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Peace powerful subject at Sister Cities Conference

MEDIA RELEASE Thursday 25 March 2004

Peace proves powerful subject at Sister Cities Conference

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba gave a passionate audiotaped address this morning to delegates at the opening of the Sister Cities NZ Racing Ahead Conference at the Christchurch Convention Centre.

Mayor Akiba spoke about the need for the world to learn from victims of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, who had rejected hatred and revenge in a desire for greater peace and understanding between nations.

Like Prime Minister Helen Clark, who opened the conference, and long-time peace campaigner Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore, who spoke earlier in the morning, he emphasised the importance of sister-city relationships in building harmony and greater co-operation around the world.

“In a world that is increasingly unstable, movements such as sister-cities are so important that their worth cannot be measured,” Mr Moore said. Talking about Christchurch he said, “living in a small city in a small country at the end of the world, we are threat to no-one and in a perfect position to build international relations.”

Miss Clark reflected on the warm welcome she had received in several of New Zealand’s sister cities and said she was well aware of the power of good sister-city relationships in keeping old friendships alive and building on new ones. This year’s conference themes of peace and friendship are consistent with President Eisenhower’s original vision for sister-cities that by knowing each other better, basic humanity must come through, she said. “There is far more that unites than divides us.”

Sister Cities NZ president Jeremy Dwyer said that in the early days of the 21st century, sister-city relationships are the single largest vehicle of citizen diplomacy in the world. “A minimum of 10,000 people a year travel in and out of New Zealand as a result of sister-cities’ activities,” he said.

World renowned Christchurch peace campaigner, Dr Kate Dewes; Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand, Dr Allan Hawke; and Madame Li Xiaolin, vice president of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries,
were among the other speakers at the conference opening.

Madame Li was given a standing ovation during her speech for her decision to return to New Zealand this year with a 16 strong delegation. Last year, she and other Chinese representatives arrived in New Zealand during the SARS epidemic and had to leave the 2003 Sister Cities Conference in Masterton. “Lets look ahead and forget that unhappy past episode,” she said.

The Sister Cities New Zealand Racing Ahead 2004 Conference is being attended by a total of 150 mayors, councillors, city officials and sister-city volunteers from New Zealand, Australia, China, Japan, Korea and USA. It will end at midday on Saturday.


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