The UN celebrated the International Day of Non-Violence with tributes to Mahatma Gandhi as the pioneer in climate action, whose ideas can guide the world to protect the environment.
General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande said on Wednesday that long before the world became aware of the dangers of climate change and the risks to the environment, Gandhi was already involved in climate action.
He said it is “stunning” how Gandhi described the duty to the environment with these words, “The earth, the air, the land and the water are not an inheritance from our forefathers but on loan from our children.”
Muhammad-Bande was speaking at an event, “Climate Action: Gandhian Ways,” to commemorate the UN’s International Day of Non-Violence, which is observed on Gandhi Jayanti.
“For the United Nations, almost everything that is fundamental that we stand for has prefigured in the work, life and thought of Gandhi,” he said.
For the UN, “there is no greater hero than one who says no to violence,” he added.
The president of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Moha Juul, said the world should heed the words of Gandhi who looked at the world from the view of the poor.
India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said, “In keeping with our times, we have ventured to link the notion of non-violence to our approach to our environment. A non-violent approach to our natural habitat has, for long, been neglected. Yet increasingly, environment and non-violence are now seen as a good fit.”
He added, “Mahatma Gandhi is known primarily for his advocacy of non-violence in the cause of political freedom. Yet, remarkably almost a century ago, in Mahatma Gandhi’s thinking, the principle of non-violence extended not just to fellow human beings, but to all beings.”
University of Notre Dame Professor David Cortright spoke of the relevance of Gandhi in bringing peace to Kashmir.
He said, “Today there is renewed discontent and a risk of violence. But this must be avoided as Gandhi would insist. The only path to a just settlement is only through non-violent democratic means.”
Speaking on behalf of the US, Courtney Nemroff recalled Albert Einstein’s tribute to Gandhi, “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth,” and said that as democracies, India and the US had a duty to see that the message of Gandhi lives on.
She spoke of the influence from the US on Gandhi and his on the US.
While American philosopher Henry David Thoreau’s idea of civil disobedience inspired Gandhi, in turn his concept of non-violent action influenced Martin Luther King who led the US civil rights movement.
Nemroff, who is the Acting US Representative to the ECOSOC, said this year also marks the 60th anniversary of King’s visit to India to study the results of Gandhi’s non-violence campaign.
The permanent representative of Malawi and chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group at the UN, Perks M. Ligoya said that Africa takes ownership of Gandhi, who had begun his work on the continent.
He said that in the Gandhian tradition India has been helping the LDC through the UN’s South-South Trust Fund.
With the high growth rates India is having, he said that he wished for more cooperation between the LDC and India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.