Monday, 21 September, is International Day of Peace. To mark the 39th anniversary of this United Nations-sanctioned holiday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres held a Peace Bell ceremony at the UN headquarters in New York. Here are some highlights of his speech.

Peace is never a given. It’s an aspiration that is only as strong as our conviction, and only as durable as our hope. It can take decades, even centuries, to build peaceful, stable societies.  But peace can be squandered in an instant by reckless, divisive policies and approaches.

Seventy-five years ago, the United Nations was founded with the overriding goal of preventing war and promoting peace. Since then, we have deepened our knowledge on how to fulfil that noble mission. We have solid evidence that human rights, respect for the rule of law, access to justice and opportunities for all are the building blocks for peaceful communities and societies. This is why the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is above all an agenda for peace.

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic is expanding risks to peace everywhere. It poses an enormous threat to people caught up in conflict, which is why I made an immediate appeal for a global ceasefire. I will repeat the call during the General Debate next week.  We need to silence the guns and focus on our common enemy: the virus. Beyond war zones, the pandemic is highlighting and exploiting inequalities of all kinds, setting communities and countries against each other.

This ceremony in the Japanese garden is an annual moment of calm before high-level week; a moment that brings us back to our founding purpose of peace. I thank Japan for its contributions to the United Nations, including the Peace Bell, a symbol of unity, cast from coins and medals donated by people from all over the world.

Japanese culture has a deep appreciation for natural imperfections and flaws. This is reflected in the art of kintsugi — putting broken pieces of pottery together with golden lacquer to create a stronger, more beautiful whole.  The result is a piece that is not “good as new”, but “better than new”.

As we mark the International Day of Peace, let’s apply this principle to our fractured world. Let’s address the fragilities and inequalities that work against peace so that we emerge from the crisis stronger than before. Let’s push for peace wherever conflict is raging and wherever there are diplomatic opportunities to silence the guns. Let’s prioritize peace and build a safer future for all.