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Section six of ten of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s 2016 peace proposal, “Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace.”
Next, I would like to offer ideas on three areas that require prompt and coordinated action by governments and civil society:
These proposals are oriented toward the ideal of a world in which no one is left behind, as articulated in the SDGs.
The first of these key areas is humanitarian aid and the protection and promotion of human rights. Specifically, I would like to offer two concrete proposals for the World Humanitarian Summit set to take place in Istanbul this May.
related article Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace All people have the right to live in happiness. The prime objective of our movement is to forge an expanding solidarity of ordinary citizens committed to protecting that right and, in this way, to rid the world of needless suffering. Our activities in support of the UN are a natural and necessary expression of this. First, I call on all participants at the summit to reaffirm the principle that our response to the worsening refugee crisis must first and foremost be based on international human rights law, and I urge them to express a clear commitment to the primacy of protecting the lives and rights of refugee children.
The number of displaced people seeking refuge in foreign lands is at a post-World War II high. Within the receiving countries there are increasing concerns about the spread of social instability, the increase in government outlays on humanitarian assistance and the possibility of infiltration by terrorists under the guise of asylum-seekers. While each country may need to take measures related to these concerns, any response to the refugee crisis must be based on the commitment to protect human life and dignity that constitutes the very core of international human rights law.
In ways that parallel the situation of people who have lost their homes in natural disasters and have been forced to live in temporary shelters, conflict and war uproot in an instant the lives of countless people, robbing them of all sense of hope. More than anything, we must remember that the greatest victims of armed conflict are the children who constitute more than half of all refugees.
Last year marked the tenth anniversary of Resolution 1612, the UN Security Council’s measure regarding the protection of children affected by armed conflict. In addition to safeguarding children from being exposed to violence or exploitation in the midst of armed conflict, there is an urgent need to provide protection to children who have fled the ravages of war.
In the SDGs, children head the list of those who are vulnerable to and will be most seriously affected by various threats. UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake has stated: “Every child has the right to the quiet blessing of a normal childhood.” Protecting the right of children to enjoy this blessing should be the cornerstone of international support for displaced persons.
related article Soka Gakkai in America: Focused on Servant Leadership and Dialogic Teaching by William Aiken, director of public affairs, SGI-USA Reflecting upon the SGI-USA community, William Aiken provides a Buddhist perspective on the future trends for religion in the US. Humanitarian emergencies can only be said to have been resolved when the children whose lives were impacted can move beyond those bitter experiences to advance with hope in their hearts. For people who have been forced to flee their homes and are working to rebuild their lives in a new land, the presence of smiling, hope-filled children will serve as a source of inspiration and strength.
My second appeal to the World Humanitarian Summit is to come to an agreement to strengthen UN programs in support of host countries taking in refugees in the Middle East, and to prioritize a similar approach in other regions of Asia and Africa.
UN statistics show that almost nine out of ten refugees have sought safety in regions and countries considered less economically developed. The overwhelming number of displaced people has put these already vulnerable host communities under great strain, to the point that they are having difficulty providing access to safe water and other public services. Many of them are unable to sustain their support of refugees without international cooperation.
The Preamble of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees refers to the fact that granting asylum may place “unduly heavy burdens” on certain countries, and states that a satisfactory solution cannot be achieved without international cooperation. I believe that it is vital for the global community to keep in mind the spirit of international cooperation that imbues the Convention in addressing the needs of refugees and internally displaced persons.
In my peace proposal last year, I called for the development of regional joint empowerment programs in which educational and employment assistance projects would embrace both the refugee and local populations, especially youth and women in recipient countries.
Peace Proposal 2016
Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace by Daisaku Ikeda, President, Soka Gakkai International In his annual peace proposal released on January 26, 2016, titled “Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace,” Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist association, calls for intensified efforts to respond to the needs of humanity’s most vulnerable, including those displaced by conflict in Syria and elsewhere or by natural disasters. Currently, a UN initiative that combines refugee relief operations with support for recipient communities is being implemented in five countries in the Middle East. This new aid architecture, the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP), is designed to provide direct support to Syrian refugees as well as to host country populations by improving quality of life and employment opportunities through upgrading the local social infrastructure. It aims to build a framework of international cooperation to help stabilize the region and ease the burdens faced by Turkey and Lebanon, which have each accepted more than one million refugees, as well as the pressures on neighboring Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, where a large number of Syrians have sought refuge. To date, the 3RP has contributed to improvements in the supply of food and safe drinking water as well as in health care and other areas. Basic policy and concrete targets for the future of these initiatives were announced in December last year.
I encourage the participants in the World Humanitarian Summit to discuss and reflect on the 3RP in order to share best practices and challenges, and to express their commitment to work in solidarity to facilitate such activities going forward, including cooperation on funding. I also urge the Japanese government to draw on its experience of extending humanitarian aid to Syria and the region as it expands its assistance for refugees, focusing especially on securing a better future for refugee children.
In Turkey, Lebanon and elsewhere, it has become possible for children to attend local public schools or temporary education centers, but more than half of displaced Syrian children still lack access to schools. The UN has instituted plans to expand educational opportunities for refugee children. The European Union has been working with UNICEF to support education for displaced children in Syria and neighboring countries; it is my fervent hope that the Japanese government will also play a substantive role in this field.
In partnership with UNHCR, several Japanese universities have instituted a Refugee Higher Education Program offering degree courses for refugees. A wide range of such educational opportunities should be made available for the younger generation.
It is important for civil society to collaborate in responding to humanitarian imperatives such as the refugee crisis. Toward the same goal of creating a world where all people’s dignity is respected, the SGI will redouble our efforts to promote human rights education.
This year marks the fifth year since the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, by which UN member states for the first time agreed to international standards for human rights education.
Given the global rise in incidents of racial discrimination and xenophobia, especially prejudice and hatred toward refugees, displaced people and migrants, I think the following two aspects in the Declaration are particularly salient:
The point here is that it is not enough simply to refrain from discriminatory behavior. Rather, it is imperative to establish an ethos that clearly rejects all forms of human rights violation rooted in prejudice and hatred—in other words, to help a universal culture of human rights take root so as to construct authentically inclusive societies.
Earlier, I referred to first Soka Gakkai president Makiguchi’s admonition that failure to do good is the equivalent of doing evil. With regard to the undertaking of building a universal culture of human rights, something in which the behavior and actions of each individual play a key role, we must renew our awareness of the gravity of failing to do good.
The Declaration does not limit itself to the acquisition of knowledge about human rights or the deepening of understanding, but explicitly includes the development of attitudes and behaviors. It further defines human rights education and training as “a lifelong process that concerns all ages.” This points to the elements that are indispensable to bringing about a rich flowering of a culture of human rights.
As a civil society organization, the SGI supported this important UN Declaration from the drafting stage. Since its adoption by the General Assembly in December 2011, we have supported its objectives by holding awareness-raising exhibitions and through the jointly produced documentary A Path to Dignity: The Power of Human Rights Education.
In 2013, Amnesty International, Human Rights Education Associates and the SGI launched Human Rights Education 2020 (HRE 2020), a global civil society coalition for human rights education. To support and promote the Declaration and the World Programme for Human Rights Education, HRE 2020 has published Human Rights Education Indicator Framework, a resource intended for use as a guidebook to enhance the quality of human rights education and training in different national settings.
Marking the fifth anniversary of the Declaration’s adoption, the SGI and other organizations working together through HRE 2020 are advancing preparations for a new human rights exhibition, which will explore the respective themes of the new SDGs from the perspective of human rights. I hope this new exhibition will inspire renewed commitment to the kind of action that will help bring into being a world in which the dignity of all people is respected.