Entrance Ceremony of the University for Peace-Nippon Foundation Dual Campus Master Program in International Peace Studies

Manila, Philippines

It gives me great pleasure to be here at Ateneo de Manila University to celebrate the launch of the UPeace/Nippon Foundation Dual Campus Masters Program in International Peace Studies. I feel honored to be able to address Honorable Dr. Alberto G Romulo, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Maria Assunta Cuyengkeng, Vice President for the Loyola Schools of Ateneo de Manila University, Dr. Jose Cruz, Dean of the School of Social Sciences of Ateneo de Manila University, Mr. Georges Tsai, Rector of the University for Peace, distinguished guests, dear friends, and the first class of students.

I would like to express my warmest congratulations to the thirty exceptional individuals who are about to embark on a new chapter in their life today.

You are a very diverse group in terms of nationality, professional background and age. But even a group such as yours does not begin to represent the diversity of Asia, let alone our world. This diversity is what makes our planet, and our region, such a rich and fascinating place.

At the same time, we cannot deny that the existence of so many diverse political, ethnic, cultural and religious viewpoints can at times result in discord. In Asia alone, we are facing many serious conflicts, such as those in southern Thailand, the southern Philippines, and northern and eastern Sri Lanka.

At the root of these troubles lies the inability to tolerate difference. Peace is not marked simply by the absence of violence; it is marked by the existence of tolerance for difference and a respect for diversity.

The world is in desperate need of people with the determination, qualities and skills to mediate in conflicts, to promote tolerance, and to build and sustain peace. Unfortunately, there is a dire shortage of such people.

Not everyone possesses the rare qualities required to address issues of peace and conflict – an open mind, a strong desire to work for the greater good of society, and the willingness to make personal sacrifices to that end. In other words, the world is in urgent need of more individuals like the thirty of you here today.

That said, while these qualities are highly important, they are not always enough to tackle the complex tasks involved in building and sustaining peace.

We need a place where individuals like you can cultivate your strengths and equip yourselves with the essential tools to tackle these issues.

A place where you can foster the ability to see things from both local and global perspectives.

A place where you can nurture a deeper understanding of the concepts and strategies related to international peace and conflict issues.

A place where you can cultivate the linguistic ability and the international network necessary for working across borders on issues of peace.

But there are not enough places like this in the world. This shortage is particularly acute in Asia, even though the region is home to many disputes and conflicts.

That is why The Nippon Foundation, in partnership with our friends at the University for Peace and Ateneo de Manila University, established the UPeace Dual Campus Masters Program in International Peace Studies.

We want to provide a place where individuals can nurture the necessary knowledge, skills and networks for working effectively in making and sustaining peace in Asia.

Our dreams do not end there. It is our hope that the establishment of the UPeace Dual Campus Masters in International Peace Studies will be the first step towards the strengthening of efforts in the region to nurture peace-building professionals.

Upon graduation, we believe you will all go on to play important roles in building and sustaining peace in the region, equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills and partners.

By applying what you learned in this program, and sharing your experiences with many people, you will be able to encourage others to follow in your footsteps.

We also believe that once educational institutions in the region witness your contribution, more of them will embrace and expand the role of training and nurturing experts in peace-building.

With more people wanting to pursue careers in peace issues, with more people who have knowledge and experience to share with others, and with more institutions to house and train these individuals, I firmly believe that the region will be equipped with a significant pool of peace-building professionals in the near future.

Although this alone cannot bring peace to the region, it will at least help pave the way to peace. In that sense, the thirty exceptional individuals we are here to congratulate are not only about to embark on a new program of study, but are also about to take a very important step towards our dream of building a more peaceful, secure and prosperous Asia.

It is said that there are two main choices in life – to accept conditions as they exist or accept the responsibility for changing them. By deciding to participate in this program, all thirty of you made the choice to accept the responsibility for changing the situation facing our world. For this, I would like to express my deepest respect and admiration.

I would like to close by thanking my friends at the University for Peace and Ateneo de Manila University for sharing our dream and working tirelessly to make this program a reality. Let us continue to work together to support the students of this program and to do our part in promoting peace and development in the region.