Presentation Ceremony of the Third World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue By H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser

Presentation Ceremony of the

Third World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue


H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser

United Nations High Representative

For the Alliance of Civilizations

30 January 2015 – UNHQ, New York


Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to welcome everyone for joining us, especially my friend, His Excellency Abulfas Garayev, the Minister of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan. We are gathered here today to launch the Presentation Ceremony of the 3rd World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue scheduled to take place in Baku on May 18-19, 2015.  It is always a great pleasure to join forces with Mr. Garayev who shares the Alliance of Civilizations’ passion for education, dialogue, youth empowerment and whose long and successful career as a Minister offers multitude inputs to our work.

I am also very pleased that UNAOC hosted yesterday in our office the meeting of the Task Force designated with the preparations for the 3rd World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, which will be held in Baku as of May 18-19, 2015.  UNAOC as a partner in organizing the 3rd World Forum for Intercultural Dialogue has proposed to organize a Plenary Session on:  “Violent Extremism and Promoting Religious Pluralism and Shared Well-being”, and 2 workshops on: Youth as Agents of Change and Contributors to Peace-building and Dialogue, and Youth & the Responsible Use of Social Media. We also look forward to working together with the other partners in this forum UNESCO, UNWTO and OIC.

Now, taking into consideration the ever-growing involvement of Azerbaijan in promoting intercultural and interreligious understanding at the regional and international levels, I am pleased that UNAOC has found such a vital partner.

A partner geographically positioned at the corner of cultures and religions and represents a great example  when it comes to successful cultural and religious development. Azerbaijan’s strategic location at the borders of Eastern Europe and Western Asia has allowed the country to receive the precious and priceless influences of Islamic, Persian, European, Turkish and Russian communities.

Therefore, it is not surprising that this hybrid identity plays a constructive and exemplary role to advance powerful intercultural and interreligious dialogues worldwide. This role is very relevant to the work we do at UNAOC.

I would like to stress the fact that President Ilham Aliyev is to be recognized for his important contribution to multiculturalism through integrative and innovative initiatives.

Allow me to note that Azerbaijan’s support for the UN Alliance of Civilizations is warmly appreciated. As a valuable member of UNAOC’s Group of Friends, Azerbaijan has provided critical inputs for our programs that enhance intercultural dialogue but also valuable contributions for our Trust Fund.

It would be stating the obvious to say that Azerbaijan and UNAOC share an important agenda for tolerance, peace and diversity, which is why I strongly support the Baku Process launched with the Baku Ministerial Declaration of 2008 to promote “Intercultural Dialogue as a Basis for Peace and Sustainable Development.”


Distinguished Guests,

We cannot deny that we are currently witnessing a rise in the wave of religious extremism, violence and terrorism across the globe. These religiously and culturally based conflicts threaten  sustainable development, peace and security of human life. And unfortunately, no one country is fully protected by the threats of intolerance, fanaticism and extremism.

They compel us to reaffirm the moral importance of human life, mutual understanding and respect of diversity.

It is necessary to remember not to associate acts of terrorism with any religion, nationality or civilization.

It has become critical to reaffirm our strong commitment to promoting awareness, understanding, reconciliation and forgiveness while preventing conflicts to happen or to escalate to lethal levels. We need to advance a common vision of inclusive, indivisible and respectful societies, while contributing to the pressing themes of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Very often, some miss the connection between culture, sustainable development and peaceful societies. In my long career at the United Nations, I have observed a simple truth:  culture connects people beyond borders. It allows to bring communities closer through language, music, education, food and tourism. That is why, when I accepted the position of High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, I recognized culture as one key pillar, in which our efforts have ever since been significant. I would like to thank you for joining us today.

I now leave the floor to H.E Abulfas Garayev.

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UNAOC issues the first edition of its quarterly newsletter

Click here to download

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United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and EF Education First (EF) Announce Their Third “Youth for Change” UNAOC-EF Summer School in NY

United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and EF Education First (EF) Announce Their Third “Youth for Change” UNAOC-EF Summer School in NY

Application now open

New York, USA – 26 January 2015 – The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and EF Education First (EF) are pleased to announce the third edition of their UNAOC-EF Summer School.  This summer, 75 selected youth leaders from around the world will engage in dialogue across borders, form collaborative relationships with people from diverse backgrounds, and build skills for peacebuilding and global citizenship. The UNAOC-EF Summer School 2015 will take place at EF’s New York campus in Tarrytown, NY, USA from 13 to 20 of June 2015.

The UNAOC-EF Summer School’s interactive program of workshops, discussions and site visits provides the participants with hands-on experience on how to address shared social challenges across diverse communities and religions.  Specifically, the Summer School focuses on how to better understand diversity, manage and promote it, and how to leverage differences in identity to shape a world that is healthier, safer, more peaceful and inclusive. Different approaches are applied, including advocacy, narratives, multimedia, negotiation, theater, and social entrepreneurship.

The UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser says: “How can we resolve problems that have spanned generations without seeking fresh input, ideas and perspectives in search for solutions? The Summer School was established as a way to give young people the opportunity to learn from each other and trail-blaze new paths to peace and inclusiveness.” He adds: “I wish to emphasize UNAOC’s appreciation for EF Education First’s support, commitment and collaborative spirit in this partnership.”

“The Summer School is a perfect opportunity for cross-cultural dialogue and exchange. As a language education organization, we feel confident in providing a setting for participants of different nationalities and cultures to come together and find a common language and a common understanding,” says Eva Kockum, President, EF Education First. “We are proud to once again join forces with the UNAOC to achieve lasting social progress through dialogue and exchange.

Registration ( is open to youth aged 18 to 35 from now until 9 March 2015. The application process includes the submission of a resume as well as essay questions on past achievements and future impact potential. The selected participants will be notified in April 2015. Last year, more than 100,000 youth expressed their interest to take part in the weeklong discussions and dialogues at the Summer School.

For more information:

About the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
Established in 2005 by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the UNAOC’s 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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On the Death of HM King Abdulallh Bin Abdulaziz Custodian of the two Holy Shrines, King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia New York – 23 January, 2015

Statement Attributable to the Spokesperson for the High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations

On the Death of HM King Abdulallh Bin Abdulaziz Custodian of the two Holy Shrines, King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

New York – 23 January, 2015

The High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser is profoundly saddened for the passing of His Majesty, Abduallah Bin Abdulaziz, the Custodian of the Two Holy Shrines, King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Mr. Al-Nasser expresses his heartfelt condolences to the family of King Abduallah and extends his deepest sympathies to the people and Government of Saudi Arabia.

King Abduallah, was a visionary Arab leader whose wisdom and commitment to reform have reshaped the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and inspired the entire Arab Region.

King Abduallah will always be remembered as a force of moderation in the Arab and Muslim Worlds. He contested the radical interpretations of the Quran, ordered that textbooks in Saudi Arabia be purged of extremist language and encouraged Imams to engage in re-education lessons.

As a strong advocate of tolerance, King Abduallah initiated in 2008, a meeting of world religious leaders in Madrid, in which he called for interfaith dialogue, respect for diversity and the promotion of tolerance. These core values are enshrined in the mission of the Alliance of Civilizations.

The death of King Abduallah will be mourned throughout the Arab  region  and Muslim world. On behalf of the Alliance of Civilizations, the High Representative f extends once again his condolences to the people and Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His family will be in our prayers.

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The High Representative sends a letter of condolences to the Permanent Representative of France

The High Representative sends a letter of condolences to the Permanent Representative of France, expresses his deepest sympathies for the heinous terrorist attacks.

The High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser sent a letter of condolences to the Permanent Representative of France, Ambassador Francois Delattre in which he expressed his deepest sympathies to the Government and people of France for the heinous terrorist attacks that took place in Paris last week. Mr. Al-Nasser also extended his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of these deplorable attacks.

Mr. Al-Nasser stressed that the United Nations for the Alliance of Civilizations, remains strongly committed to its work in the area of combatting violent extremism in all its form as well as promoting tolerance and understanding.

The High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations said he will continue to encourage the Membership of the Group of Friends of the Alliance and all stakeholders to intensify their efforts to foster inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue among civilizations.

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Short Remarks By H.E. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser The UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations At The Inauguration of the Chinese Lounge and Paintings Exhibition

Short  Remarks
H.E. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser
The UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations
The Inauguration of the Chinese Lounge and Paintings Exhibition
December  22, 2015

Your Excellency Ambassador Liu Jieyi, the Permanent Representative of China

I am very pleased to be with you here. This is an indeed a beautiful lounge.

I am also very happy to be invited for the second time to the exhibition of Professor Wang Linxu whom I met last May and again at UNAOC office this past Friday.

Professor Wang had shown me some of his work which I see exhibited here today: The Interactive World and the Home for Us All.

During our conversation, I found out that Mr. Wang is not only a very talented artist, but he is also a believer in the role of art in bridging cultural gaps and promoting diversity, which is the core of the mission of the UN Alliance of Civilizations. I personally believe that regardless of the language of the artists, art itself remains a Universal language that everyone understands.

Thank you and I hope we can see more of your work here in New York City.

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Meeting on Rejecting Violent Extremism and Advancing Shared Well-being

Meeting on Rejecting Violent Extremism and Advancing Shared Well-being
Abu Dhabi – New York , December 18, 2014

The High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser addressed an emergency meeting on “Rejecting Violent Religious Extremism and Advancing Shared Well-being,” held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on 12-13 December, 2014. Click here for the High Representative’s full remarks in (English) and (Arabic).

Participants in the meeting co-organized by the Religions for Peace (RfP) Executive Committee and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies Abu Dhabi, rejected every form of violent religious extremism, noting that they were “false religious ideologies of hatred, not Peace”.

The meeting was co-moderated by, His Eminence Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, Dr. William Vendley, Secretary General of RfP and His Eminence Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Abu Dhabi Statement and a relevant Action plan was adopted unanimously by all participants. The statement while categorically rejecting all forms of violent extremism, urged for the need to forge a multi-religious response  to such extremism. It called on the United Nations, notably the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, Governments and other stakeholders to facilitate forming alliances to counter violent extremism.

Both documents will serve as a blueprint for on-the-ground-multi-religious action. Click here for the Abu Dhabi Statement in (English) and (Arabic).

His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, who held a meeting with the participants, encouraged them to continue their work in the area of combating violent religious extremism and expressed his strong support for the collaboration between RfP and the Forum.

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Remarks by H.E. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser before the meeting on advancing a multi-religious response to violent religious extremism (in Arabic)

سماحة الشيخ عبد الله بن بيَّه، رئيس منتدى تعزيز السلام في المجتمعات المسلمة،

الدكتور ويليام فِندلي، الأمين العام لمنظمة أديان من أجل السلام،

أصحاب السيادة،

أصحاب السعادة،

السيدات والسادة،

أود بدايةً أن أشكر للشيخ عبد الله بن بيَّه والدكتور ويليام فِندلي دعوتي إلى التحدث أمام هذا المنتدى الهام المنعقد في التوقيت المناسب،حول تقديمالادين تعمل معا لمواجهة التطرف و العنف. إن تحالف حضارات الأمم المتحدة يثمِّن عاليا جهود الشيخ بن بيَّة في مجال الحوار بين الأديان وبناء السلام. وأود أيضا أن أشيد بالدكتور ويليام فِندلي لالتزامه المثير للإعجاب بتعزيز القيم الجماعية والمشتركة، ولاسيما انخراطه المستمر في العمل مع التحالف.

اسمحوا لي أن أبدأ بالعودة في الذاكرة لنُمعِن النظر في الأحداث التي ما برحت تؤثر على عالمنا في الأشهر القليلة الماضية. فنحن نرى ارتفاعا في موجة التطرف والنزعة إلى التشدد. إن مواجهة آفة التطرف العنيف تمثل تحديا خطيرا للسلام والأمن الدوليين. والأمم المتحدة مُدركةٌ لمدى جدية هذا التهديد وهي اعتمدت استراتيجية خاصة بها للتصدي لهذه المسألة. وكما يعلم الجميع، إن السواد الأعظم من أسوأ الهجمات الإرهابية التي وقعت في السنوات الأخيرة ناجمة عن أعمال قام بها متطرفون دينيون. بيد أنه ينبغي لنا أيضا أن نسلِّم بأن الإرهاب يمكن أن يتخذ أشكالا أخرى وأن تقوم به جماعات أيديولوجية أخرى ودول وكيانات أخرى وأفراد آخرون.

في أيلول/سبتمبر من هذا العام، اتخذ بالإجماع مجلسُ الأمن التابع للأمم المتحدة قرارا تاريخيا يهدف إلى وقف تدفق المتطرفين الأجانب إلى ساحات القتال في جميع أنحاء العالم.

ويطلب القرار 2178 من الدول الأعضاء اتخاذَ خطوات محددة من أجل منع المشتبه في أنهم مقاتلون إرهابيون أجانب من دخول أراضيها أو المرور عبرها، وتطبيقَ القوانين من أجل محاكمة هؤلاء المقاتلين. كما يدعو الدولَ أيضا إلى القيام بخطوات عدة من أجل تحسين التعاون الدولي في هذا المجال، من قبيل تبادل المعلومات عن التحقيقات الجنائية، وسبل منعهم وملاحقتهم القضائية.

والمهم في الأمر هو أن هذا القرار اتُخذ بموجب الفصل السابع من ميثاق الأمم المتحدة، الذي يوفر الإطارَ الذي يتيح لمجلس الأمن أن يتخذ ضمنَه الإجراءات اللازمة لإنفاذ قراراته. ويأذن هذا الفصلُ تحديدا للمجلس بأن “يقرر [...] ما إذا كان قد وقع تهديد للسلم أو إخلال به أو كان ما وقع عملاً من أعمال العدوان” وبأن يقدم في ذلك توصياته أو بأن يلجأ إلى عمل عسكري أو غير عسكري “لحفظ السلام والأمن الدوليين أو إعادتهما إلى نصابهما”.

كما يشدد الفصل السابع على الطابع الإلزامي بالنسبة إلى الدول الأعضاء في الأمم المتحدة في ما يتعلق بالتدابير المفروضة وهو يتضمن أحكاما تدعو إلى اتخاذ إجراءات إنفاذاً للقرارات المتخذة.

إن جدِّية الإجراءات التي يتخذها المجلس تعكس خطورة الوضع السائد على الأرض. فقد ارتفع عدد المقاتلين الإرهابيين الأجانب في سوريا والعراق إلى ما يزيد عن 000 15 شخص ينتمون إلى أكثر من 80 بلدا. وعَلِمنا مؤخرا أن ما يصل إلى 000 3 من هؤلاء المقاتلين هم من مواطني الاتحاد الأوروبي.

وفي ما هو أبعد من التهديد الذي تشكله إمكانية عودة هؤلاء المقاتلين إلى ديارهم، أود أن أتطرق بشكلٍ مقتضب إلى البلدان التي لا يزال النزاع العنيف دائرا فيها، حيث لا تزال الجماعات الإرهابية التي تحفزها أيديولوجيات متطرفة – مثل داعش وجبهة النصرة في العراق وسوريا، وتنظيم بوكو حرام في نيجيريا والكاميرون، وحركة الشباب في الصومال وكينيا – تقوم بأعمال وحشية، وتعيث فسادا وتتسبب بمعاناةٍ لا توصف في صفوف المدنيين، بمن فيهم الأطفال والنساء. وفي كل هذه الحالات الثلاث، يتلطى الجناة وراء الإسلام لتبرير أعمالهم.

وببروز التطرف العنيف المعلَّل بتبريرٍ ديني، على نحو جعلَ منه أداةً للنقاش السياسي في مجالات مختلفة، بتنا اليوم نرى العالم يتخبط في أزمة. فهذا الواقع يشكل تهديدات جدّية للقانون والنظام الدوليين وللسلام والأمن العالميين. والمهم في الأمر هو أن هذا الواقع يحمل في طياته تحديات لخطة العمل العالمية المتعلقة بمستقبل المجتمعات ويشكل انتكاسةً لمؤشراتٍ متعددة تتعلق بخطة التنمية المستدامة لما بعد عام 2015.

ومع أنني أعتقد أنه يجب الحفاظ على إيلاء الأولوية للقرار 2178 تحديدا، وإنفاذ القانون عموما، باعتباره إحدى وسائل مكافحة الإرهاب، فإن النجاح الطويل الأجل يعتمد على اتّباع مقارَباتٍ استراتيجية لمعالجة الظروف المفضية إلى انتشار الإرهاب.

وينبغي لهذه الاستراتيجيات، في جزء كبير منها، أن تقوم على مكافحة الأيديولوجيات التي تسهم في تبرير القضايا الإرهابية وفي استقطاب الدعم لها. فالأيديولوجية أداة قوية من أدوات تعبئة. لذا ليس من المستغرب أن يستغل المتطرفون الدينَ تحقيقا لغاياتهم السياسية – أو الأطرَ عينَها التي يستخدمها البشر لإضفاء معنى على وجودهم على هذا الكوكب وتحديد سلوكهم في ضوئها. فالمنظمات المتطرفة تتوسل تحريفَ المبادئ الدينية في تنظيمها الداخلي وفي تبرير أعمالها وتعبئة الدعم الشعبي لها.

من هنا الأهمية الحيوية التي يتسم بها عمل الشيخ عبد الله بن بيَّه بإصداره فتوى ضد تنظيم بوكو حرام في نيجيريا في أيار/مايو 2014، وضد داعش في سوريا والعراق في أيلول/سبتمبر من هذا العام. وأنا أوافق تماما على دعوة الشيخ بن بيَّه إلى إجراء حوار حول مبادئ الإسلام الحقيقية وأتفق معه في اقتناعه بأن التصدي للتطرف وللنزعة إلى التشدد سيستغرق وقتا إلا أنه خير وقتٍ يمكن قضاؤه لأن العمل العسكري وحده لن يقوم بالعمل المطلوب. وهذا هو بالضبط السبب الذي نحن مجتمعون كلنا من أجله هنا اليوم.

وعلى غرار المجتمع الدولي، أنا أؤمن بقوة بأنه يتعين علينا توفير بدائل مجدية قابلة للاستمرار، لأوجُه تحريف الدين التي ينشرها الإرهابيون.

وبالنسبة إلى الشباب المسلم، ينبغي لممارستهم للإسلام على المستوى الشخصي أن تكون مصدر إلهام للعيش في العالم بطريقة تسلِّم بأن الترابط والتكافل هما في صُلب وجود البشر، وأن ترصّ صفوفَهم في سبيل خدمة وتحسين العالم وحياة كل مَن هم حولَهم.

هذا هو السبب الذي يحمل تحالف حضارات الأمم المتحدة، وهي المنظمة التي أقودها، على التعاطي بشكل مباشر مع الشباب كي نوفر لهم منبرا يُسمعون منه صوتَهم في المناقشات السياسية الأوسع نطاقا في المجتمعات التي يعيشون فيها. إننا نؤمن إيمانا راسخا بأن هذا هو أكثر السبل فعالية وقابلية للاستمرار من أجل توفير بديل من النزعة إلى التطرف.

ونحن نعمل أيضا مع الزعماء الدينيين في أنحاء مختلفة من العالم، غالبا من خلال شراكةٍ طويلة العهد مع منظمة “أديان من أجل السلام”، من أجل إسماع صوتهم والعمل على نحو أكثر فعالية لنشر رسائل التعددية في أوساطهم.

كما نعمل مع الصحافيين. فعلى سبيل المثال، نظَّمنا مؤخرا الحلقةَ الأولى من سلسلةٍ من أوجه التعاون مع صحافيي الاغتراب الصوماليين المنتشرين في أنحاء أوروبا وأميركا الشمالية في مجال الخطاب الإعلامي المعتمد سواء كان هذا الخطاب يبلسم جراح مجتمعاتهم أو يُمعِن في نكء جراحها. وكان هذا العمل مجديا، ولكن بالنظر إلى أن معظم عملنا قائم على التعاطي المباشر، فنحن نسعى إلى تحسينه باستمرار، ووجدنا بالتالي أنه ما زال يمكننا القيام بالمزيد.

ولكن من الأهمية بمكان أيضا أن نتذكر أن المسألة ليست مجرد إسماع صرخة الأصوات المهمَّشة وتعميم مراعاتها في المجال السياسي. فالظروف الاجتماعية والاقتصادية داخل المجتمعات المحلية وفي ما بينها مهمة هي أيضا. ونحن لا يمكننا أن نقلل من شأن العلاقة بين النزعة إلى التشدد والتطرف والعنف، من جهة، والتنمية الاقتصادية والاجتماعية، من جهة أخرى، فانعدام التنمية يمكن أن يهيئ الظروف للنزعة إلى التشدد التي يمكن فيها للتطرف العنيف أن يعوق التقدم المحرز من أجل التنمية.

بتعبير آخر، وعلى غرار المجتمع الدولي، يجب أيضا على برامج انخراطنا في العمل مع المجتمعات المحلية أن تجد حلولا حقيقية وفعالة لما تواجهه تلك المجتمعات من صعوبات اجتماعية واقتصادية.

هذا هو الواقع الذي يسلِّم به الهدفان الحادي عشر والسادس عشر من أهداف التنمية المستدامة، اللذان يتناولان العلاقة بين النزاع العنيف وتحقيق التنمية المستدامة، ويدعوان إلى رصد الموارد لزيادة قدرات المجتمعات المحلية على الصمود في وجه تلك الصعوبات.

وإلى جانب الزعماء الدينيين، يجب على الحكومات أن تضطلع بدور حيوي في مواجهة هذه التحديات من خلال انتهاج سياسات وقائية فعالة وزيادة التركيز على عمليات تحقيق الاستقرار في الحالات التي يتكرر فيها العنف؛ واستهداف العوامل المؤدية إلى التطرف؛ ورصد موارد كافية بصورة عادلة بين الفئات الديموغرافية المختلفة.

وأخيرا، إن تحالف حضارات الأمم المتحدة، بوصفه الكيان الرائد في الأمانة العامة للأمم المتحدة في مساعدة البلدان على مواجهة التحديات العالمية ذات الأبعاد المشتركة بين الأديان والثقافات، هو على أهبة الاستعداد لدعم الدول الأعضاء في التصدي لحالات التوتر المتزايدة التي يمكن أن تتخذ شكل نزعة إلى التشدد أو عنف أو تطرف.

أشكر لكم  حسن إصغائكم.

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Remarks by H.E. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser before the meeting on advancing a multi-religious response to violent religious extremism (in English)

H.E. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser

The United Nations High Representative
for the Alliance of Civilizations

The Meeting on Advancing a Multi-Religious Response to Violent Religious Extremism

Abu Dhabi – December 12-13, 2014

Shaikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, President of Forum for Peace in Muslim Societies
Dr. William Vendley, Secretary-General of Religions for Peace

Your Eminences,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

At the outset, I would like to thank Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah and Dr. William Vendley for inviting me to address this important and timely forum on advancing a multi-religious response to violent religious extremism. The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations highly values the work of Shaykh Bin Bayyah in inter-religious dialogue and peace-building. I would also like to applaud Dr. William Vendley’s commitment to promoting shared and common values, particularly his constant engagement with the Alliance.

Let me begin by looking back at the events that have been shaping our world in the past few months. We see a rising wave of extremism and radicalization. Facing the scourge of violent extremism constitute a serious challenge to global peace and security. The United Nations recognizes the significance of the threat and has adopted its own strategy to deal with the issue. It would be stating the obvious to say that much of the worst terrorist attacks of recent years have been the work of religious extremists. But we should also acknowledge that terrorism can take other shapes and can be perpetrated by other ideological groups, states and other entities and individuals.

In September of this year, the Security Council of the United Nations unanimously approved a historic resolution aimed at stopping the flow of foreign extremists to battlefields around the world.

Resolution 2178 requires Member States to take specific steps to prevent suspected foreign terrorist fighters from entering or transiting their territories and to implement legislation to prosecute such fighters. It also calls on states to take various steps to improve international cooperation in this field, such as by sharing information on criminal investigations, interdictions and prosecutions.

Significantly, this Resolution was passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides the framework within which the Security Council may take enforcement action. Specifically, it allows the Council to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” and to make recommendations or to resort to non-military and military action to “maintain or restore international peace and security”. Chapter VII also underlines the mandatory nature for UN Member States of those measures imposed and contains provisions that call for action to carry out the decisions adopted.

The seriousness of the Council’s actions reflects the gravity of the situation on the ground. The number of foreign terrorist fighters in the Syria and Iraq conflicts has grown to over 15,000 from more than 80 countries. We recently learned that of these fighters, up to 3000 are EU citizens.

Beyond the specter of these fighters returning home, to speak for a moment of the countries where violent conflict is ongoing, terrorist groups spurred by extremist ideologies — such as Da’esh and the Al-Nusra Front in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon and Al-Shabab in Somalia and Kenya – continue to carry out brutal acts, wreak havoc, and cause untold suffering to civilians, including young children and women. In the case of all three examples, the perpetrators are using Islam to justify their actions.

With the rise of religiously justified violent extremism, as a tool of political debate in many different areas, we are witnessing a world in crisis. This poses serious threats to international law and order and global peace and security. Crucially, it also challenges the global agenda for the future of societies and sets back multiple indicators on the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.

While I believe that Resolution 2178 specifically and law enforcement more broadly, as a means of combating terrorism, must remain a priority, long-term success depends on strategic approaches to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.

A big part of this comes from, countering the ideologies that help justify and build support for terrorist causes. Ideology is a powerful mobilizing tool. It is no surprise that extremists usurp religion for their own political ends—or the very frameworks that human beings use to make sense of their lives on this planet and to inform their conduct thereof. Extremist organizations use perversions of religious tenets to organize internally, to justify their actions, and to mobilize popular support.

This is why the work of Shaikh Abdullah bin Bayyah in issuing a fatwa against Boko Haram in Nigeria in May 2014 and against Da’esh in Syria and Iraq in September of this year is absolutely vital. I totally agree with Shaykh bin Bayyah’s call for dialogue about the true tenets of Islam and his conviction that addressing extremism and radicalization will take time but that it is time worth spending because military action alone won’t work. This is precisely why we are all gathered here today.

As the international community, I firmly believe that it is incumbent on us to provide viable, meaningful alternatives to the perversions of religion that terrorists propagate.

For young Muslims, their personal practice of Islam should be a source of inspiration for being in the world in a way that both recognizes the interdependence at the heart of human existence, and marshals them to serve to improve the world and the lives of everyone around them.

This is why at the UN Alliance of Civilizations, the organization I lead, we work directly with young people to provide them with a platform to mainstream their voices in broader political discussions in the societies in which they live. We firmly believe that this is the most viable and effective way to provide an alternative to radicalization.

We also work with religious leaders in many different parts of the world, often through our longstanding partnership with Religions for Peace, to amplify their voices and more effectively disseminate messages of pluralism to their constituencies.

We also work with journalists. As an example, we recently held the first in a series of collaborations with Somali diaspora journalists from across Europe and North America on narratives that heal and narratives that harm their communities. This has been meaningful work, but as so much of our work is iterative, we are seeking constant improvement, and so we have found that there is more we can do.

But it is also crucial to remember that the issue is not just one of narratives and political mainstreaming of marginalized voices. Socioeconomic conditions within and across communities also matter. We cannot understate the relationship between radicalization-extremism-violence and economic and social development, where the absence of development can create the conditions for radicalization, and where the existence of violent extremism can impede advances toward development.

In other words, as the international community, our engagement programs with local communities must also generate real and effective solutions to their socioeconomic difficulties.

This fact is recognized in the eleventh and sixteenth goals of the Sustainable Development Goals, which speak to the relationship between violent conflict and sustainable development, and call for resources to be dedicated to building greater resiliency in communities.

Alongside religious leaders, governments must play a critical role in addressing these challenges through active prevention-oriented policies and an increased focus on stabilization processes where violence is recurrent; on the targeting of the drivers of extremism; and on allocating adequate resources justly across different demographic groups.

Finally, as the lead entity of the UN Secretariat in assisting countries to address global challenges with interfaith and intercultural dimensions, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) stands ready to support Member States in addressing rising tensions that appear through the faces of radicalization, violence and extremism.

I thank you.

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UNAOC and IOM Announce Plural+ 2014 Award Winners

On Thursday 4 December the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced the PLURAL+ 2014 Award Winners at the Paley Center for Media in New York City.

The International Jury Award winners for the video entries of the age category of up to 12 years are Aldo Abril, Mauricio Buendía, Sofía Marvizón, César Hernández, María Hernández and the team from Telekids Workshop (Spain); for the age group 13-17 are Michael Born, William Snyder, Matthew Steinman & Nathan Martin (Canada); and 18-25 age category Al-Mothana Al-Ghizzawi and Anas Yahya from BlueLight Film Productions (Jordan). Ms. Kim Brizzolara and Mr. Laurent Imbault, both members of the PLURAL+ 2014 International Jury, presented the awards to the winners.

Photo: UNAOC/Verlaine Soobroydoo
Addressing the gathering, The United Nations High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser underlined that “PLURAL+ is another example of UNAOC’s commitment to supporting youth empowerment with the aim of mainstreaming the voices of young people in media regarding topics that truly touch and influence their lives, such as migration, diversity and social inclusion.”

Ms. Lea Matheson, Charge Affairs ad Interim at IOM’s Office of the Permanent Observer to the United Nations, and Mr. Maher Nasser, Acting Head of the Department of Public Information of the United Nations, also addressed the packed auditorium of New York’s Paley Center for Media. The event was hosted by award-winning actress Susan Rybin and featured as well an extraordinary performance by the 2014 New York City Youth Poet Laureate, Ramya Ramana.

Photo: UNAOC/Collin Giberson
Prior to the evening ceremony, PLURAL+ 2014 Partners Awards were presented and the videos screened. An engaged audience had the opportunity to discuss with the young media makers attending the event. The noon activities included a workshop, co-coordinated with UNICEF/Voices Of Youth, with the young media makers in New York for PLURAL+ Awards.

PLURAL+ is a youth video festival focusing on migration, diversity and social inclusion, emphasizing intercultural dialogue, youth expression and the desire for peace and better understanding world-wide. It is a joint initiative of the UNAOC and IOM, with the support of many partner organizations from across the world. Over the last six years, PLURAL+ has received over 950 video entries representing 113 countries from around the world. With the support PLURAL+ partners, PLURAL+ videos are screened and broadcast on a variety of media platforms across the world. For more information and to view the twenty-eight PLURAL+ 2014 award winning videos, please go to

Photo: UNAOC/Collin Giberson

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