Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the virtual student observance of the International Day of Peace, in New York on 17 September:
The International Day of Peace is traditionally a day when we call on armed combatants across the world to put down their weapons. But, in a time of pandemic, 24 hours is not nearly enough. That is why, last March, I called for an immediate global ceasefire.
Because now there is only one true enemy: the virus. The pandemic is the biggest threat to peace and security in our world today.
My ceasefire appeal resonated widely with Member States, civil society and even several armed groups. But, spoilers and distrust have proven to be major obstacles to the implementation.
Now, with the virus still raging but also at a time when we are seeing some encouraging steps towards peace, I will use my annual speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday to renew my appeal. The world needs a new push for peace, and I will urge the international community to mobilize to make it happen by the end of the year.
All of you have a role to play in this effort. You do not have to live in a war zone to help foster the atmosphere we need. I am always inspired by how much meaningful action young peacebuilders take every day to make our world a better place. Now, we need you to inspire combatants engaged in battle to stand down and think of the common good.
This observance also takes place as we mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations. We have commemorated this milestone not with celebration but with conversation. In surveys, polls and dialogues, we encouraged young people in particular to share their views about our future. And I am listening closely to your voices. I know you want change — health care for all, opportunities for all, climate action and an end to discrimination. I can also sense your yearning for greater global solidarity. I want that, too. That is the only way forward.
In these difficult times of physical distancing, let us stay connected. Let us exchange ideas on how to turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity for peace and inclusivity. We have seen the virus being used to vilify certain communities and to promote hatred. We have seen it expose the inequalities that have always lurked in our societies. We cannot let that happen. We cannot let the pandemic threaten peace.
We may not be able to stand next to each other. But, we can still strategize together and advocate together and find solutions together. Your contribution to recovery will be crucial because your ideas matter. I hope you will celebrate the International Day of Peace by spreading compassion, kindness and hope among your friends and communities in these troubling times. I hope you will stand together with the United Nations against violence and discrimination. As the theme of this year’s observance tells us, let us shape peace together. And I thank you.