Remarks by H.E. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser The UN High-Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations at the Luncheon of the High Level Thematic Debate



H.E. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser

The UN High-Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations


Luncheon,  22 April 2015


Your Excellency Mr. Sam Kutesa, President of the General Assembly
Your Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the Untied Nations
Distinguished faith leaders,

Good Afternoon,

It gives me great pleasure to be hosting this lunch in your honor . Looking around the room and seeing this gathering of highly-esteemed religious leaders representing most major faiths whom we have all heard their enlightening statements throughout the morning, is a testament of the vital role that religious leaders play in our diverse communities.  We,  at this organization we value your role. So thank you for travelling all the way to join us in this important meeting. We certainly need your help to give meaning to the global conversation and the protection of human rights.

As I mentioned yesterday in my remarks, tolerance and reconciliation are two noble values inherent in all major faiths. But radical and terrorist groups have been disguising their ugly faces behind religions. By doing so they distort the image of faiths.. all faiths.

This is where the role of religious leaders come into play. Your words today at this universal body, the UN General Assembly about tolerance and reconciliation will be heard by thousands of people around the world. Indeed, you are messengers of peace. Your voices are respected within your respective communities , that’s why we count on you to carrying back home a message of peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and tolerance.

We want this High Level Thematic Debate to culminate in more than words and declarations about tolerance for diversity. We would like to see it translated into action on the ground within your own communities.

I now give the floor to my good friend Dr. William Vendley, Secretary General of Religions for Peace, whom I am sure you all know and have worked with before.

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Remarks by H.E. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser the UN High-Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations at the Press Briefing for the High Level Thematic Debate



H.E. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser

The UN High-Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations


The Press Briefing

22 April , 2015

Good afternoon everyone,

I am very pleased to be standing here today among this distinguished gathering of religious leaders. We, at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations  work with faith leaders and faith-based organizations and we count on their role in leading their own communities towards embracing noble values such as tolerance , reconciliation, respect for diversity and the true meaning of respecting the other regardless of their different race, faith or language. Isn’t that what major faiths teach us?

You heard those distinguished religious leaders speak this morning. Their words were enlightening, particularly when we think about the rising wave of  xenophobia, extremism and violence that has taken its toll on all of us disguising behind religion. Their words are reminders to all of us that all faiths teach us quite the contrary.

Yesterday when I spoke at the panel which focused on counter terrorism, I stressed that violent extremism breeds on a host of complex factors, including social exclusion, marginalization of certain categories in the society, and inequitable economies.

Our approach to countering violent extremism should be a multi-faceted approach. One that addresses the root causes, while at the same time focuses on building effective institutions, good governance, respect of human rights, inclusiveness and the promotion of universal values.

We aim at the end of this High Level Thematic Debate to come out with more than mere words, but rather a genuine commitment to building societies that are peaceful and truly inclusive. The Alliance of Civilizations is already doing so through focusing on yoth challenges, educational shortcomings, the constructive use of media and the realistic consideration of migration . Most importantly to make the best use of religious mediation to complement diplomatic mediation.

Finally, I would like to thank the Secretary General and the President of the General Assembly for their support in convening this meeting.

I am ready to answer any questions.

Thank you

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UNAOC High Representative interviewed on UN Radio and TV

On the opening of the High-Level Thematic Debate at the United Nations General Assembly to discuss “Promoting Tolerance and Reconciliation, Fostering Peaceful, Inclusive Societies and Countering Violent Extremism”, the High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations was interviewed on UN TV and Radio.

Please find the video here.
Read the article here.

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Remarks at Interactive Panel on Practical Strategies for Fostering Peaceful and Inclusive Societies and Countering Violent Extremism

U N I T E D   N A T I O N S                        N A T I O N S   U N I E S



April 21, 2015


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to address you once again today.

This morning when I opened the session, I made four concrete observations related to Combating Violent Extremism “CVE”.

CVE is a process that needs programs, as a means to ensure that we take actions that are practical and effective and pro-active.

Briefly, my views meant the following actions to eradicate the environment conducive to the emergence and spread of extremism:

First, we must build trust within local communities and between states at differences or conflicts.

Second we need to employ human centered approaches.  By this, I mean we must ensure a strong sensitivity to context, particularly by listening deeply to the concerns and experiences of communities that have long struggled with violence and violent extremism.

We must also commit to a long-term partnerships that take into account our acceptance of each other, knowing in the same time that, our collaborators on the ground are assured of our support;

Third, while being human-centered, we need to willfully and honestly work as the providers who build the capacity of local communities to handle their own affairs, because the truth is that we are not going to be sticking around forever.

Fourth our commitment should always be toward creating behavioral shifts that are measurable positive social changes.

I want to emphasize this last point ahead of our panel, because I know that CVE is an area of activity that we, the international community, have had some political and cultural difficulty in showing measurable results in.

However, we can still cure this difficulty, gradually, and by building on our small bricks of success, rather than just wishing to fix the world in one action.

By bringing together insights from interactive and intellectual forums alongside the invaluable experience of actors on the ground, we can significantly improve our approach.

At the end of the day, our focus, during this discussion at least, must always remain on, building societies that are peaceful and inclusive ones.

As High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, I believe that we can do so through focusing on youth challenges, educational shortcomings, the constructive use of media, the realistic consideration of migration and globalization issues, and to make the best use of religious mediation that our religious leaders can provide.

We know that this requires a broad range of actions.

This requires, as I said before, broad range of activities under an international umbrella of sincere cooperation.

For global success we need global action.

That said, with great excitement for the upcoming discussion, I will hand over now to the moderator Ms. Pamela Falk.

Thank you.

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Opening Remarks of H. E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser United Nations High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations at the United Nations High Level Meeting “Promoting Tolerance and Reconciliation: Fostering Peaceful, Inclusive Societies and Countering Violent Extremism”

U N I T E D   N A T I O N S                        N A T I O N S   U N I E S



New York, 21 April 2015

Your Excellency Mr. Sam Kutesa, President of the General Assembly,
Your Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
Distinguished faith leaders,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a distinct honor for me to be here with you today.

I want to begin by thanking you for traveling all this distance so we can join hands for the exciting two working days ahead of us.

Mr. Secretary-General; thank you for believing in the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and supporting the convening of this very special meeting.

I was very glad with your announcement of this High Level Meeting when you addressed the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism at the White House this past January.

I would also like to thank the President of the General Assembly who showed interest in galvanizing this proposal and for putting his team behind it and working closely with my team.

Our meeting brings, political and religious leaders, from across the globe. They are here to speak with one voice and say: NO to  what divides us and YES to  what unites  us.

Tolerance and Reconciliation are such two noble human values. They are values inherent in all major faiths. Sadly, for the past few years, we have been witnessing un-imaginable acts of violence, terrorism and human atrocities committed in the name of religion

Such heinous acts brought many regions of our world to a boiling point, fueling the burning furnace of xenophobia, radicalization and discrimination.

A persistent question echoed across the globe: what can be done to stop the scourge of this vortex?

Today, the United Nations is writing history. This meeting is a step in the right direction.

For the first time ever, the Secretary General, the President of the General Assembly and the High Representative of a UN specialized Agency are co-organizing and convening together a High Level UN meeting, to address unique, new and emerging threats to International Peace and Security.

The reason we are here, above all else, is to hear from you, political and religious leaders, on how we can counter the increasing, intolerance, violent extremism, terrorism and relapsing of whole societies in the black hole of cultural and ethnic tensions.

Second, to demonstrate the true meaning of understanding and respecting others’ faiths and beliefs.

And finally, how key values such as tolerance, reconciliation and mutual understanding can be translated into meaningful and mutually beneficial actions that eventually, all of you will carry to your communities.


Here at the United Nations, we achieved, among other outcomes, an important universal document; the United Nations Global Counter Terrorism strategy. The Alliance is focusing, in particular, on its first Pillar that we call it: Pillar (1), which focuses on the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.

We know from our experience — from both the successes and the failures — that regardless of how much we improve our security, terrorism will not go away until we address the conditions conducive to its emergence and growth.

At the same time, world leaders will adopt, this September, the new 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The mission of the Alliance is indeed similar to Sustainable Development Goal 16, on the need for securing peaceful and inclusive societies.

Therefore, it is not a coincidence that we specifically chose such a diverse gathering of individuals to come together for this event, in order to persuade you and your communities that the only way to achieve, the human advancement and sustainable development we want, is to secure an environment that enjoys peace, stability and protects human rights.

But to do so effectively, we need to work together with you across sectors and across faiths.

Governments and Member States alongside religious leaders alongside civil society and community leaders.

Muslims alongside Christians and Jews, alongside Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and all other faiths, all working hand in hand as responsible leaders to encourage our people to do the same.

This is not a meeting that ends with lengthy documents. It is a meeting that ends by your future actions, when you leave back home and persuade your communities with the inevitability of co-existence and the future we all want.

You will be our agents and messengers of peace, so please do so.

Irrespective of how atrocious and wickedly cruel I find the actions of radical groups, condemning them here in this meeting will not end the source of the problem unless we create the necessary counter narratives to respond, effectively, to their evil.

Without our global preventive actions, they will still be able to recruit more young people and grow further.

Without our collective efforts, global issues like migration, media and education, will be misused and possessed with the same evil that threatens our existence.

There are much to do with the social media, to combat the viral messages of insult, hate, incitement to hatred and recruitment of new terrorists.

Our leaders need to show more responsibility in order to effectively respond to these new kinds of threats. Good governance is not luxury any more; it has become a necessary requirement to ensure our global safety and security in our planet that became a Global Village.

There are much we need to do with our social environments of marginalization, economic austerity and lack of equal opportunities in which we find our selves ashamed of social injustices that doesn’t fit the 21st century.

Much of what the UN does, and indeed much of what we are trying to address through the new Sustainable Development Goals, that will guide all of us through 2030, attempt to address these imbalances.

But, again, let me be clear: we cannot make progress on any of these targets without your partnerships, as Member States, faith leaders, intellectuals, civil society, and others.  Everyone has a role to play.

Moreover, to deliver on its mandate, the UN especially needs the support of the women and men who lead our faith communities.

They exist among the seven billion people in this world and identify themselves as peers of their religious communities.

We need their help to advance and give meaning to the global conversation and protection of human rights.

All of the world’s major religions bear shared commitments to building peace and emphasizing the oneness of humanity, to standing on the side of the marginalized, and to working to resolve conflicts.

Therefore, religious mediation compliments and supports preventive diplomacy. This is the true purpose of religion.

Tomorrow, this organization would want to listen to voices, opinions, guidance and recommendations of those peers of faiths and religions.

We equally need the responsible leadership of our heads of state and government more than ever before, to make progress on development and find durable solutions to our various crises.

From water access to universal education to prolonged International and Regional Conflicts and fighting communicable diseases.

These are huge responsibilities, therefore no nation can succeed alone in these tasks; success in these areas requires sincere global action.

But, as I say all this, I also feel compelled to state that there are areas in which we need to significantly change our approach; one that is often on my mind is the space and opportunities we give to young people.

In many parts of the world, around 70% of our population is under the age of 30.  Yet, if you were to look at the role young people have in decision making, you would notice their notable absence.

Indeed, many young people who are politically active and frustrated with the few avenues available to them to create meaningful change, struggle with a persistent feeling of dis-empowerment.  This is understandable.

More troublingly, this feeling is precisely what allows extremist organizations to prey on them.

We must take this chance away from the extremists, if we are serious about our goals.

With the challenges that are now in front of us, it is my firm conviction that the greatest gift we can give to our next generation is to leave them with a different set of stories, different perceptions and narratives.

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations is part of that change with its focus, not only on Youth, but also on media, migration and education as crucial components of its work.

In this regard, I would like to highlight 4 specific observations.

First, we must build trust. Trust at state level and at community level.

Words like “dialogue”, “reconciliation”, and “empowerment” mean little if not supported by concrete actions that address the, often valid, grievances young people have.

Second, we need human-centered approaches that show sensitivity and seriousness to taking a shared journey with our partners on the ground.

If we don’t take into account our shared and differentiated responsibilities, we would be distant from the real world we are living in.

And, if we look at our cultural diversity as a problem, we better change this mis-conception because planet earth is our universal address and we will always have to learn how to share it, all together.

Third, we need to honestly and consciously work toward overcoming our own short-comings.

What I mean when I say this is that; in doing the work of countering violent extremism, we need to take into account that our preventive action should not be limited to only reforming the UN as a body.

Our actions should also entail reforming the way we responsibly execute our actions in accordance with International Law.

Preventive action should include the empowerment and reform of the relevant existing instruments needed by the International Community, to respond to, and cope with, the new and emerging ideological threats, for the sake of our collective security and Human Rights for all.

Finally, our focus must always be on measurable behavioral shifts.  For instance, if we are trying to eradicate the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, we can choose to condemn the practice, issue statements or fatwas against this dynamic.

But we must at the same time ask ourselves if our actions are working and leading to concrete results. If not, then we must boldly go back to the drawing board and try new approaches, based again on listening to those whom we are trying to influence.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Manifestations of religious based intolerance and violence are increasing across the globe. Such unjustifiable acts have culminated into targeted killings against innocent people from different faiths, spreading stereotyping, xenophobia and racism.

Such unjustified prejudices would only play into the hands of terrorists and threaten our global stability, international peace and security as well as human rights and development. Moreover, these acts violate the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and International Law.

The scourge we are all facing as a Global human family runs contrary to the values of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, which embraces as its core mission the promotion of cultural diversity, religious tolerance, and inclusiveness.

UNAOC has consistently amplified these values that are best promoted through, peaceful and meaningful dialogue in accordance with universally accepted norms and shared values.

Peace, stability, intercultural harmony and Sustainable Development are closely inter-linked and mutually re-inforcing; they are key factors to accomplishing an environment conducive to prosperity and Human Rights.

Therefore, we need to protect our future and our generations from the forces that fuel tensions, hatred and violence.

The United Nations, since its inception was given the sacred task of addressing threats to international peace and security.

The existing United Nations resolutions, including the resolutions of the General Assembly, Security Council and Human Rights Council, as well as other UN and regional instruments, provide the international community with legal and moral tools to prevent and combat the roots of hatred and intolerance.

These viable norms must always be at the core of our global discussions.

Sadly and despite the efforts made, certain ideological mindsets continue to project their uncivilized face in our world. Yet, these vicious forces should not hamper our efforts nor deter our political will to prevent and combat the new and emerging threats in all their forms.

These collective efforts should become priority to the international community for the sake of our Global Human Sustainable Development.

In closing, I hope that I have said enough to help frame our conversation over the next two days.  For my part, I count on engaging with each one of you on the floor and on margins of this meeting

My conviction remains strong that, with sincere intentions and persistent focus, we can succeed in overcoming our major differences.

I thank you.


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MEDIA ADVISORY: High-Level Thematic Debate on Promoting Tolerance and Reconciliation: Fostering Peaceful, Inclusive Societies and Countering Violent Extremism 21-22 April 2015

Media Advisory

High-Level Thematic Debate on Promoting Tolerance and Reconciliation:
Fostering Peaceful, Inclusive Societies and Countering Violent Extremism

21-22 April 2015

WHAT: The President of the General Assembly (PGA), H.E. Mr. Sam Kutesa, in conjunction with the Secretary-General (SG) of the United Nations, H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon and the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations (HR for AoC), H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, will convene a two-day High-Level GA Thematic Debate on “Promoting Tolerance and Reconciliation: Fostering Peaceful, Inclusive Societies and Countering Violent Extremism”.
WHO: Link to the provisional programme:

WHERE: 8.50 am on 21 April – Group Photo (PGA, SG, HR for AoC and key political figures) – Indonesian Lounge

9:00 am – 1:00 pm on 21 and 22 April- GA Hall

3:00 pm – 6:00 pm on 21 and 22 April – Trusteeship Council Chamber

1:10 pm – on Wednesday, 22 April – Media Stake-out
East Foyer, General Assembly Building
(PGA, SG, HR for AoC with Religious Leaders standing behind the principals throughout the press stake-out)

MEDIA ACCESS: The meeting is open to UN accredited correspondents and will be webcast live on

On 21 April a Group Photo at 8.50 am will be open to accredited photographers at the Indonesian Lounge.

On 22 April, a Media Stake-out & Group Photo ( PGA, the SG, and HR for AoC  with Religious Leaders) will take place at 1.10-1:30 East Foyer, GA building.

For further information, please contact:

Jean-Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the PGA
Cell:+1-917-224-9508; Tel: +1-212-963-8203 – Twitter: UN_PGA

Nihal Saad, Spokesperson for the UN High-Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations
Tel: +1-929-274-6205; Cell: +1-646-255-4664 – Twitter: UNAOC

Devi Palanivelu, Associate Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Tel: +212-963-4150

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Member States and Faith Leaders Gather at a High-Level Thematic Debate to Discuss “Promoting Tolerance and Reconciliation, Fostering Peaceful, Inclusive Societies and Countering Violent Extremism” on 21-22 April, 2015

A rare but momentous gathering will take place at the United Nations in New York on 21-22 April.

President of the General Assembly, Sam K. Kutesa will convene in conjunction with the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the High-Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, a High-Level Thematic Debate on Promoting Tolerance and Reconciliation, Fostering Peaceful, Inclusive Societies and Countering Violent Extremism at the UN Headquarters in New York.

The two-day High-Level meeting will offer a platform for Member States and faith leaders from around the world, along with other stakeholders, to  discuss means of promoting tolerance and  reconciliation, as well as to address challenges of countering radicalization and extremism.

Day one of the meeting will consist of an opening session, a high-level plenary and an interactive panel discussion. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss practical strategies to foster peaceful, inclusive societies and to counter the threat of radicalization and violent extremism.

Day two will be centred on interfaith dialogue, featuring high-level statements and an interactive panel discussion on the role of faith leaders in promoting tolerance for diversity, freedom of expression and human rights.

Religious communities have followers across race, class, and gender. This meeting will be a powerful demonstration of how diverse communities can address common challenges.

The outcome of the meeting will be a President’s summary highlighting salient points and key messages arising from the thematic debate.

Staff members from across the UN system and representatives of Member States will be able to follow the proceedings of this exceptional High-Level event online.

For further information, please contact Ms. Nihal Saad, Spokesperson for the High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations at, or visit:

Follow us on Twitter @unaoc

Media Advisory: High-Level Thematic Debate on Promoting Tolerance and Reconciliation: Fostering Peaceful, Inclusive Societies and Countering Violent Extremism 21-22 April 2015

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United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the BMW Group Host a Capacity Building Workshop for Recipients of the 2014 Intercultural Innovation Award

Fundraising, leadership and interpersonal excellence, were the main focus of a capacity building workshop for the recipients of the 2014 Intercultural Innovation Award. Hosted by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the BMW Group, the workshop took place in Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina, from the 8th to the 11th of April. It concluded with a field trip visit to Welcoming America, one of the awarded organization based in Atlanta that works to promote mutual respect and cooperation between foreign-born and U.S.-born Americans.

Participants from organizations based in Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America took part in various training sessions with the aim of building their capacity to increase the long-term effect and sustainability of their projects, such that the projects can expand and replicate in other contexts.

The training provided in South Carolina is part of the one-year support provided to finalists of the Intercultural Innovation Award, whose mandate is to select the highly innovative grassroots and sustainable projects of non-profit organisations that promote dialogue and intercultural understanding, while making vital contributions to prosperity and peace in global societies. It was established in 2011 by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the BMW Group in a historic partnership geared towards creating a new model for collaboration between the private sector and the UN system.

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United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and EF Education First (EF) Announce the Names of 75 Youth Leaders who will Participate in the UNAOC-EF Summer School 2015

New York, USA – 8 April 2015 – Today, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and EF Education First (EF) announced the names of 75 Youth Leaders who will be invited to join the UNAOC-EF Summer School. Through interactive workshops, discussion circles, keynote speeches and field visits, the participants will learn, network and exchange ideas on how to achieve lasting positive social change with a special focus on intercultural dialogue and collaboration.

Out of the 75 000 youth who have registered their interest for the UNAOC-EF Summer School, 75 young change makers were selected. They will be travelling to EF’s New York campus in Tarrytown, NY, USA to join the Summer School that takes place from 13 to 20 of June 2015.

The UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser says: “Every year, the youth who participate in the UNAOC-EF Summer School bring to life a unique experience. These young leaders address global challenges and seek the solutions that would make our world a better one based on shared values and peaceful co-existence. I look forward to engaging with this year’s inspiring group of participants.”

“We are very happy to welcome these outstanding young leaders to our EF New York campus and are looking forward to opening the world through education by co-organizing this cross-cultural and educational experience for the participants,” says Eva Kockum, President, EF Education First.

For more information, please contact:

About the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
Established in 2005 by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the UN Alliance of Civilizations’ mission is to improve cross-cultural understanding and cooperation among countries, peoples and communities. We live together in an interconnected world, in which globalization goes side by side with a search for often narrow-based identities. How can extremism, polarization and divisions be best resisted? This is part of the global conversation to which the UNAOC contributes. Learn more about the UNAOC at

About EF Education First
Established in 1965 with the mission to open the world through education, EF Education First (EF) is the world’s leading international education company. EF ( has helped millions of students learn a new language and travel abroad. With a network of 500 schools and offices worldwide, EF specializes in language training, educational travel, academic degrees, and cultural exchange programs. EF has published the English Proficiency Index ( measuring the English ability of adults in countries across the world.

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Remarks by H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser on the Relevance of Inter-religious and Inter-civilizational Dialogue to the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals

Remarks by

 H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser

the United Nations High Representative
for the Alliance of Civilizations

The Relevance of Inter-religious and Inter-civilizational Dialogue to the
post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals

Organized by
UNAOC, UPF, Holy See and OIC

27 MARCH 2015
10 am to 1 pm PM Conference Room 8


Mr. Thomas Walsh, President, Universal Peace federation,
Mr. Taj Hamad, Secretary General, Universal Peace Federation,
Excellency, Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
Excellency Mr. Ufuk Gokcen, Permanent Observer of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation to the UN,

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to thank all the partners who are participating in this “Consultation on the Relevance of Inter-religious and Inter-civilizational Dialogue to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals”. We have a long-established relationship with all of them and had many opportunities to work together.

We recently strengthened our cooperation with UPF through the signing of an agreement that highlights our common goals. Both UPF and UNAOC share the belief that the promotion of intercultural and interfaith dialogue is the path for people and nations to live in peace and security.  There simply cannot be peace without respect for freedom of religion, tolerance, and cultural diversity.  Inter-religious and inter-civilizational dialogue and sustainable development are therefore inseparable.  One cannot exist without the other.

The year 2015 promises to be pivotal. In September, leaders will converge for the United Nations special summit to adopt the Post-2015 development agenda. We gather here today to affirm the importance of interfaith dialogue as bedrock of sustainable development. We also want to explore how the final statement can effectively acknowledge the benefits of interfaith and intercultural dialogue in the achievement of sustainable development.

Fully aware of the need to go beyond differences of religion, culture and nationality, I already decided, as President of the 66th Session of the General Assembly, that a special area of focus for the General Assembly would be fostering cross-cultural dialogue. I launched a thematic debate on “Fostering Cross-Cultural Understanding for Building Peaceful and Inclusive Societies.” I was determined to make intercultural dialogue and understanding one of the legacies of my tenure as President of the GA.

In my position as High Representative of the Alliance of Civilizations, I have worked continuously at building bridges between societies of different cultures and religions. I stressed the need to develop an action plan to eliminate any divisions that can arise when people from different religious and cultural backgrounds coexist.  I have repeatedly drawn the attention of world leaders to the reality that the Post-2015 Sustainable Development agenda requires from them real leadership and political will.

There are many initiatives within the UN system to make implementation of the SDGs more measurable through the use of targets and indicators. Archbishop Bernardito Auza, rightly mentioned it yesterday, regarding the presentation of the UN Statistical Commission on preliminary indicators and targets. It is important to emphasize that such targets and indicators must be country specific and adapted to the needs and capabilities of those using the indicators. Moreover, as he said, quote: “certain goals and targets are understood differently in different cultural and religious context and will translate differently into their national policies and legislation” unquote.

Indicators need to be policy relevant, feasible and timely, and easy to communicate to the public.

In our globalized world, cultural boundaries disappear and technical innovations bring people closer through the virtual world. However, these interactions have not prevented the surge of conflicts arising from extremist ideologies. Cultural, ethnic and religious tensions fuel terrible hostilities worldwide and especially in the Middle East, parts of Africa and Asia where they rob the poorest communities of any possibility to reach minimal socio-economic growth. The most vulnerable members of society, women and children, are the first victims of these conflicts. Interfaith dialogue and cooperation are more than ever vital for the peaceful-coexistence of people and for achieving a sustainable world.

I had many opportunities to meet religious leaders from all faiths. I was struck by their unwavering support for the United Nations’ goals of peace and sustainable development. Regardless of faith, all agree that dialogue among people of different religions and cultures is the key to lasting peace. All continuously reaffirm the right to freedom of religion and their commitment to the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

At the Alliance we have launched a number of initiatives to support the goals of sustainable development. If you look at the 17 goals proposed by the Open Working Group, you will see that each and every one of them calls for dialogue across civilizations and religions. Each of these goals can only be achieved if people, communities and nations work together across cultures, religions, and ethnic groups. This includes from the first Goal, which demands an end to poverty in all its forms, to Goal 17, which stresses the need to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

The truth is an undeniable:  there is such interdependence between societies that prosperity and well-being can only be achieved if differences between people are seen as an asset to development. Climate change does not differentiate its impact according to race, religion or nationality. Humans require access to health and education regardless of where they live.   All the 17 goals can only be achieved by leaping over the things that divide us to embrace our common and shared cultural heritage.

I cannot repeat enough that the Alliance is dedicated to the proposition that cultural, ethnic and religious diversity are pillars of sustainable development, not obstacles to it.  It requires partnerships on all fronts.  We partner with civil society foundations and governmental bodies to promote projects to support the role of young people of all denominations in social and economic growth. We have launched projects to make the media more sensitive to these issues so as to provide public information messages that advocate understanding and respect across cultures and religions instead of hate and suspicion.

We are here gathered in the shared belief that the 17 Sustainable goals are achievable and require our commitment to nurture inter-religious and inter-civilizational dialogue and cooperation among all segments of societies.

I look forward to your ideas and recommendations.

Thank you.

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