USA: Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury Receives 2018 Global Women's Peace Award

Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations
March 30, 2018  

Full Transcript of Ambassador Chowdhury's Acceptance Speech


Professor Moon, President of WFWPI,

International Vice President, Mrs. Handschin,

International Vice President, Mrs. Ward:

Greetings to you all.

Before my formal words, let me have the pleasure of recognizing the presence of my friends and collaborators, Mr Taj Hamad, Secretary-General of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) and Ms Genie Kagawa, President of the NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns, New York (CSVGC-NY).

I am deeply moved by the honor bestowed on me as the recipient of the 2018 Global Women's Peace Award presented by the Women's Federation for World Peace International (WFWPI). I am touched by what the Board of Directors of WFWPI conveying the decision mentioned that the Award is being presented "in recognition of your lifelong commitment to the empowerment of women and for your leadership in the UN that resulted in the adoption of the groundbreaking UN Security Council Resolution 1325, on Women and Peace and Security, in 2000." My sincere thanks go to all of you for that.

WFWPI's mission since its establishment 25 years ago has been "Empowering women as peacebuilders and leaders in the family to transform the community, nation and world." It is also encouraging to note that it "aims to create an environment of peace and well-being for future generations and people of all races, cultures and religious creeds." I am encouraged that as an activist women's organization, it "promotes women as an essential ingredient in creating a peaceful global society." WFWPI's endeavors all these years to connect women's equality and empowerment and global peace are truly commendable.

My life's experience has taught me to value peace and equality as the essential components of our existence. They unleash the positive forces of good that are so needed for human progress. My initiatives at the United Nations General Assembly in 1999 on the Culture of Peace, in the Security Council in 2000 on equality of women's participation and in leading the UN system's prioritization of the needs of the world's most vulnerable countries as their champion for six years all show that when head and heart join together to do something big and worthwhile for humanity, no obstacle is insurmountable.

My work has taken me to the farthest corners of the world. From Sierra Leone to Sri Lanka, from Mongolia to Mauritius, from Paraguay to the Philippines, from Kosovo to Kazakhstan, from Bhutan to the Bahamas to Burkina Faso. I have seen time and again the centrality of the culture of peace and women's equality in our lives. This realization has now become more pertinent in the midst of the ever-increasing militarism and militarization that is destroying both our planet and our people.

Peace is integral to human existence - in everything we do, in everything we say and in every thought we have, there is a place for peace. We should not isolate peace as something separate. We should know how to relate to one another without being unpleasant, without being violent, without being disrespectful, without neglect, without prejudice. Once we are able to do that, we are able to take the next step forward in building the culture of peace. We need to focus on empowering the individual so that each one of us becomes - individually - an agent of peace and nonviolence.

The essence of the culture of peace is its message of self-transformation and its message of inclusiveness, of global solidarity, of the oneness of humanity. Let us remember that the work for peace is a continuous process. Each one of us can make a difference in that process. Peace cannot be imposed from outside; it must be realized from within.

The United Nations was born in 1945 out of World War II. The UN Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace was born in 1999 in the aftermath of the Cold War. I was distinctly honored to chair the nine-month-long negotiations that resulted in the consensus adoption by the UN General Assembly of the United Nations Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace. For the last two decades, my focus has been on advancing the culture of peace and I have continued to devote considerable time, energy and effort to do that. The Declaration and Programme of Action is a unanimously adopted document explaining, outlining, and defining everything that the international community has agreed upon as the core focus of the culture of peace.

As you know, in September 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 global goals. The objective of Goal 4 focusing on education is to "Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning." More encouraging is the fact that target 7 of this particular Goal on education mentions that all learners should acquire knowledge to promote, among others, the "culture of peace and non-violence," "gender equality" and "global citizenship."

One soul-stirring inspiration that I have experienced from my work for the culture of peace is that we should never forget that when women - half of the world's seven plus billion people - are marginalized, there is no chance for our world to get sustainable peace in the real sense. It is my strong belief that unless women are engaged in advancing the culture of peace at equal levels at all times with men, sustainable peace would continue to elude us.

Women bring a new breadth, quality and balance of vision to a common effort of moving away from the cult of war towards the culture of peace. I believe wholeheartedly that women's equality makes our planet safe and secure.

Two most significant developments since the 1995 fourth world conferences on women under the United Nations umbrella in Beijing have been the adoption of the UN Security Council's history-making resolution 1325 on "Women and Peace and Security" and agreement on the inclusion of an autonomous, self-standing goal for women's equality and empowerment in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - that is in Goal 5 on women.

UNSCR 1325 is very close to my intellectual existence and my very small contribution to a better world for each one of us. To trace back, more than 17 years ago, on the International Women's Day in 2000, as the President of the Security Council, following extensive opposition by some countries, I was able to issue an agreed statement that formally brought to global attention the role and contribution women have been making towards the prevention of conflict and building of peace which had remained unrecognized, underutilized and undervalued by the Security Council since its first meeting.

The Council recognized in that statement that peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men, and affirmed the value of full and equal participation of women at all decision-making levels. That is when the seed for Resolution 1325 was sown.

The formal resolution followed on 31 October of the same year following this conceptual and political breakthrough in March 2000.

Adoption of 1325 opened a much-awaited door of opportunity for women who have shown time and again that they bring a qualitative improvement in structuring peace and in post-conflict architecture. When women participate in peace negotiations and in the crafting of a peace agreement, they have the broader and long-term interest of society in mind.

We recall that in choosing the three women laureates for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, the citation referred to 1325 saying that "It underlined the need for women to become participants on an equal footing with men in peace processes and in peace work in general."

The Nobel Committee further asserted that "We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society." UNSCR 1325 is the only UN resolution so specifically noted in any citation of the Nobel Prize.

Much, nevertheless, remains to be done.

The core focus of 1325 is "participation." The main question is not to make war safe for women but to structure the peace in a way that there is no recurrence of war and conflict. That is why women need to be at the peace tables; women need to be involved in the decision-making to ensure real and faithful implementation of 1325.

I believe strongly that we would not have to be worrying about countering extremism if women have equality in decision-making enabling them to take measures which would prevent such extremism.

I recall Eleanor Roosevelt's words saying "Too often the great decisions are originated and given shape in bodies made up wholly of men, or so completely dominated by them that whatever of special value women have to offer is shunted aside without expression."

Empowering women's political leadership will have ripple effects on every level of society. When politically empowered, women bring important and different skills and perspectives to the policy making table in comparison to their male counterparts. I would take advantage of the presence here of the Secretary-General of Universal Peace Federation, an organization with many parliamentarians' institutions for peace, to challenge him to make the composition of all these bodies totally gender balanced. I underscore often that when women join politics, they want to DO something. When men join politics, they want to BE something.

Patriarchy and misogyny are humanity's dual scourges pulling back the humanity away from our aspiration for a better world to live in freedom, equality and justice. Gender inequality is an established, proven and undisputed reality - it is all pervasive. It is a real threat to human progress!

I will emphasize here that none of the 17 SDGs will make headway in any real sense, until we make progress in realizing the objective of women's equality and empowerment. Gender equality is a fundamental matter of human rights, democracy and social justice and is also a precondition for sustainable growth and sustainable peace.

On a somber note, let me alert that we are experiencing around the globe an organized, determined rollback of the gains made as well as new attacks on women equality and empowerment - yes, in all parts of the world and in all countries without exception. That global reality is dramatically evidenced in the fact that the UN itself despite being the biggest champion of women's equality has failed to elect a woman secretary-general yet to reverse the historical injustice of having the post occupied by men for its entire seven-decades of its existence.

I join humbly my voice to the architect of feminist foreign policy in Sweden, Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom's assertion on the eve of last year's International Women's Day that "Feminism is a component of a modern view on global politics, not an idealistic departure from it. It is about smart policy which includes whole populations, uses all potential and leaves no one behind. Change is possible, necessary and long overdue."

Let me reiterate that I am proud to be a feminist. All of us need to be. That is how we make our planet a better place to live for all. We should always remember that without peace, development is impossible, and without development, peace is not achievable, but without women, neither peace nor development is conceivable.

Before I conclude, I would to like to address the young people who have joined this year's intergenerational gathering of the Horizon Summit. Its theme is "Rising Side by Side" which is very pertinent in the context of the message of women's equality which I shared now. I would ask you - the young of today - to look into yourselves. In a world where material pursuits are the be-all and end-all of human endeavor, find a real space for spirituality in your life. In your eagerness to get something quickly, never ever sell your soul. I am confident that you will make every effort to rid yourselves and your fellow men and women of the evils of intolerance and prejudice, ignorance and selfishness that compel us to repeat the cycle of discrimination, prejudice and violence.

I love to quote Albert Einstein's words very often in which he alerts the humanity - and this applies to all of us: "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

Click here to see more pictures


Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury is the Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations. The 2018 Global Women's Peace Award was presented to Ambassador Chowdhury on March 17, 2018 during WFWPI's Horizon Summit in New York City.