Remarks by H. E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser The High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations At The Roundtable on Multiculturalism: Tolerance, Dialogue and Solidarity An Event hosted by the President of the Senate of Romania
Bucharest – October 15, 2013
Your Excellency Mr. Crin Antonescu, The President of the Senate of Romania.
Your Excellency, Mr. Christian David, Minister Delegate for Romanians Living Abroad,
Your Excellency Senator Georgica Severin,
Excellencies, Dear colleagues and friends,
It is a great honor for me, in my capacity as High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, to address this Roundtable with NGOs and Government titled Multiculturalism: Tolerance, Dialogue and Solidarity.
I want to praise the leadership and the vision of the Government of Romania for having decided to hold this Roundtable and to focus it on intercultural dialogue and the role of culture in bringing people together. Peace, stability and prosperity around the world require indeed harmony and respect among people and cultures. I thank the Government for inviting me to take part in the important work of expanding this message.
I want to seize this opportunity to stress the role of arts, music, entertainment and other forms of collective expressions of human values to foster the culture of peace, dialogue and understanding among people and cultures. I have announced in my inaugural speech in Vienna last February that this would become one of the new pillars of the work of the Alliance of Civilizations.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations it is my duty to promote multiculturalism and tolerance. The Alliance is a soft power tool of the Secretary-General established to contribute to a more peaceful world by fighting against radicalization and polarization, by encouraging greater intercultural understanding and doing so by engaging in projects that advance those goals.
I take pride that with the campaign “Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion “we have launched a world movement with millions of supporters and “champions “for diversity. This movement, in support of UNESCO’s World Diversity Day on May 21, will keep on growing thanks to the vitality of the civil society, the corporate world, religious organizations, local communities, and our young people.
Last May 21st, in order to celebrate World Day for Diversity and Development, I was myself in the Bronx in New York, to engage with local communities and to learn from them how arts and culture, interfaith dialogue and sports are contributing to Living together Peacefully in a diverse world.
I was moved and impressed by the leadership and the passion of the Baseball captain , the Pastor, the Rabbi and the social educators who I met and who have committed their life to bring people from all communities together, regardless the color of their skin, their faith and belief, their origins. We owe them respect and admiration.
This shows very clearly that there are many people around the world who stand for diversity and inclusion, and who know that it is indispensable to live in peace and prosperity.
Unfortunately, our work is hardly done. Far too many people around the world suffer the effects of conflict, often centered on differences of religion, or ethnicity, or culture. Identity-based conflict must be addressed in all its forms.
Although the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many other international law instruments clearly prohibit discrimination on grounds of religion, race, gender and many other differences, sadly we live predominantly in a world of intolerance, xenophobia, marginalization, tensions and conflict. In a growing number of countries, culture is perceived as source of division, instead of a path to dialogue and human solidarity.
In some regions, minorities are victims of atrocities including mass killings, only because they belong to different cultures. Holy books are burned and religious symbols are defamed.
These are real challenges which threaten our efforts to achieve our shared goals of peace and security, sustainable development and human rights.
The principles are clear. How to promote and apply the principles is the responsibility of leadership in our societies. That was the clear message of the Alliance of Civilizations Global Forum held in Vienna last February.
We owe it to our people, to the peoples of the world to fulfill their expectations.
Without responsible leadership to effectively manage these challenges our ability to coexist in our small planet is at risk.
But there are also signs of hope- the hope that we altogether can overcome most difficult crises and bring peoples and cultures together.
This is why I am committed to supporting interreligious and intercultural dialogue as a key tool in the field of mediation, a field that must be used if we are to avoid painful conflicts in the future. Here I take note of the interest of the Romanian Government in participating in a Regional Strategy to promote these tools within this region in partnership with the Government of Austria. The Alliance of Civilizations looks forward to working on this project with Romania and Austria.
We also see that we, as a global people, are increasing interconnected.
Through sports, arts and entertainment, travel and tourism, youth exchanges, education, work, through social networks and the internet people increasingly interact together, exchange ideas, learn about each other and are curious about other cultures. We are entering a new era where people are playing an increasing role in preventing tensions and conflicts. That is why I intend to introduce new concepts to the activities of Alliance, such as arts, entertainment, music, sports, using them as additional tools for preventive diplomacy besides the use of mediation to resolve disputes, a principle that is stipulated in the Charter of the United Nations.
These connections extend to civil society movements that I believe we must support. We see all around the world amazing grassroots initiatives that bring people together beyond cultural divide.
Developed in partnership with the BMW Group and the UN Alliance of Civilizations, the Intercultural Innovation Award is supporting the most innovative projects and helps them to scale up and replicate. We do the same with Youth projects through our Youth Solidarity Fund.
We have indeed the conviction that civil society and the corporate sector are essential components, crucial actors if we want to be able to reach this goal of “Living together peacefully in a diverse world”. They do innovate, they are close to the people, and they understand the dynamics of the modern and complex world where we live. The rise of global issues – being climate change, poverty eradication, fight against terrorism, bio diversity …- is also forging a sense of global destiny and global citizenship, and hopefully a global mindset and respect of our difference.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The United Nations was built on the premise that dialogue is the best path to peace. That cultural diversity, freedom, mutual respect and respect for Human Rights, enhance our life.
Peace can last only where human rights are respected, because peace, security, human rights and development are interconnected and mutually reinforcing.
Let me refer to conclude my remarks to the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi, who said that “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive”.
I thank you and look forward to an interesting debate this afternoon.