United Nations World Inter-Faith Harmony Week 2019

Remarks by Ms. Mikiko Tanaka, UN Resident Coordinator, at a State Prayer Breakfast

At the core of all the faith systems and traditions is the recognition that we are all in this together and that we need to love and support one another to live in harmony and peace in the world.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says:

“Wherever we live, whatever our circumstances or place in society, our race, colour, gender or sexual orientation, language, religion, opinion, nationality or economic status, we are all equal in human rights and in dignity.  Our world continues to be beset by conflict and intolerance with rising number of refugees and the internally displaced in a hostile and unwelcoming world around them. We are also unfortunately witnessing messages of hate spreading discord among people. The need for spiritual guidance has never been greater. It is imperative that we double our efforts to spread the message of good neighborliness based on our common humanity, a message shared by all faith traditions.”

The Sustainable Development Agenda (Agenda 2030) adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015 states that “there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.” Peace is identified as one of five areas of ‘critical importance for humanity and the planet’ – along with people, prosperity, the planet, and partnerships.  

Of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 16 is to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

SDG16 recognizes that building peaceful, just and inclusive societies that provide equal access to justice and that are based on respect for human rights (including the right to development) requires effective rule of law and good governance at all levels and on transparent, effective and accountable institutions.

Recent political developments triggered by the no-confidence vote at the National Assembly are a test for Guyana’s strength and integrity with regards to the effectiveness of the rule of law and good governance.  Yesterday’s delivery of the decisions by the acting Chief Justice demonstrated the independence and integrity of the Judiciary in protecting the Constitution and upholding the rule of law.  The Honourable Speaker’s earlier validation of the process and result of the controversial voting at the National Assembly were a testimony to the integrity of the Legislative arm of the State.  It is hoped that the third arm of the State, the Executive, will demonstrate its integrity and respect of Guyana’s Constitution and the judiciary that constitute the foundations of rule of law and good governance.   

The future big test for Guyana is the General Elections.  As the tumultuous history of elections in Guyana still distils fear and mistrust among citizens, the conduct of political parties in their words and actions is absolutely critical in putting an end to racial and other divisions in society, and to reshape the relationship between citizens and the state true to its motto of One Nation, One People and One Destiny.  Voting citizens, young and senior, women and men, should inform themselves of issues that affect their lives and the wider society and what they should expect and demand of political parties in shaping the future Guyana.  Everyone’s voice and vote must count.

An electoral period near the first arrival of oil revenues is as best an opportunity a country can have for positive societal change.  The Green State Development Strategy offers a clear vision and abundant information on the development issues and possible solutions for Guyana and its people.  As with the many development strategies of all governments since independence, the challenge will always lie in the implementation and the delivery of tangible results for everyone. Sustainable development depends on cooperation and coordination not just of various levels and departments of government but also of civil society, religious bodies and the citizenry itself.  Citizens should have discussions among themselves and with political parties on how this optimal cooperation should look like.            

The role of faith-based organisations can be instrumental in fostering the right values and norms for this societal change so fundamental to sustainable development that leaves no one behind.  Religious leaders can reach out to their own communities and advocate a message of inclusion and understanding. Please build bridges across and between communities. Please help to reduce polarization and develop inclusive societies in which diversity in experience is an asset.

From democracy to the imminent arrival of oil revenues next year, every discussion and debate will be all the more fruitful if the messages shared by religious leaders here today are taken more to heart by politicians and ordinary citizens alike.  Encouraging dialogue, understanding, compassion and compromise will lead to positive results and attitudes across the country.

The message of commitment to peace and harmony delivered here today lays the foundation that makes achieving the goals more within our reach.  The United Nations system supports this positive change for sustainable and inclusive development in Guyana and the world.           

UN entities involved in this initiative
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
International Labor Organization
International Organization for Migration
Pan American Health Organization
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Children’s Fund
World Health Organization