with the passion and ambition needed in global diplomacy. And one day, I hope to see your passion for peace influence an important agreement; tell the world of an injustice; bring aid to the most needy; or simply treat another with genuine compassion.
But wherever you may go in life, or whatever you may do, always remember why peace is important for us all. Work hard to make your dreams become our shared reality.