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Excellencies, Honorable Members of Parliament, dear Ambassadors for Peace
It is an honor for me to give an overview of UPF activities in Southeast Europe, and of Think Tank 2022, our project focusing on the reunification of Korea.
Our organization began its work in earnest in the Balkan Peninsula when our Founders visited Albania and Bosnia Herzegovina in 2005, during the UPF inaugural tour. We are sincerely grateful to President Moisiu for his unfailing support during all these years.
UPF has developed many programs in the Region, particularly in Albania, where today UPF Peace Councils are established in over 60 major cities.
Let me take this opportunity to share briefly about the founding of the Universal Peace Federation. Culminating decades of peacebuilding activities worldwide, through interreligious dialogue on one hand, and dialogue among political, academic and media leaders on the other hand, UPF was created as a global association for peace in 2005.
As our Founder wrote in a calligraphy on that day, “the basic philosophy of UPF is “true love”, which means “living for the sake of others” or living for the higher purpose. Thus, UPF was founded to stimulate “a new altruism” and encourage leaders in society to transcend the barriers of religion and nation, in order to pursue of common goal for peace in the global era.
We express this philosophy through the core principles of Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity and Universal Values in our activities today. Since these values are first meant to be experienced in a healthy family environment, we attach great significance to the protection and promotion of family values as the foundation for peace in society.
Soon, by the way, a book will be published here in Albania under the title “Families in the 21st Century and Universal Values”, co-authored by our esteemed moderator Dr Saemira Pino, former Albanian Deputy Minister of Education, and Mr Gani Rroshi, Secretary general of UPF Albania. I am sure you will find in this book deeper insights into the UPF philosophy.
Since our Founder Dr Moon passed away in 2012, his spouse Dr Hak Ja Han has taken up this mission with intense dedication, traveling around the world to mobilize world leaders for the cause of peace. She came to Albania two years ago, and many of you were present at the Tirana Peace Summit.
Mrs Moon reaffirmed the UPF peacebuilding strategy by launching in 2016 the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP), which we inaugurated in Kosovo in 2017 for the Balkans region.
Then, in 2018, the Interreligious Association for Peace and Development (IAPD) was launched in Vienna for Europe and the Middle East.
It is on that foundation that the International Summit Council for Peace (ISCP) was launched at the Summit in Tirana in 2019. Through the ISCP, current and former Heads of State and Government are invited to bring their wisdom and experience to bear on peacebuilding beyond the borders of nation, religion and ethnicity.
After this event and the World Summit 2020 in Korea, we agreed with President Vujanovic to establish a joint partnership with the Podgorica Club of former heads of state in Southeast Europe. We are happy to formalize this agreement today, after 18 months of delay imposed by the Covid pandemic.
UPF is partnering with other world organizations such as the African Union, the UN Alliance of Civilizations and others, and we very much look forward to successful cooperation with the Podgorica Club.
Last year, we held a webinar reflecting on the similarities and possible cooperation between the Korean and Balkan peninsulas; Reflecting on the historical role of Peninsular nations in the development of culture in the world, our distinguished panelists, including President Moisiu and President Vujanovic, emphasized the geostrategic significance of both peninsulas on the global level, but also their common tragedy of war and division in the 21st century, and their common need today for long-lasting peace.
This leads me to the Think Tank 2022 project, which calls for leaders around the world to support the reunification of the Korean Peninsula.
As you saw in the newsletter distributed in this conference, UPF held this year many activities centering on Korean Reunification. The year 2022 will be significant for South Korea because elections will be held in March, which will determine South Korea’s policies toward North Korea in the next 5 years. We hope and expect that these coming 5 years will create conditions for reconciliation and reunification on the Peninsula.
We recently invited in our programs the main actors of the Trump Administration, including President Trump himself, for their unprecedented effort to reach out to North Korea.
Two interviews of former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Vice President Mike Pence were recorded with high level panelists from the USA, Korea and Japan. They have been broadcasted through the Korean media.
One of the panelists was Ambassador Christopher Hill, who attended our UPF Summit in Tirana and was recently appointed as US Ambassador to Serbia. The next Media Forum was recorded last night with Jim Rogers, a major financial investor based in Singapore, strongly supportive of Korean reunification. And the final Forum before the elections will feature David Beasley, the Director of the UN World Food Programme.
A Summit for Peace in Korea is planned next February, provided that the Covid pandemic allows it. A co-organizer of the Summit will be Prime Minister Hun Sen from Cambodia, a nation with close historical links to China and North Korea.
What is the unique approach of UPF toward conflict resolution on the Korean Peninsula? It is a strategy of people-to-people diplomacy on the grassroots level, as well as building a foundation of trust on the highest levels of leadership.
Exactly 30 years ago, in 1991, our Founders initiated this strategy toward North Korea by challenging the seemingly unsurmountable barriers between the North and South at that time: They went to meet President Kim il Sung in Pyongyang. It was a risky enterprise since our Founder was known as a strong opponent of communism.
Dr Moon challenged publicly the North Korean officials in a speech at the North Korean Assembly. He criticized the official Juche Ideology of North Korea, saying it was excessively human-centric and would not be able to bring the reunification of the two peoples.
Despite this risky challenge, Dr Moon and Kim Il Sung had a remarkably positive and fruitful meeting, like a reunion of two brothers. They agreed on a series of cooperative projects, from the reunion of divided families to economic investments. Our Founders acted upon their promise by initiating the first car factory ever to be made in North Korea, called Pyeonghwa Motors (Peace Motors), as well as a series of other projects for tourism.
30 years later, Mrs Moon is following a similar strategy: to build a grassroot foundation among the Korean people, and great efforts are currently undertaken in South Korea to promote the need for reunification among the population.
Religious Leaders worldwide are also called for support at this time, as they had been 4 years ago when a large interreligious Rally for Peace on the Peninsula had been the prelude for a new level of relations between North and South in 2018 and 2019. Our region was represented at that time by high level leaders from the Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim traditions.
Let me now conclude by coming back to the Balkans Peninsula and the significance of our meeting today.
Because of its status as a crossroads between East and West, between Christianity and Islam, and a place of competing influences between the world’s major powers, the Balkan Peninsula plays a central role in Europe.
For this reason, we began building the Peace Embassy in Tirana at the time of the Southeast Europe Peace Summit two years ago. It is a mark of our concern and focus on this region, where peacebuilding to overcome past conflicts is both a challenge, but also an asset and an opportunity for European nations.
As an international NGO affiliated with the ECOSOC of the United Nations and supportive of its UN Sustainable Development Goals Agenda, UPF will apply its multi-sectoral approach to supporting peace in the Balkans Peninsula, working with Government leaders, religious leaders, and professionals from the academic, art and culture, media and business fields.
We look forward to our cooperation with the Podgorica Club, as we share the fundamental values of dialogue promoted by the major world institutions, and common objectives of peace, security and human development. We will discuss the form of our cooperation as indicated in the Memorandum.
One specific area of concern is the protection of the environment, given the Balkan Peninsula’s extraordinary natural environment and its potential to attract people from all around the world.
Another focus are programs for Youth.
Today we see new skyscrapers rising in Tirana and we feel that a bright future is awaiting in this country. Tirana was selected as the European capital of youth in 2022.
To secure a bright future for young people, peace and human development need to be value-based. That is a fundamental commitment of UPF and its affiliate organizations.
We have organized many programs for youth, including at the Peace Summit two years ago in Tirana.
We support programs such as the Balkans Peace Road initiative, which links people beyond borders in the Region,
And we promote Sports for Peace initiatives, which aim at overcoming deeply inherited cultural prejudice through sports.
I hope these programs and others will contribute to the success of the Youth Capital in 2022 and benefit other nations.
Thank you for your attention.