Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury's initiative in March 2000 as the President of the UN Security Council achieved the political and conceptual breakthrough that led to the adoption of the ground breaking UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
Interview - Anwarul K. Chowdhury:
Ambassador at Large for Women, Development, and Peace
In a long and distinguished diplomatic career, Bangladesh Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury has been a tireless advocate for peace, women, children, and the poorest segment of humanity (a UN recognized category that now includes 48 countries). He served as Bangladeshs Permanent Ambassador to the UN and Ambassador to Chile, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela, as well as its High Commissioner to the Bahamas and Guyana. Between 1996 and 2001, Amb. Chowdhury served as President of the Security Council, President of the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), Executive Board, and Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). His initiative in March 2000 as the President of the Security Council achieved the political and conceptual breakthrough that led to the adoption of the ground breaking UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. From 2002 to 2007, he served as Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN for the most vulnerable countries.
Earlier he launched a pioneering UN initiative on the culture of peace and chaired the nine-month-long negotiations that led the General Assembly to adopt, in September 1999, the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, followed by the UN-proclaimed International Decade for Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010). He established in 1997 and coordinated the Friends of Microcredit at the United Nations, a group of more than 50 Ambassadors to the UN. He was also an early advocate for concerted attention to climate change, highlighting the challenges faced by his own country as well as the most vulnerable small island countries. Among other honors, Ambassador Chowdhury has received the U Thant Peace Award, the UNESCO Gandhi Gold Medal for Culture of Peace, and the Spirit of the UN Award.
Interview performed by Peace x Peace at http://www.peacexpeace.org/2011/06/men-we-love-building-a-culture-of-peace/
Ambassador Chowdhury, what inspired you to choose diplomacy as a career and to work for peace?
As a child I had no particular idea about that. I was just curious to know many things, curious to know many people. I love people. It was when I graduated from the university that I felt very strongly that a worthwhile opportunity to serve my country would be to join the diplomatic service. The freedom struggle and the birth of Bangladesh coincided with my young adult years, and the new government sent me to the United Nations as its advocate. I was closely involved in the negotiations from 1972 to 1974 that secured Security Council approval for Bangladeshs full membership in the United Nations. It was one of the impoverished countries in the world, buffeted by war and natural disasters, and it needed international understanding and support.
How did you become sensitized to the issues that have engaged you over the years?
Three things shaped me with regard to issues of peace, equality and rights. One is my parents, my mother and my father. I admire them both very much. The second is the freedom struggle for Bangladesh, and the third is the nature and environment of my land. All these together have a profound and ever-lasting imprint on me.
Tell me what you mean by a culture of peace.
As the UN Declaration on a Culture of Peace emphasizes, peace not only is the absence of conflict, but also requires a positive, dynamic participatory process where dialogue is encouraged and conflicts are solved in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation. I believe the flourishing of the culture of peace and nonviolence will generate a mindset that is the prerequisite for the transition from force to reason, from conflict and violence to dialogue and peace. It will provide the bedrock to support a stable, progressing, and prospering world―a world that is at peace with itself.
To be truly globally oriented, todays leadership needs to ensure that the relevance of nonviolence, tolerance, and democracy is inculcated in every woman and man, children and adults alike. I believe very earnestly that nonviolence can only truly flourish in a culture of peace, when the world is free of poverty, hunger, discrimination, exclusion, intolerance and hatred when women and men can realize their highest potential and live a secure and fulfilling life.
I believe that peace and solidarity are not possible in the real sense unless and until each and every one of us contributes collectively and individually in building the culture of peace and nonviolence in our own lives. The leadership for peace and solidarity needs to focus on empowering the individual so that each one of us becomes individually an agent of peace and nonviolence. I will not have the credibility to aspire for world peace if I am myself not a true believer and reflector of peace and nonviolence in my own life.
As Mahatma Gandhi has said, Nonviolence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being. Without individual commitment, global peace and solidarity is not possible, and is even meaningless. We have to succeed together, or together we shall perish.
The time for the culture of peace has come. It is no longer an idea or just a concept. I believe it is growing into a global movement.
Please tell me about the Human Right to Peace movement and the Santiago Declaration. They are not yet well known.
More than a decade ago, in 1998, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a group of civil society organizations launched a global campaign for the recognition by all of the human right to peace. They declared, We are convinced that it is high time for the human right to peace. They elaborated by underscoring that the right to live is not applied in times of war. This contradiction and the undermining of the universality of human rights must be ended by the recognition of the human right to peace.
Im very proud to say that civil society organizations have been the most forward-looking in advocating for recognition of this right. They adopted a milestone charter in October 2006, The Luarca Declaration on the Human Right to Peace. That articulates forcefully the universality, interdependence, and indivisibility of the human right to peace and the overriding need to achieve international social justice.
Organized by the Spanish Society for International Human Rights Law, the International Congress on the Human Right to Peace, held in Santiago on 9 and 10 December 2010, concluded with the adoption of the Santiago Declaration on the Human Right to Peace and the establishment of the International Observatory of the Human Right to Peace.
Nearly 1800 civil society organizations, as part of a global alliance, jointly forwarded the Santiago Declaration to the UN Human Rights Council to consider it at its session, this month in Geneva. A broad-based consultation with civil society, academics, and lawyers was held in New York last March for briefing and raising awareness. On 24 March this year, the Coalition for Support to the Human Right to Peace was launched by civil society in Worcester, second largest city of Massachusetts. A consultation is being held in Washington DC on 6 June 2011, bringing the issue to the seat of the US government.
What are the prospects for recognition of the Human Right to Peace by the international community?
I believe that global solidarity will not be achieved without the recognition and realization of what are known as the enabling human rights―that is, the right to peace and the right to development.
The human right to peace movement is an attempt to respond to the perils of the globalized, interconnected, interdependent world. Dismissing the human right to peace as vague and declaring that it offers nothing new is an exercise that misses the mark. The emphasis on a human right to peace is innovative and addresses a whole swath of new and interconnected global challenges. The value and validity of this initiative will be realized and appreciated more and more as we are increasingly challenged by the global complexity of achieving sustainable peace. Most of the UN membership are now in support of the Human Right to Peace, but are aiming at achieving a global consensus.
Who are some of the peace pioneers you most admire?
Obviously the names of two great apostles of peace and nonviolence, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. come to my mind first. Mother Teresa continues to inspire me, and I would never forget her gentle encouraging words to work for peace. Of course, Nelson Mandela is a living symbol of peace, and, as a member of the Security Council, among others, I had the opportunity to benefit from his experience in structuring peace in Burundi, particularly with the substantive contribution of the countrys women. Another man of peace who continues to inspire and encourage me in my work for the culture of peace and for advancing womens equal and essential role in all decision making levels is the philosopher and humanist Daisaku Ikeda, a visionary who has devoted more than five decades of his life to working for a truly peaceful and secure world for all.
You came to the UN from a small, young country. How have you been able to accomplish so much?
I realized early that the United Nations recognizes commitment, engagement, and determination. It is a place where a countrys representative has equal opportunity to make her or his mark irrespective of a countrys political, economic, or strategic power. As a matter of fact, I believe that as the representative of a small, otherwise powerless, country, without a unilateral national agenda to pursue, I had greater opportunity to devote my time and energy for issues that have the potential of bringing increased benefits for humanity as a whole. Given this, the only thing that I needed is a strong desire to work for peace, development and human rights so the international community as a whole can benefit from the work of the UN.
Is there anything else youd like to say to PXP readers, women around the world?
Two things: First, I would like them to believe with their head and heart that the seeds of peace exist in all of us, and they must be nurtured by all of us―individually and collectively―so that they flourish. Peace cannot be imposed from outside; it must be generated from within.
Second, and equally important, remember that 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. It formally brought to global attention the unrecognized, under-utilized, and under-valued contribution women have been making to preventing war, to building peace, and to engaging individuals and societies to live in harmony. Never fail to raise your voice in asking for full and effective implementation of 1325.