Gandhi’s Message Relevant To Resolving World Crises: UNGA Chief

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The legacy of Mahatma Gandhi has proven the “most durable and enduring”, UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces has said as she voiced her commitment to peace and security and representing Gandhi’s ideals in the current session of the 193-member world body.

Speaking at an event titled ‘Non-violence in Action’, Garces said she was committed to bringing the United Nations closer to the people that the world body is here to serve, to leave no one behind and to beyond a narrow focus or definition of national interest.

Gandhi’s name and image evoke the “concepts of peace, restraint and passivity, even in the face of violence and extremism” as the world faces both challenges and hopes. She was speaking at the Gandhi Jayanti celebration that is observed here annually as the International Day of Nonviolence, where UN Postal System stamps were issued honouring the Gandhian concept of peace.

The dialogue between the leaders of South and North Korea and the peace agreement between Djibouti and Eritrea were positive examples of trying to progress peace and an inspiration “for those countries still at odds, for those who would continue to pick up arms,” she said. Further added, “They required work and determination, they required compromise, patience, compassion and forgiveness.”

Garces, who is only the fourth woman President of the General Assembly in its 73 year history, paid homage to veteran Indian diplomat Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, who wrote history by becoming the first woman to be elected President of the General Assembly in as early as 1953. The UNGA President also noted that entire generations had lived and died without ever really appreciating the true legacy of a man who worked tirelessly in a country on the other side of the world.

Addressing the event, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Achim Steiner said Gandhi was perhaps one of the greatest advocates and visionaries of sustainable development for humanity. He said Gandhi, who was a champion for uncompromising truth and non-violence in his time, would be a passionate proponent of sustainable development in current times. Steiner also stressed that Gandhi’s philosophy is reflected in the words ‘leave no one behind’ a central tenet of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Underscoring the unprecedented scale of tragedy, she said an estimated 124 million people across 51 countries were food insecure, nearly 140 million people required humanitarian assistance and over 30 million people were displaced, either by disasters or by conflict. She, however, stressed that even in the face of such challenges, humanity yearns for peace and harmony, principles that Gandhi espoused, giving nations cause for hope.