At Baku Forum UNESCO reaffirms power of UN to sustain peace, multilateralism and intercultural dialogue

The fundamental value of the United Nations (UN) in sustaining peace in the context of global transformations towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda was at the centre of the panel “Building Peace: 70 years of the UN Action towards a culture of prevention”, which took place on 6 May during the 4th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue (Baku, Azerbaijan, 4-6 May 2017). It brought together an eminent panel of speakers, who shared their different perspectives on the achievements, dilemmas and challenges of the UN System in promoting a peace agenda worldwide. 
Nada Al-Nashif, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Social and Human Sciences, delivered welcoming remarks. Moderated by Jens Boel, UNESCO Chief Archivist, the panel featured Araz Azimov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, Christian Guillermet, Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, Zalmay Khalilzad, former Ambassador of the Unites States of America to the UN, David Fernandez, UNESCO Consultant, and Professor Priyankar Upadhyaya.
The event provided an opportunity to present key outcomes of a major on-going research project conducted by UNESCO jointly with the Abat Oliba CEU University in Barcelona (Spain) on “Progress and Challenges for the Peace Agenda of United Nations entities after 70 years of the creation of the United Nations: a reflection in the context of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures”, which aims at analyzing the contribution of the UN system to the promotion of peace.
The interventions covered different approaches to peace, focusing in particular on the multiple dimensions of the UN’s work, which has undergone critical changes over time in light of global socio-political transformations. 
As the core pillar of its action, peace has always been at the heart of the UN. While the peace agenda has been in the past largely dominated by inter-state or intra-state security considerations, the UN system is now moving away from a narrow definition of peace. In this respect, speakers reiterated that peace is not merely absence of war or violent conflict. They emphasized the importance of regional arrangements as a practical and effective approach to peacebuilding. 
Mr Azimov stated that academic researches on peace should bridge theory with practice through realistic assessments. While prevention remains important, he said, one should remember that prevention cannot be applicable in every context. He stressed UN Resolutions should be implemented to achieve practical solutions. 
Offering an overview of the conceptual evolution of the notion of peace within the UN, Professor Priyankar recalled the basic imperatives of sustaining peace – a new holistic approach that recognizes everybody’s participation in building peace, including women and youth. He said that peace is a long journey that needs to be accompanied by equal efforts in the areas of peace and security, human rights and development.
Ambassador Guillermet shared his personal experience relating to the UN Declaration on the Right to Peace, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2016. Recalling that every human being has the right to enjoy peace, he affirmed that international peace treaties or declarations should be based on consensus, to make them effective. He said the Agenda 2030 offered an excellent opportunity to building peaceful, just and inclusive societies through a human-rights based approach. 
Speaking about the legal dimensions of UN peace work, Dr Fernandez stressed that the UN Charter was the most important international legal instrument adopted over the past 70 years. He argued that the Charter laid grounds for modern multilateralism based on transparency and equality.
Ambassador Khalilzad stated that in today’s increasingly complex world, the effectiveness of UN has been under question. He therefore called for an honest and critical assessment of the UN. Timely intervention is a key prerequisite for making UN peace building work efficient. 
Panelists underscored that cultural and developmental dimensions of peacebuilding are being recognized as complimentary inputs to security arrangements to achieve sustainable peace. They highlighted that in the present inter-connected world, peace should be seen as a broad, peoples-centered transformative process supported by “soft power” approaches, including education for peace, intercultural dialogue, respect for human rights and human dignity, social inclusion and sustainable development. They welcomed UNESCO’s efforts to harness the power of education to “build the defenses of peace in the minds of women and men”.