Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of International Day of Peace
21 September 2019
“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.”
At a time when global warming is threatening the future of the planet, Benjamin Franklin’s warning can leave nobody indifferent or unmoved.
International Day of Peace, whose theme this year is “Climate Action for Peace”, thus draws attention to the consequences of global disruption on keeping the peace.
Climate change is geopolitical change, the implications of which for the preservation of peace can no longer be underestimated. When water becomes scarce, conflicts over access to resources multiply, and “water wars” become more than just hypotheses. When natural disasters, which are becoming more frequent and more intense with global warming, force people to leave their homes; when the salinization of crops and water threatens food security, and when repeated episodes of drought exacerbate poverty and tension, peace is at risk.
The effects of climate change on maintaining stability are already a reality for many people around the world, from the Sahel to the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. And many other regions of the world might be threatened tomorrow.
This is an emergency. July 2019 was the warmest month ever measured. Meeting the central aim of the Paris Agreement – to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – is becoming if not unlikely, then at least uncertain.
The United Nations General Assembly, which is taking place this month, is a unique opportunity to rally the actors concerned by this life-or-death struggle. On 23 September, at the Climate Action Summit, Heads of State and Government, business leaders and civil society actors will present ambitious and achievable plans to ensure compliance with the Paris Agreement.
The Summit shows us that climate action can also foster understanding among peoples, that spirit of “the intellectual and moral solidarity” of humanity described in UNESCO’s Constitution.
Climate change is a complex issue, at the confluence of science, education, culture and communication: this is why UNESCO, by virtue of its multidisciplinary nature, is mobilizing in the struggle for the planet and for peace.
By supervising numerous scientific studies, strengthening the resilience of societies and raising awareness of the need for education systems to further integrate Education for Sustainable Development into programmes, UNESCO is taking action every day on climate change. At the United Nations General Assembly in the next few days, UNESCO will endeavour in particular to highlight all of these subjects in order to make them more than just a priority, but an imperative.
“One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between humanity and nature shall not be broken,” wrote Leo Tolstoy. It is now up to us to do everything we can to ensure that the link remains intact.