MR. AZRIL ABD AZIZ
DEPUTY PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE
PERMANENT MISSION OF MALAYSIA TO THE UNITED NATIONS
ON ITEM 15: CULTURE OF PEACE
AT THE PLENARY MEETING OF
THE 75TH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
NEW YORK, 1 DECEMBER 2020
This year has been a taxing and testing year for humanity. We have heard the difficulties of communities and states in facing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially we were in a state of shock, as we saw the manner and speed of how the COVID-19 virus spread to every corner of the world. The state of shock turned into despair and sorrow as we witnessed the increase numbers of death which continue today and are in the millions. We found hope and resolve in ourselves, as humanity came together in a global effort to fight the pandemic. Through unity and multilateralism, we hope to fight this new common enemy that had emerged.
Nonetheless, when we thought things could not get any worse, we were struck particularly by the increase in racial attacks, xenophobic violence, discrimination and hate speech, exacerbating the COVID-19 situation that was already appalling. Now, not only health is under siege, but also peace. We must admit that more needs to be done to halt this old but common enemy.
When Malaysia became the 82nd member of the United Nations on 17 September 1957, we did so with a sense of duty, pride and honour. It didn’t matter that our fledgling nation was only less than a month old. Our first Permanent Representative, Tun Dr. Ismail stated, I quote “To a small nation such as ours, it is in the moral strength of our people that we shall find the inspiration to shoulder the responsibility which membership in the UN bestows on us”. The moral strength of Malaysians, our people is the foundation of Malaysia’s nation building process. Our moral strength includes embracing differences and peculiarities. It includes learning to love, accept, understand and appreciate the diversity, distinctiveness and uniqueness of others. We believe in the importance of mutual respect, tolerance and in promoting understanding and acceptance between different groups, faiths and religions. We see ourselves as an example of how different ethnic communities can live in peace and harmony, work together for the progress and well-being of the nation. These principles are critical foundations which have allowed us to enjoy peace and prosperity as a nation. The same moral compass that has guided our nation building process throughout the years, guides us in our relations with the global community. We have also learnt to love and embrace the diversity, distinctiveness, and uniqueness of nation states that make-up the global community. It is the same ideas and knowledge that we have shared with our people for the common good of the nation that we are now sharing with the global community.
Malaysia is fully supportive and strongly committed to fostering a global culture of respect for peace and non-violence, inter-cultural dialogue and social inclusion where human values, human rights and dignity are truly celebrated. Our success in nation building is not only premised on the moral strength of our people, but also on the advancements and empowerment of human rights and the rule of law. The holistic approach of human rights not only focuses on fundamental freedoms and the liberation of people as enshrined in the Malaysian constitution, but also in ensuring a balance in the promotion and protection of human rights.
The simple fostering of human rights without any check and balance of any kind has both a positive and a negative side. For rights per se is not an end in itself. All should understand that rights that are conferred, come with responsibility. If not, we would not only be reaping positive benefits of human rights, but also be facing with the unwanted growth of the negative effects of unchecked rights. Malaysia believes in the constellation of human rights, if rights are not promoted and protected in a balanced manner, or if one right is pursued more than others, all other rights and freedoms suffer an eclipse. Human rights and fundamental freedoms must complement one another. Rights should not be in competition with one another nor should one right be seen as superior to another. The freedom of expression for example, should not usurp the freedom of belief, or vice versa.
The promotion and protection of human rights in a balanced manner is not without challenges. For the challenge we face nationally, also remains a challenge faced in this august institution. We must admit the hard truth and reality, that there have been instances where some delegations have advocated or pushed one right over another. We must work together to address this and find mutual respect and understanding among member states.
It is important that we rise beyond hate and fear, and continue in our resolve to further enhance positive interaction among nations and peoples of diverse cultures and values. We need closer collaboration among all Member States in exploring ways to further strengthen the culture of peace by way of sharing of experiences and best practices in enhancing cohesion between individuals, communities and nations. We must not allow irresponsible individuals and groups to take advantage of a world facing despair of a pandemic and continue to spread racism, hate speech, religious discrimination and xenophobia unchecked.
It is also important that we recommit ourselves to the basic principles of the UN Declaration and Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace adopted by the UN General Assembly back in September 1999. The international community should strengthen its ongoing efforts to promote the Culture of Peace and effectively implement the Programme of Action. We welcome the UN Strategy and Plan of Action (POA) on Hate Crimes and call for its implementation. Malaysia also commends the work of the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) in promoting intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation.
As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and build back better, let us not forget that the quest for peace is for our people and the global community. The rise of racism, hate speech and religious discrimination as well as the siege against peace must stop, as it is not in the interest of any state or person. We must be united in addressing and facing this threat. For that, we have to be steadfast to the cause of peace, human rights and justice. The preservation of harmony and peace whether nationally or globally, is not easy. But we have to do what is right, not what is easy. As to abandon such cause, is not an option.
Let me conclude, by assuring Malaysia’s full commitment to our common goals of achieving a sustainable, peaceful and prosperous world through the promotion of a culture of peace.
I thank you.