16 January 2015 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on Salvadorans to keep the spirit of peace alive, as he attended at a ceremony commemorating the 23rd anniversary of El Salvador’s 1991 Peace Accords.
“Keep [the spirit] alive by deepening reconciliation and dialogue within Salvadoran society,” he said at the event in the capital, San Salvador. “Keep it alive by fully upholding international human rights obligations. Keep it alive by intensifying efforts to safeguard the rights of victims, building on the 2010 official apology.”
Mr. Ban became the first UN Secretary-General to attend the annual commemoration of the peace agreement, as he visited the Central American nation as part of his recent tour of the region.
He spoke of a ‘lasting bond’ formed between the UN and El Salvador, and said his attendance was ‘deeply meaningful’ to the UN and ‘deeply moving’ on a personal level. That was at least in part because of the conflict, discord and bloodshed currently prevalent elsewhere in the world and the pessimism with which people greeted such situations.
“In many trouble spots, people say: Our differences are too wide. The wounds are too deep. Peace is not possible,” he said. “To all of them, I say: Look to the people of El Salvador. Peace is precious and peace is possible. That is El Salvador’s message to the world. That is your gift to humanity.”
Despite a war lasting over a decade, accounting for the deaths of more than 75,000 Salvadorans and the displacement of a million more, El Salvador had proven the possibility of overcoming differences through dialogue and the transformation of society through mutual respect and tolerance.
Mr. Ban described the lasting impression that the peace-making and peace-building process in El Salvador left on the UN, with the Organization’s Mission in the country, ONUSAL, leading the way on post-conflict peace-building.
“The peace process pioneered a new generation of peace operations and profoundly shaped how the United Nations faces global challenges to this very day,” the Secretary-General said. “Your efforts have helped advance peace in virtually every corner of the world.”
Challenges still remained, including citizen insecurity, social exclusion and lack of opportunities, as well as sexual violence against women and the fact that 40 per cent of murders in the country were against children and youth. Peace would be consolidated when structural challenges such as inequality and exclusion were addressed, and social cohesion would come when all communities became part of the conversation.
Mr. Ban also took part today in a press conference with President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, welcoming ongoing efforts made by El Salvador’s Government to improve the situation in the country.
Its recent election to the UN Human Rights Council demonstrated as much and recognized its engagement with and commitment to UN principles, while the establishment of bodies like the National Council on Citizen Security and Coexistence were also positive steps. The UN was also “fully ready” to support recent recommendations made by the National Security Commission.
“I am also pleased that the [recently launched five-year Development] Plan places human rights at the centre of policy making. I have encouraged President Sánchez Cerén to continue working to strengthen the human rights of women, children, the LGBT community and indigenous peoples and to beef up institutions to end impunity,” he said.