New York – September 27, 2013
Conference Room 1, Conference Building, UNHQ
Your Excellency Mr. John Ashe, President of the UNGA
Your Excellency Mr. Ahmet Davutoglu, the Foreign Minister of Turkey,
Your Excellency Mr. Juan Manuel Garcia-Margallo, the Foreign Minister of Spain,
Your Excellency, Mr. Ban Ki – moon, UN Secretary- General
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to welcome the Foreign Ministers’ and representatives of International Organizations, academia, civil society and the media and thank them for their support to the Alliance Though, each of you has your individual strategic priorities in carrying out your duties, yet, the guiding principle that is inherent to all of your work is best embodied by a sentence in Article 1 of the United Nations Charter: to “Develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace”.
The United Nations can set targets for standards of living, like the Millennium Development Goals, but, friendly and peaceful relations between countries and their peoples are almost as necessary as these goals for human and material progress. Indeed, they are sometimes
considered a pre-condition for them. Without the Global Harmony aspired to in the charter, the Development and Prosperity that our nations deserve will be difficult to achieve. Progress cannot be realized amidst conflict and instability. Indeed, recent reports support that premise. Thankfully this statistic has changed as of this year, but the challenges to development posed by cultural tensions are well-documented and very real.
The fact that there is no apparent conflict within a society does not mean that the society is a harmonious one. Cultural intolerance through hate speech, racism, religious tensions and discrimination can really hamper the development of a well-functioning society, and they can lead to more dangerous fractures.
In this context, the need for the Alliance of Civilizations is more apparent than ever. The Alliance was created with the intention of fulfilling the vision of friendly relations among nations enshrined in the Charter. It is my privilege to share with you how the Alliance has been working to make that vision a reality.
At the UNAOC’s Fifth Global Forum in Vienna held in February, I presented a vision and a new strategy for the organization. This vision is shaped by the fact that we are living in a smaller world and we are all inter-connected. Today, technology allows us to connect with each other no matter where we are. I hope the Vienna Report that the AOC just published, will be enlightening for your reading pleasure and to provide you with more details on that spectacular forum.
In no other time in human history have we had more exposure to those different from us. Access to, and information about the ‘other’ can be powerful unifying tools for humanity. But they can also be used in divisive and destructive ways. Ideas are no longer local. Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) make them global.
In a globalized world, information is an essential component of our life- it can lead to prosperity, or if misused, can drive us to confrontation and division.
Having laid that out, I am convinced that it is necessary to channel these tools and forces in a positive way to achieve our nations shared interests. As such, I can see the Alliance playing a pivotal role to achieve these goals for the sake of sustainable human development.
The sixth UNAOC annual report we shared whit you elaborates in details on how we are conducting our work, how our programs are functioning and how we are trying to utilize every possible activity to serve the AOC’s ultimate goals, namely achieving peace through interfaith dialogue.
I would like to share with you some examples of our recent achievements:
i) One of my earliest goals since assuming office was to oversee greater integration and mainstreaming of the UNAOC into the UN system. I am happy to report that through my team’s efforts much progress has been made, with notable coordination now taking place between my staff and the UN System, for instance, with DPA, OCHA, UNDP, UNICEF and other UN entities.
ii) Addressing youth issues is a priority for me and is one of the original pillars of activity for UNAOC. Our Youth Solidarity Fund has expanded, offering youth oriented civil society groups start-up grants after a competitive process. This year we are funding 16 projects in 13 countries. In February, we organized a week-long training of 20 young social entrepreneurs from the Euro-Med region. We know that youth unemployment is a factor that can drive conflict. These young social entrepreneurs are not only creating employment for themselves but also for members of their communities.
ii) The Fellowship Programme, which is the first trilaterally supported (i.e. Arab world, Europe, and the United States) exchange program of young professionals focused on overcoming identity-based conflicts and tensions, is about to convene its sixth class of Fellows. We are also transforming the Fellowship Program and our other competition programs to include a component of alumni activity, growing the ability of participants in UNAOC activities to continue and expand their collaboration after their specific program has been completed.
iii) Our work with the Media has continued to grow. We have partnered with the World Bank and Google, to organize capacity-building workshops for journalists in transition countries in the Arab world, with the aim of introducing them to the latest tools and best practices in newsgathering and reporting. The UNAOC has also multiplied projects and activities in improving the coverage of migration by the media. We organized a major seminar in Paris last January convening top editors in chief and migration experts, which led to concrete outcomes. Similarly, we had a national edition in Switzerland in May. The recommendations of these meetings were shared in a major social media campaign last summer, #coveringmigration, that reached over 5 million impressions and launched an important discussion about the coverage of that issue.
iv) Since the beginning of my tenure, UNAOC has also expanded its focus and activities to the Asia-Pacific region. This has included outreach visits to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. On Nov 1, I will address the opening session of the Beijing Forum, and will meet with academics from the region, as we continue to develop a vision for activities in that region.
vii) Finally, and perhaps most important, I have produced a strategy document to complement my vision for the next years. This document will remain viable and will be enhanced periodically under my vigilant guidance.
These examples I have outlined above are a simply implementation of the priorities I identified in Vienna.
You will note that we are making steady progress on our ambitious global mission. However, faced with the reality of constrained resources, we are actively pursuing the goal of identifying capable sources of people and material from around the world.
We are also actively pursuing opportunities to bring the private sector and foundations on board. I am proud to announce here today that we will be signing new agreements with some of our major partners.
At the same time as we celebrate these small victories, I want to make special mention of the need for continued financial support from Member States, as you are the mainstay of our resources and funding. The private sector can augment, but not replace, your commitment. Without your help, we will not be able to continue this scale of activity.
I have paid special attention to evaluating the effectiveness of the governance structure of UNAOC. I am committed to strengthening our ability to maximize the engagement of you, our Group of Friends. I will be reviewing current structures, including the Partners Assembly, to consider the best ways to ensure that the Member States of the Group of Friends can fill its crucial advisory role.
I extend my sincere thanks to Secretary – General Ban Ki-moon for his kind support and personal attention to the Alliance, and I take this opportunity to say thank you to our donors and partners, whose help and support has been invaluable in enabling us to carry out our duties.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are preparing for our sixth Global Forum, to be held end of August 2014 in Indonesia, a country that is home to great civilizations. Indonesia is blessed with a rich, diverse culture that cherishes peace, harmony, and tolerance. We are grateful to the Indonesian government and people for their support. H. E. Mr. Marty Natelagawa, the Foreign Minister will elaborate more in his remarks on the readiness and preparedness of his country to make the sixth UNAOC Global Forum a story of success.
In closing, allow me to thank all of you for supporting the outcome of this meeting, which is a first time approach for UNAOC Annual Ministerial meeting.
We will continue our work in contributing to the vision of universal peace among nations laid out in the United Nations Charter for the sake of global harmony for development and prosperity to live in a better world.
I thank you.