Speech by King Philippe at the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly

Speech by His Majesty the King of the Belgians
at the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly
on consolidating and sustaining peace

New York, Tuesday 24 April 2018


Mr President of the General Assembly,
Mr Secretary-General,
Heads of State and Government,
Distinguished delegates,

Realizing a lasting peace in the world, isn’t that our common ambition? This peace is more than ever necessary, but also more than ever within reach. It is not an utopia. We have to believe in it and act in accordance. The fact that the number of major violent conflicts has tripled since 2010 compels us to react. Hundreds of thousands of women, men and children are dying, being forcibly displaced or going into exile to survive. Economies are being destroyed. Countries are struggling to rebuild. Realizing this compels us to react with even more determination that the implementation of Agenda 2030, adopted only 2 years ago, is at risk in a lot of countries because the conflicts that are going on there.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the course of its history, at the heart of Europe, Belgium suffered the full force of bloody conflicts. My country committed itself fully to the United Nations and to European construction, because both projects support lasting peace based on dialogue, solidarity and respect for one another. Europe was formed through profound reconciliation and gradual rapprochement. For a country like mine, which has for centuries been a land of battlefields, being home to the capital of a peaceful Europe, is not only victory on history, but primarily the result of sustained effort. Europe is an inspiring project, which we need continue building and improving. It requires constant vigilance and a real force of conviction. The lasting peace we aim at, is more than the absence of war, even more than the creation of institutions. It is fashioning a framework respectful of human dignity.

This lasting peace is also the ultimate purpose of the Charter when it invites “to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”. As stated in its preamble, the Charter is based on “the dignity and worth of the human person”. Our ambition is to create societies in which nobody is humiliated, in which nobody is left behind, societies which offer everyone the possibility to have confidence in himself and to express his talents. The dignity of a society depends of its ability to take care of the weakest and the most fragile.

That is why Belgium firmly supports the direction given by the Secretary-General to make prevention of violence central to our organization. The 2030 Agenda is such an instrument of prevention, and therefore of development. Reducing poverty, inequality and discrimination, ensuring the protection of and respect for human rights, recognizing the equal place of women in society, combating environmental degradation and establishing resilient institutions able to detect and manage ordinary disputes; all these actions address the root causes of conflicts.  In our societies, stimulated, but also made more vulnerable by new technologies, an increased vigilance is needed. And in a world with more fuzzy frontiers, this vigilance is assigned to every one of us. Over the years, our organization has developed performing instruments of risk detection and mediation. Let us use them fully, together with the regional partners. Uniting forces in order to better achieve our goals, doesn’t imply to give up sovereignty, but, to the contrary, to use it thoroughly.

Our organization has also developed a long experience on peace consolidation. In order to avoid that States coming out of a conflict would fall again into violence, we know how important the role is of determined national leaders and of restoring inclusive and representative institutions, in the service of people. Institutions in which they recognize themselves and in which they trust. Lasting peace can only be secured by involving women and young people, who in many countries represent a growing share of the population. It is the common work of all these partners, and the appropriation of the process, that creates the solid basis for lasting peace.

While peace is forged through action, it takes hold through the effect of time. Human relationships are not decreed, they are patiently built, or rebuilt. Conflicts and wars cause wounds so deep that the end of hostilities is only the beginning of a long journey. When addressing the Knesset in 1977, the former Egyptian President, Anwar al-Sadat, highlighted perfectly the need to reconfigure the relationships between parties. He said: "There remains another wall. This wall constitutes a psychological barrier between us, a barrier of suspicion, of rejection, of fear, of deception, a barrier of distorted and eroded interpretation of every event and statement. Today, I ask you why don't we stretch out our hands with faith and sincerity so that together we might destroy this barrier?" End of quote. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, time is needed to heal wounds caused by humiliation and violence. Time is needed to demobilize, disarm, reintegrate. Time is needed to judge and punish. Time is needed to remember and for victims of humiliations to find themselves the strength to stretch out their hand again. Conscious of the time necessary to achieve this work, our common duty, in every crisis situation, is, without allowing for any delay, to build the framework which makes lasting peace possible.

Mesdames et Messieurs,

Our Organisation's failure in recent years to prevent wars or bring them to a rapid conclusion must not overshadow the successes achieved due to the international community's determination when it acts for the common good, but also due to the commitment of the parties and leaders concerned.  However, the scale, complexity and duration of today's many ongoing conflicts must encourage us to find other ways, which will ultimately bring us closer to the lasting peace that is the subject of our discussions today. The task is not easy, but it rests first of all on our faith in mankind and on our loyalty to the Charter to which we have committed ourselves. Belgium wishes to fully uphold this commitment and to pursue this ambition with determination.