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Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi to peace, sustainable development highlighted at UN

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United Nations: Mahatma Gandhi’s undying inspiration for today’s twin priorities of international peace and sustainable development was hailed Friday as the UN observed Gandhi Jayanthi as International Day of Non-Violence.

Issuing a call to “renew our commitment to non-violence and lives of dignity for all,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Today, at a time of escalating conflicts, rising extremism, massive displacement and rapidly growing humanitarian need, Mahatma Gandhi’s dedication to non-violence remains an example for us all.”

“The new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can also point the way towards reducing violence, promoting harmony between people and planet, and making the world safer for all,” Ban said.

Ban recalled his visit to the Sabarmati Ashram and said that Gandhi’s saying he saw there, “If blood is to be shed, let it be our own,” impressed him.

“Gandhi was calling on people to refuse to kill – instead, to be willing to die to save others.”

Ban unveiled a portrait of Gandhi presented to the UN by India. The painter of the portrait, Raghubir Dayal Parikh, was present at the ceremony. The celebrations featured a program combining a video of Gandhi’s saying and key moments in his life with a live voice presentations and a performance of a cello piece specially composed by Michael Fitzpatrick.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had been scheduled to deliver the presidential address. But Ban said that she “had to return home owing to a family emergency.” He added, “Our thoughts are with her.”

With the just concluded world sustainable development having adopted an ambitious agenda to end poverty and protect the environment, Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar spoke of Gandhi’s relevance the mission calling him “the original sustainable development guru.”

“Appropriately India chose to announce its INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or commitment on lowering greenhouse gas emissions) on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday,” he said in his presidential address. “This was to underline our moral commitment to sustainable development.”

Jaishankar said Mahatma Gandhi’s three guiding principles – -‘ahimsa‘(non-violence), ‘satyagraha‘ (force born of truth) and ‘sarvodaya‘ (uplift of all) — – continue to provide the world with approaches to address a range of complex challenges, many of which may not have even existed during his lifetime.

“In our times, we have seen the growth of religious bigotry and intolerance,” he said. “In many cases, this has directly fueled support and sponsorship of terrorism.”

“Unfortunately, the world has often looked away when terrorists have attacked innocents, assuming that it is not their problem,” he added. “As a believer in the indivisibility of the world and the importance of moral courage, Gandhiji would ask us all to stand up and be counted.”

General Assembly President Mogen Lykketoft quoted Gandhi’s works, “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”

Lykketoft said, “These words resonate with the very principles of the UN Charter; with the UN’s promotion of peaceful settlements to disputes, and the primacy of reaching solutions through diplomacy and other peaceful means.”

During the current General Assembly session there are opportunities for bringing Gandhi’s vision closer to reality, he said. The new sustainable development goals adopted a week ago and the momentum building around climate change show that the universality that Gandhi preached was happening, he added.

“Let us work together for the betterment of our planet and our people” inspired by Gandhi, he said.

Bangladesh Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, a self-described Gandhian, said that even though his father was a Muslim League leader, for him as a youth Gandhi had his own appeal because “he cared for everybody.”

He recalled that as a 14-year-old, he wept as he went around Sylhet conveying the news of Gandhi’s assassination and the condolence meeting for him.

Gandhi led the khilafat movement across India protesting the dismantling of the caliphate in Turkey, Muhith said. But when it turned violent and police were attacked, he called it off because it went against his principle of non-violence.

In today’s world, Gandhi may not have liked the proliferation of technology and the lifestyles, but he would have been impressed by the concern for peace, he said.

South Africa’s Permanent Representative Kinglsley Mamabolo said that Gandhi’s influence was felt in his nation’s constitution that emphasised unversality of its people. India and South Africa are working together for world peace, he said. “We continue to be connected across the ocean.”

Belarus Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Mikhnevich said that Gandhi’s message resonated around the world in the quest for peace. He noted that his president, Alexander Lukashenko, had in his address this week to the General Assembly had cited Gandhi’s saying, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind,” as warning to nations and as a call for peaceful resolution of disputes.

“Let us build our relationships on the basis of peace,” Mikhnevich said.

Kazakhstan’s Permanent Representative Kairat Abdrakhmanov said, “We need to start a global non-violence movement.” Non-violence is a “pillar of the future of humanity,” he added.

Japan’s permanent Representative Motohide Yoshikawa said the life and message of Gandhi should be spread among the younger people. His teachings should be spread beyond India and South Africa, he added.

From Latin America, Brazil’s Permanent Representative Antonio de Aguiar Patriota said that Gandhi was a guide to the world. And Nicaragua’s Permanent Representative Maria Rubiales de Chamorro said that Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, a Catholic priest who was her nation’s foreign minister and a president of the General Assembly was a disciple of Gandhi.

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Australia Rejects U.N. Climate Report, Continues Using Coal

Australia is the world's driest inhabited continent.

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Australia, Coal
The Liddell coal-fired power station is seen in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, Australia. VOA

Australia is rejecting the latest U.N. report on climate change, insisting coal remains critical to energy security and lowering household power bills.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its report released Monday that global greenhouse gas emissions must reach zero by the middle of the century to stop global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The authors warned that if warming was allowed to reach two degrees, the world would be on course toward uncontrollable temperatures.

Climate change, Australia
The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation’s top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Georgia. VOA

They made special mention of coal, insisting that its use for power generation would have to fall to between zero and two percent of current usage.

The report has received a lukewarm response by Australia’s center-right government. It has said it has no intention of scaling back fossil fuel production because without coal, household power bills would soar.

Canberra also insists it is on target to meet its commitments under the Paris agreement, which attempts to unite every nation under a single accord to tackle climate change for the first time ever.

Australia earns billions of dollars exporting coal to China and other parts of Asia, while it generates more than 60 percent of domestic electricity.

Queensland, Australia
FILE – A dead tree stands near a water tank in a drought-stricken paddock located on the outskirts of the southwestern Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, Aug. 10, 2017. (VOA)

Australia’s Environment Minister Melissa Price believes the IPCC report exaggerates the threat posed by fossil fuel.

“Coal does form a very important part of the Australian energy mixer and we make no apology for the fact that our focus at the moment is on getting electricity prices down,” Price said. “Every year, there is new technology with respect to coal and what its contribution is to emissions. So, you know, to say that it has got to be phased out by 2050 is drawing a very long bow.”

Australia has some of the world’s highest per capita rates of greenhouse gas pollution. A recent government report showed a failure to reduce levels of greenhouse gas pollution. The survey said that between January and March this year, Australia had its most elevated levels of carbon pollution since 2011.

Coal, Australia
Workers operate machines at a coal mine at Palaran district in Samarinda, Indonesia (VOA)

Conservationists argue Australia is doing too little to protect itself from the predicted ravages of a shifting climate.

Also Read: Use Every Resources To Help in Climate Change: Scientists

Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent. Scientists warn that droughts, floods, heat waves, brush fires and storms will become more intense as temperatures rise, with potentially disastrous consequences for human health and the environment, including the Great Barrier Reef. (VOA)