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Speech by His Majesty the King - United Nations General Assembly, New York

24 April 2018

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,

The realization of lasting peace in the world - is that not our common ambition? More than ever, we need this peace. And more than ever before it is within our reach. It is not a utopia. We must believe in it and act accordingly. The fact that the number of major violent conflicts has tripled since 2010 compels us to react. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are dying, being forcibly displaced or going into exile to survive. Economies are being destroyed. Countries are struggling to rebuild. This should drive us to react with even more determination, as the implementation of Agenda 2030, adopted only 2 years ago, is at risk in many countries due to the conflicts raging there.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the course of its history, at the heart of Europe, Belgium has suffered the full force of bloody conflicts. My country is totally committed to the United Nations and to European integration because both projects support lasting peace based on dialogue, solidarity and respect for one another. Europe was built on 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 a victory over history, but primarily the result of sustained effort. Europe is an inspiring project, which we need to keep working on and improving. It requires constant vigilance and genuine strength of conviction. The lasting peace to which we continue to aspire is more than the absence of war, more even than the creation of institutions. It is fashioning a framework that is respectful of human dignity.

This lasting peace is also the ultimate purpose of the Charter when it invites us "to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to 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 allow everyone to believe in themselves and to express their talents. The dignity of a society depends on its ability to take care of the weakest and the most vulnerable.

That is why Belgium firmly supports the Secretary-General’s counsel to make prevention of violence central to our organization. The 2030 Agenda is an important 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 conflict. In our societies, stimulated, but also made more vulnerable by new technologies, increased vigilance is needed. And in a world where borders are somewhat blurred, we must all be vigilant. Over the years, our organization has developed excellent

instruments for risk detection and mediation. Let us use them fully, with our regional partners. Uniting forces to increase the chances of achieving our goals, does not imply giving up our sovereignty. On the contrary, it means making full use of it.

Over the years, our organization has also developed extensive experience in peace consolidation. To prevent states that are emerging from conflict from slipping back into violence, we all know it is important to have determined national leaders and to restore inclusive and representative institutions that serve the people. Institutions with which the people can identify, and in which they trust. Lasting peace can only be secured by involving the whole of society, particularly women and young people, who represent a growing share of the population in many countries. It is the joint efforts of all these partners, and the ownership of the process, that creates a solid basis for lasting peace.

While peace is forged through action, it needs time for it to take hold. Human relationships are not decreed, they are built, or rebuilt, patiently, through trust. 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, and I quote: "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 and reintegrate. Time is needed to bring to trial and punish. Time is needed for remembrance, and for those who have suffered humiliation to find the strength to reach out again. Conscious of the time necessary to achieve this work, our common duty, in every crisis, is to start building, without delay, the framework which makes lasting peace possible.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our Organisation's failure, in recent years, to prevent wars or bring them to a rapid conclusion should not overshadow its successes. Successes achieved due to the international community's determination when acting for the common good, but also due to the commitment of the parties and the 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 depends, primarily, on our faith in mankind and on our loyalty to the Charter to which we have committed ourselves. Belgium intends to honour this commitment wholeheartedly and to pursue this ambition with determination.