Aspiration for Peace and Development on the Land of Fire 

In these July days, the hearts of the people of Quang Tri are ignited with compassion, love, and aspiration for peace for their homeland, nation, and humanity. The Festival for Peace 2024, an event of national and international significance, is a culmination of relentless efforts on the journey to seek, affirm, and honor the values of the peace-loving tradition of our people and entire humanity.

Throughout the history of the resistance against foreign invaders, the Vietnamese have always upheld the tradition of friendliness, benevolence, and love of peace. From the time of the Ly dynasty coping with infringements and invasion of the Song dynasty, when many generals of the enemy were captured and fell into desperate situations, with the Song Dynasty forcedly withdrawing its troops, our ancestors, with our "compassion and benevolence," provided horses and boats for the defeated to return home, maintaining peaceful relations with neighboring countries.

        Transcending historical boundaries, the classic legends with Saint Giong taking off his iron armor and riding his horse to Heaven, or King Le Loi returning the sword to the Turtle Deity at Hoan Kiem Lake, express the desire for independence, peace, and territorial integrity; this is also the eternal aspiration of the Vietnamese people.

        In the era of Ho Chi Minh, with the extreme aspiration for independence, peace, and territorial integrity, the entire nation underwent a titanic struggle continuously relayed through many generations. The Geneva Accords (Switzerland) on the cessation of hostilities and the restoration of peace in Indochina, and the Paris Peace Accords on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Viet Nam are evidences of the Vietnamese people's aspiration for peace.

       The land of Quang Tri, rich in cultural and historical traditions, endured the pain of the country's division for decades and suffered the greatest devastation of the war. Rising from the ashes, Quang Tri has made relentless efforts towards reconciliation, healing, and building trust with partners, opening up many opportunities for cooperation across various fields. 

        The journey of healing began with people-to-people diplomacy activities after the war ended which were facilitated by international cooperation with foreign non-governmental organizations in the field of mine clearance and development support. In the 1990s, right after Vietnam and the United States normalized relations, Quang Tri province started its cooperation with the first NGO, PeaceTrees Vietnam, followed by numerous international organizations from Germany, Belgium, the UK, Norway, South Korea, and more. 

PeaceTrees Vietnam, the first American NGO in Quang Tri in the field of mine action (1995).

With the support of foreign non-governmental organizations, through visits and exchanges by people from different countries to Quang Tri, many of whom were veterans, the connections and mutual understanding have been strengthened, which helps build friendship and solidarity, and sowing the seeds for sustainable and long-term development cooperation.

Over the past 28 years, Quang Tri has mobilized more than USD 200 million in non-refundable aid from foreign non-governmental organizations, with approximately 70% allocated for activities to overcome the legacy of war. In addition to humanitarian mine clearance and mobile explosive ordnance disposal, international organizations have implemented numerous support programs for mine victims focusing on livelihoods and inclusion, mine risk education for the public, especially children, and the development of socio-economic infrastructure on mine-free land. The outcomes have had practical impact on the community, with more than 35,000 hectares of heavily contaminated land cleared and public awareness of mine risks significantly raised. Notably, mine risk education has been integrated into the official curriculum for primary and secondary schools. Mine accidents have substantially decreased, from 70 victims per year in the period  2006-2010 to only 2 accidents in the period 2020-2024. The model of mine action, coordinated by the Provincial Mine Action Center under the leadership of the Quang Tri Provincial People's Committee, is recognized by international experts as an outstanding model of international cooperation in humanitarian mine action. Quang Tri is striving to become the first mine impact-free province in the country by 2025.

Quang Tri has also been wholeheartedly dedicated to supporting the search for U.S. military personnel missing in action (MIA) in the area over the past 30 years. This has been part of the broader endeavor to heal the wounds of war and normalize and promote Vietnam-U.S. relations. The support, cooperation, and assistance of the local people, many of whom have risen above their losses and pain with compassion and tolerance, have actively participated in the search efforts. These ongoing efforts to overcome the legacy of war in Quang Tri serve as the best way to heal the wounds on the land, the bodies, and the souls.

Establishing cooperation with localities that share historical similarities, such as  Japan’s Hiroshima or South Korea’s Gangwon and Changwon, is a goal that Quang Tri has been pursuing. Sharing the pain and losses of war, the people of Quang Tri and these sister localities all harbor a profound aspiration for peace. Building on people-to-people diplomacy, Quang Tri has signed cooperation programs and agreements with these localities, collaborating on investments in various fields, aiming for a brighter future, thereby noble humanitarian values. 

 

Leaving the past behind and moving towards the future is not just a destination but a journey. On this journey, Quang Tri has received unwavering support and encouragement of many partners, organizations, and international friends over the years. This is evident in the U.S. Ambassadors’ visits to the Truong Son and Road 9 National Martyrs' Cemeteries; the Irish Embassy’s greening of the historic Hien Luong Bridge on the 17th parallel; or the Indian Embassy’s yoga practice to pray for one world, one health, etc. These activities, though simple, are practical efforts by Quang Tri every day to make peace not just an aspiration.

Peace has always been the burning aspiration of humanity. The world dedicates 9 International Days to commemorate peace. This year, the world also marks the 25th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly's adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace. Reflecting the UN's global message in Resolution 78 of rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity, with its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all amidst ongoing conflicts and wars in the world, Quang Tri emerges as a convergence point for these aspirations of peace and development.

The Festival for Peace 2024 in Quang Tri is expected to address the common interests of the international community, emphasizing the role of culture and the value of cultural heritage in promoting inclusivity, dialogue, cultural cooperation, community, and social cohesion for development. The festival aims to honor the value of peace, the efforts of the international community in jointly building sustainable peace, fostering a spirit of sharing, mutual understanding, solidarity, community cohesion, and more.

From this land, through the Festival for Peace 2024, Quang Tri will convey a powerful message about the fierce vitality of the Vietnamese people’s peace-loving tradition and values of harmony, tolerance, and benevolence. Vietnam desires to contribute to the construction and preservation of peace, to join hands with international friends to build a world of peace, unity, and prosperity./.

Triều Thương

 

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