New York, 17 July 2013
Your Excellency Mr. Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Your Excellency Mr. Juan Manuel Gonzalez de Linares, Acting Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations,
Mr. Levent Eler, Charge d’affaires of the Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations,
Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon and Ramadan Kareem!
At the outset, I would like to express my gratitude to the Deputy Secretary-General, H. E. Mr. Eliasson, for his presence here with us today, which is much appreciated.
My thanks go to all Member States, civil society, media and academia members, for your continuous support to the UNAOC. I am thrilled by your commitment to positively respond to my invitation, despite the summer holidays.
This is the second meeting we have convened since the successful Vienna Forum in February. Our gathering today is of great importance since it is the last before the upcoming UNAOC Ministerial Meeting, which will take place during the week of September 23rd. My office will send formal letters of invitation to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs in July 2013 or first week of August, following our consultations with the Secretary-General.
Today, I will discuss the Strategic Review and Plan for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations for 2013-2018. I had the pleasure to transmit it to you and hand it over in person to H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General.
You may recall our previous meeting in May, during which we alluded to the strategic review process of past achievements and work done since 2007. Preparation of the strategy was my top priority after I assumed my position as the High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations. The document was drafted in coordination with our colleagues in the UN system. It carries substantial information on the new structure of UNAOC, its working relationships, its concepts of operation, and other topics including my vision and priorities as High Representative for the coming years. This document will be viable and it will be implemented under my vigilant guidance. My Director, Mr. Matthew Hodes, will be happy to shed more light on the content of the Strategy, in response to any questions you may have.
I invite all of you to contribute your thoughts to the Strategy and our best ways forward in its implementation. Your contributions will help us learn from your lessons and enrich our ability to build more on this document.
I am also happy to inform you that our Annual Report on activities in July 2012-June 2013 has been drafted. I have just sent it to the Secretary-General for his review. He will cordially share it with the General Assembly, per usual procedure, and we will make sure that each delegation receives it in a due course.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
During our last meeting, I emphasized that the Alliance can play a coherent and coordinated role with the rest of the UN system, with an eye fixed on advancing the international community’s priorities to live in a better world.
Once I assumed the leadership of the Alliance at the Vienna Forum, I did not only identify a new vision. I immediately embarked on implementing this vision, which has been endorsed by Member States in Vienna Declaration.
The Alliance now is interacting with the UN system to maximize the benefit of my operation from New York. My office is in constant contact with the office of the Secretary-General, DPA, DESA, OCHA, UNDP, UNESCO and other departments and agencies, to ensure better coordination and project delivery in harmony with the general objectives of the UN and the Charter.
UNAOC has already extended this interaction to its operational activities. For instance, last month I charged my Chief of Cabinet to participate in a field mission to Mindanao, conducted jointly by OCHA, OIC and the Government of the Philippines. The mission assessed the humanitarian situation as well relevant aspects of the peace process.
My Director also participated in meetings of religious leaders from the Middle East to discuss potential engagements in post-conflict situations in the region. We are coordinating with our partners to conduct similar future missions, when appropriate and in accordance with our mandate.
I would also like to inform you that I produced a first time ever guidelines for the work and functions of UNAOC, in coordination with the office of the Secretary-General and relevant UN departments. Accordingly, my whole team is working under my command in a cohesive manner.
I have an outstanding team, it is working under my guidance in an integrated manner and in coordination with the whole UN system, Member States, civil society, the media, academia, the private sector and other partners.
When we promise, we do our best to deliver, even with our very limited resources, thanks to you and our supportive partners. In this context, I would like to share with you some major activities conducted by the Alliance, between now and the end of 2013. They include the following:
UNAOC Fellowship Programme
The Programme has just finished its first set of exchanges for 2013. In October and November, the next set of fellows from the Middle East and North Africa will visit Europe and the US, followed by the next group of fellows from the US and Europe, traveling to the Middle East and North Africa. We thank the Government of Germany for its continued support of this Programme.
Youth Solidarity Fund
Two weeks ago, UNAOC awarded grants to sixteen youth-led organizations based inBangladesh, Cape Verde, Egypt, India, Israel, Kenya, Lebanon, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Uganda, which will foster mutual respect, understanding and long-term positive relationships between peoples in local communities. We thank Australia, Finland and Spain who generously supported the Youth Solidarity Fund project this year.
Education First – UNAOC Summer School
For the first time, a UNAOC Summer School will be held in the US, on 24-31 August in Tarrytown and New York City. UNAOC will be engaging in a public-private partnership with Education First, a Swiss company, to manage the event.
Intercultural Innovation Award winners training
As part of our joint project with BMW Group, we will continue to support those NGOs recognized for their outstanding work by providing guidance and training to increase and further develop their capacities. The next training event will be on November 8-9 in New Delhi, India.
PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival on Migration and Social Inclusion
On December 5th, at the Paley Center here in New York, we will announce the winners of the PLURAL + Youth Video Festival. This project, implemented in partnership with IOM, awards young people who produce best video presentations promoting cultural diversity and tolerance.
Media training session on coverage of migration
In recent months, the UNAOC multiplied efforts to improve the media coverage of migration, by organizing two major high-level seminars of editors-in-chief, media and migration experts last January in Paris for the Euromed region, and in May with a Swiss edition. The outcome were guidelines on covering migration that were disseminated through a social media campaign, #covering migration, running throughout this summer of 2013 on media practices in covering migrant and migration-related stories. Building on these initiatives, AoC will present another learning opportunity in conjunction with News Exchange, who will be holding their annual conference in Marakesh, this coming November in partnership with the European Broadcast Union.
Expansion of our Partnership Network
We are continuing our efforts to build our network of connections. MoUs are being concluded now with the Organization of American States and the African Union. We are also reviewing the status of our existing MoUs to ensure they are brought up to date.
As part of our ongoing effort to develop a strategy for engagement and programming in the Asia/Pacific region, and as part of our preparation for the next Global Forum in Indonesia in 2014, I will participate in the Beijing Forum in November.
I will also participate in a conference in Kazakhstan next month to mark the official launch of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022).
Throughout this period, I will visit a number of countries to deepen our relations and improve cooperation between them and the Alliance.
Please note that in 2013, we will not have the Focal Points Meeting. We will continue to explore with the focal points the appropriate timing, location and type of meetings we should convene, particularly in years where there is no global forums.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am sure that you have noticed the escalating challenges the world is facing. The UN’s role to help the international community is being tested to the extreme. I do not need to remind you of the many multifaceted crises facing all of us regardless of our colour, culture or ethnicity.
I know you all share my concern about the persistence of extremism and the destructive impact of radicalization, hate and xenophobia. I also know you share my feeling that UNAOC should, indeed must, play a more active role in combating those scourges.
Religions must be protected from hijackers. Regardless of whichever faith we follow, we share many human values. Members of the United Nations have embraced the values of the Charter – values we should promote tirelessly in an effort to build peace and enhance tolerance, which are at the core of the Alliance’s mission.
Regrettably, these values are under threat and extremists continue to hijack the peaceful messages of Islam and other faiths. Last week this matter was described with courage, elegance and eloquence by Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan, who continues her remarkable recovery after an attack that used the religion as a pretext. She expressed, better than I ever could, the importance of resisting the efforts of those who would abuse religion for their own narrow aims.
When I met with her last week, she spoke about the horror of extremists targeting girls in her region. Her speech reminds us that the efforts of UNAOC must provide a direct response to the messages of hatred and intolerance. It also reminds us that we must not shy away from activities that are, as impactful as possible, in confronting this evil.
Under my leadership, UNAOC will orient its efforts addressing youth and education to ensure that messages of peace and tolerance are stressed. We will orient our activities towards the media at ensuring that the forces of extremism do not dominate the narratives that describe our world. We will continue to work on issues of migration as far too often those who must leave their homes are still not welcomed adequately into the countries where they now live.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
That is why, the mission of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, is now needed more than ever. The Alliance is still in need for the resources to help its functionality. I recall in particular that many of you, Member States, have generously pledged appreciated contributions to support this institution. In the coming month, I will be communicating reminders to the Foreign Ministers of the respective countries and I hope that their support will continue.
As I pledged to build on the achievement of my predecessor, I attach great importance to continuing his effort to build the UNAOC’s replenishment mechanism and the Partner’s Assembly.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before I conclude, I would like to thank the Government of Indonesia for their generous offer to host our next Global Forum. We are in touch with our Indonesian colleagues to determine the exact dates of the Forum which is expected to take place in the month of September 2014. Very soon, we will begin the challenging process of planning and send the invitations out.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that there are chances for you to host regional or sub-regional meetings as we ready ourselves for the 6th Global Forum. We will need to convene meetings of our Focal Points in 2014, consultations with civil society, or other preparatory conferences to best prepare the way for a successful Global Forum. I welcome your proposals in this regard.
I thank you for your attention and looking forward to interacting with you.