Speech - International Day of Peace 2014 - UNDP Resident

Sep 21, 2014

Remarks by

Eugene Owusu

UNDP Resident Representative





21 September 2014

Army conference hall, Awash Arba



Your Excellency, Ato Shiferaw Teklemariam, Minister of Federal Affairs,

Your Excellency, Ato Ismael Ali Sirro, President of Afar Regional State,

Your Excellency, Ato Abdi Omar Mohammed, President Somali Regional State,

Traditional leaders,

Senior Government Officials,

Development Partners,

Members of the media,

UN colleagues,

Kiburan ina Kiburat,


I thank the Ministry of Federal Affairs for organizing this important event.


International Day of Peace is celebrated each year around the world on 21 September.  In New York, this important event is marked by the traditional ringing of the Peace Bell.


A gift from Japan that hangs from a wooden beam in a garden in front of United Nations Headquarters, the Peace Bell has tolled every year in a solemn call for peace since 1981, when the General Assembly established the International Day of Peace to coincide with its opening session every September. 


This year, the theme of the Day is the Right of Peoples to Peace, and it specifically recognizes the 30th anniversary of the General Assembly Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace. The preamble to that Declaration stresses that “the maintenance of a peaceful life for peoples is the sacred duty of each State”.


As we look around the world today, from CAR to South Sudan, from Syria to Iraq, we see the heavy toll that conflict takes on lives, communities, and whole countries. We see why conflict is called development in reverse. We see why we must mark this day with extra force and conviction.


And we see why the United Nations continues to work for sustainable peace across the world. We strive to prevent conflicts before they erupt – to resolve disputes through peaceful means – and to help people build the foundations of lasting peace.


At the centre of those foundations for peace is the need for tolerance. Mechachal – what I love about this word is that it is not passive. It clearly calls for an action, based on conviction and strength on both sides, to demonstrate commitment to cohesion in order to make peace a reality. To bring peace down to earth.


If we respect each other’s rights to be different and think differently from ourselves; if we view our diversity as a strength – irrespective of where we come from, the ethnicities we represent, the gods we worship, the languages we speak, the traditions we hold, the history we have, and the ideas and opinions we hold – then we can draw on the best of our humanity and the best of our skills and build together a bright, prosperous and peaceful future.


Ethiopia is blessed with an incredible diversity of cultures nations, nationalities, and religions which its constitution safeguards. The late Prime Minister, Melles Zenawi, once said, and I quote: “Democratic federalism has enabled us to forge a common Ethiopian identity – one that is not separate and above our diverse identities, but one that is constituted by the magnificence of such diversity. It has become the bedrock upon which a stable and peaceful nation is being constituted. It has become the solid basis upon which we are building a young and dynamic nation out of one of the oldest states on earth.”


I commend the Government of Ethiopia for continuing to strengthen its conflict prevention architecture, for the development progress it has made, and for building community level resilience.


Still, challenges remain. These relate to issues such as promoting equitable access to social services across the regions; reducing unemployment, especially for young people; building a more vibrant private sector; managing diversity; and expanding political space for wider voice and participation so people are better able to influence and benefit from the decisions which affect their lives.


On Monday I addressed the House of People’s Representatives. I stressed that as Ethiopia strives to deepen democratic governance, we know that there is no single model of democracy and Ethiopia needs to own its own democratic transition. But we also know that democracies share some important common features – such as equality before the law; the values of tolerance and compromise; and, of particular importance to Ethiopia at this point in time, regular credible, free and fair elections.


UNDP, together with the Government and its development partners, is developing a programme of support to help Ethiopia prepare for and conduct next year’s national elections. We are very passionate to see that this programme is successfully implemented because we see democracy and good governance not as important ends in themselves. They are also important means to improve and secure development, to promote social cohesion, and to strengthen a country’ foundation for peace.


UNDP is also a proud supporter of the Ministry of Federal Affairs in strengthening the national conflict prevention architecture through capacity development for conflict mitigation and peace-building. It also assists the government in establishing and implementing conflict early warning mechanisms for thorough conflict analysis and rapid response by the federal and regional governments, and communities.


Through these investments in peace and stability, UNDP is striving to strengthen Ethiopia’s infrastructure for peace, to promote tolerance and human rights, and to ensure that grievances and differences can be solved peacefully and without resorting to violence. 


Ethiopia is not just working to promote peace within its borders. Ethiopia has played and continues to play a leading role in strengthening human security and peace-building in the Horn of Africa and on the continent as a whole. It has done so by supporting efforts to resolve ongoing conflicts and by providing support to peacekeeping operations across Africa.


I also commend Ethiopia for its ongoing open-door policy towards refugees, and for its generosity in hosting around 630,000 men, women, and children who have turned to Ethiopia for a safe haven. Sadly, we expect the numbers of refugees to continue growing as a result of fighting in South Sudan in particular.

On a recent trip to Gambella, I saw firsthand the heartbreaking situation faced by the refugees feeling violence in South Sudan, leaving family, friends, and possessions behind.


Their plight was a stark reminder that we cannot enjoy development without security; we cannot enjoy security without development; and we cannot enjoy either without respect for human rights. 



As we celebrate this International Day of Peace, let us all work to prevent conflicts before they emerge and to promote sustainable development for all.


Let us all renew our efforts to promote peace within and beyond Ethiopia.


Let us all work together to protect the sacred right of peoples to peace.

Wagri yenek hcandalalsitaanah. When there is peace there is freedom


Thank you.

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Ethiopia 
Go to UNDP Global