I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.
It has now been eight years that this Assembly has adopted the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace and non-violence for the Children of the World. The fact that we have just commemorated for the first time the International Day of Non-Violence, on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Ghandi, demonstrates how actual and important the quest for instituting a culture of peace and non-violence remain in the current days.
We would like to thank the Secretary-General for transmitting the report of the Director-General of UNESCO on the annual progress on the International Decade on a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010), which presents an overview of the activities carried out by UNESCO, as the lead agency for the Decade, with the participation of other United Nations entities, Governments and civil society actors.
We would like to commend UNESCO for the work carried out so far and in particular for the efforts to effectively coordinate and engage a very large number of bodies and organizations within and outside of the United Nations system.
The European Union is convinced of the primarily importance of education in promoting a culture of peace. It is by investing our efforts in the youngest members of our society, and also in education through life, that we can best mainstream the principles of peace, tolerance and protection and promotion of human rights.
Education empowers every citizen of every country in the world by giving him the tools to participate more actively in his community and to shape and improve his future. It also offers the best opportunity to teach respect and tolerance towards cultural diversity and to combat discrimination on any ground. It is undeniable that education plays a very important role in changing mindsets and behavioural patterns and that it should be more and more used to foster a culture of peace.
Human Rights Education is particularly relevant in this context. As we approach the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, it is of grave concern that the universal and effective recognition and observance of the rights and freedoms proclaimed in it remains to be realized. Being aware of your human rights is an important contribution to ensure the long overdue full implementation of the Universal Declaration. This is why the European Union welcomes the extension recently adopted by the Human Rights Council of the first phase of implementation of the World Programme for Human Rights Education and hopes that we can all join efforts in supporting this and other initiatives to achieve this goal. In this regard, we very much look forward to the Regional European Meeting on the World Programme for Human Rights Education that is to be organized next week by the Council of Europe, in co-operation with OHCHR, UNESCO and OSCE/ODIHIR.
Gender mainstreaming and action to ensure equality between women and men are also a very important aspect in promoting a culture of peace. We welcome the role played by UNESCO in supporting the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security. We also welcome the increasing emphasis on the need to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women and in particular the girl child, as demonstrated by the focus of the 51st session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
As for the non-violence for the Children of the World, we are initiating the first year of implementation of the recommendations on the UN Study on Violence against Children, which has been a strong catalyst for change. The EU hopes that this Assembly will seize the opportunity at the present session to agree on the establishment of a high-level mechanism to promote the further implementation of those recommendations.
A very essential aspect of promoting a culture of peace, which has been recognized as such by the Programme of Action, is the work to advance understanding, tolerance and solidarity by promoting dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples.
We thank the Secretary-General for his report on Interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace, which highlights activities carried out by key United Nations entities involved in the field of interreligious and intercultural dialogue.
As the EU has stated in the recent General Assembly High-Level Dialogue on Interreligious and Intercultural Understanding and Cooperation for Peace, the importance of inter-civilisational understanding is strongly reflected in European Union policy and action. The EU is active in promoting intercultural and interreligious understanding, both within Europe and with international partners.
The EU fully supports the Alliance of Civilizations initiative aimed at improving understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions and, in the process, to help counter the forces that fuel polarization and extremism.
The EU welcomes the appointment by the Secretary-General of Jorge Sampaio, former President of Portugal, as High Representative for the Alliance, and the action-oriented implementation plan developed by the latter which is already being implemented by the Alliance in partnership with Governments, international and regional organizations, civil society groups, foundations and the private sector. We look forward for the first international forum of the Alliance, to be held in Spain in January 2008, and the further contribution of this initiative to our common goals.
I thank you Mr. President.