Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 8 January 2014
Ladies and gentlemen,
As the High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, it is indeed an honor and privilege for me to address you on the occasion of the 27th Conference of the Academy of Latinity.
I’m glad that we are gathering here in this beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur and at the University of Malaya, which I thank for hosting our meeting.
At the very outset, I notice that, following the tragedy of 9/11, the Academy Of Latinity has been holding its annual conferences every alternate year in a country of Islamic culture.
This is a smart move to help our collective efforts in sending the right signals on how can we all unite and how we can all defuse cultural misunderstandings, through responsible leadership, constructive spirit and good faith.
Since my duty as High Representative is to encourage multicultural dialogue, I deeply appreciate the efforts of the Academy, to reach out to the Muslim world, and I will allude to them further in my speech.
On the same page, I also encourage the organizations of the East whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish, to further interact with each other and to knock the doors of governments, organizations and peoples at the other side of the world.
From this perspective I find it highly appropriate to express my deep appreciation for the role that the Academy of Latinity is playing for the cause of world peace by encouraging the common understanding and respect, across the continents and between different civilizations.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, during the decade of the 1990s, the hegemonic school of thought created the blueprint of a civilization of fear by advocating the clash of civilizations.
The founding fathers of the Academy of Latinity challenged this mind-set from within the American continent.
The Academy instead presented a new blueprint for a remaking of the world order. This blueprint was rooted in human dignity and the creativity of civilizations. Thus, the Academy sees the future of humanity as rooted in creativity, not clash.
Creativity manifests itself in diverse ways. Hence, creative diversity is strength.
Given the diversity around us, the Academy advocates dialogue and multi-culturalism to enhance mutual understanding and cooperation for world peace.
Using human dignity and creativity as its philosophical foundation, the Academy built strong bridges of understanding with European countries with rich cultural and literary traditions.
This maturity of thought also stimulated the Academy to respond to the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. by initiating dialogue with the contemporary Islamic civilization.
Moreover, in order to strengthen this dialogue, starting 2002 the Academy has been holding its annual conference every alternate year in a country of Islamic culture.
I am sharing this background to highlight and appreciate the contribution of the Academy in enhancing inter-civilizational understanding and stable world peace and I look forward to establish cooperative partnership between our two institutions, UNAOC and the Academy.
Last February, the AoC held its Fifth Annual Forum in Vienna. The theme of the forum was “Responsible Leadership”.
I must say that the establishment of the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMMF) by Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, is indeed a great act of responsible leadership.
I take this opportunity to sincerely thank the Prime Minister on institutionalizing a thought process, so essential to the peace and prosperity for the humanity. The Alliance looks forward to working hand-in-hand with the GMMF.
It is through the building of partnerships between established networks like the Academy of Latinity, the GMMF, the INTAC and other organizations, that we can establish a global consortium which can work closely beyond regionalism and bridge continental, civilizational and cultural divides.
The AoC aims to play the role of facilitator, while the consortium and its networks will maintain their roles and leadership over their respective areas.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The AoC aims to improve cross-cultural understanding, religious tolerance and cooperation among countries, peoples and communities, with a special focus on improving relations within and between Western and Muslim societies.
This is why AoC exists and this is why I came here to share with you some thoughts, concerns and visions for the future we want in the world of tomorrow.
You can notice very clearly today, the scale of tensions, conflicts, violence, militancy and wars around the world. But can you have an image about how these issues will transform and evolve, 10 years from now?
The state of the world stability underscores the need for an active role of the Alliance, not only as the institution that I’m leading, but also by utilizing the concept of the Alliance as well, which is more important than putting the responsibility on one institution.
Each one of you has a role to play in this regard. Governments, NGOS, education institutions, civil society, academics, business and private sector and even individuals.
All of us can act today to protect our selves and our children in the world of tomorrow.
In line with Article 1 of the UN Charter, the UNAOC aspires to cultivate and promote friendship and cooperation between peoples through dialogue, respect for diversity and human rights.
I am fully aware that we are doing everything we can for now – but the final outcome will be decided by our future generations. Thus, the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.
It is crucial that we pave the way for enhancing their understanding of issues and inculcating a commitment to dialogue, multiculturalism, tolerance and respect for the “other”. Hence, I am especially focused on the engagement with and participation of the youth.
In the same context, Education is a powerful strategic weapon in our fight against extremism, poverty and intolerance.
Unfortunately, hundreds and millions of children and youth in developing countries of the South either have poor quality education or have no access to education at all.
In this regard, I would like to highlight the role of Qatar Education Above All Foundation. Under the leadership of HH Sheikha Moza Bint Nassir, the foundation is pursuing the goal of measurably improving access to high quality education for vulnerable and marginalized people in developing countries.
Therefore the AoC has signed an MoU with the Education Above All Foundation to promote educational rights for all children regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or any other characteristic. In addition to education: people, especially youth, aspire to a life of freedom and dignity, which is rooted in economic independence. Thus, jobs and employment are central to peace and stability.
But as I said, UNAOC is just one institution that is discharging its responsibility according to its mandate; nevertheless, we can’t deliver results alone, unless all stakeholders pursue the concept of coexistence through genuine desire.
This strong will can enable us to share the benefits on our planet, for achieving peace, stability and development,
Ladies and gentlemen,
The UNAOC started to function in 2007 with four major pillars, demonstrating practical activities and programs to spread the culture of peace: Education, Youth, Migration and Media. These key areas have immense potential to inform and educate societies about the virtues of pluralism and inclusiveness.
Since we are living in a globalized world that exceeds not only regional arrangements, but also national borders, I felt that we need to add additional focus areas to the four major pillars.
Globalization will exceed its classic economic scope and understanding of being a developmental trend or phenomena and will entail changes to the global state of international peace and security. Globalization, through its aspects of universality has broader meaning that can cross over states borders and will pose challenging circumstances for humanity, while we in the same time can not deny its shared benefits as well.
The continued identity based tensions can be easily carried out in our globalized world with its unstoppable technology.
Different ideologies and different groups, combined with escalating security and cultural concerns and interests of super powers, will need more efforts to push for more understanding instead of unilateral actions.
These continued cultural tensions pushed for the creation of what so called the “United Nations Alliance of Civilizations”. In its first report, the High Level Group that recommended to the UN Secretary General, the establishment of this institution, recognized how globalization made a big difference in how we perceive the other in a globalized world.
The High Level Group acknowledged that the political and technological developments during the twentieth century raised the hope and possibility for an unprecedented period of harmony between nations and a vast improvement in global well-being.
Indeed, much has been achieved. Multilateral cooperation and civil society involvement paved the way to a number of positive developments in international relations, including a ban on the use of landmines, the establishment of international criminal tribunals, and the initiation of a wide range of cooperative initiatives aimed at eradicating diseases or fighting poverty.
Despite these achievements, however, a general disorder continues to be felt in many quarters regarding the state of the world.
There is a widespread perception that the multilateral institutions established to advance universal principles and to improve general well-being are ineffective mainly due to the lack of support of the most powerful countries and a real fear that the prospect of a more peaceful, stable, and prosperous future for today’s youth is at risk.
But what can we do to confront these challenges? While knowing that these challenges face all of us, regardless of our religion, culture or backgrounds.
In some cases, this pessimism is the result of particular local, national, or regional dynamics, but there is also a broader global context that must be considered.
In social, political and economic terms, the West is both driving globalization and yet seemingly threatened by some of its trends. Western powers maintain overwhelming political, economic, and military power in the world, including disproportionate influence in multilateral political and economic bodies.
Mounting population flows from poor to rich countries, un-integrated immigrant communities and cross-border spill-overs of economic, environmental, health and even physical security factors have highlighted both the interdependence of societies, cultures and the widening gaps between them.
These changes, if not well managed, will have effects on our security, coexistence and stability.
Therefore, I have expanded the key areas of AoC engagement to include concepts and means that may help us understand each other better.
That’s why, I decided to add Sport, Music, Art and entertainment, which so far I call (SMARTe), with a view towards deeper engagement by all relevant actors.
I also thought it would be important to add the concept of mediation to resolve identity based tensions by peaceful means, including through the use of help that religious leaders can provide.
In addition, there is a special emphasis on engagement with academia.
The approach of the AoC is rooted in human dignity, respect for human rights and support for democracy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Since AoC is committed to serving and reaching out to humanity, it needs a global network of partners that is committed to these principles and ideals.
Since I took over as the HR I have been on the move around the globe, meeting with political, religious and community leaders participating in deliberations at forums and conferences like this distinguished gathering, to forge alliances with potential partners.
Our global network has multiple layers. We are building alliances with civil society organizations, academic institutions, think tanks, media outlets, corporate sector, etc.
In addition, the AoC has organized a Group of Friends (GoF), which is also expanding. At present, 114 countries and 24 civil society organizations are its members.
We have signed MoUs with a number of universities and other specialized institutions that share our vision and mission.
At the governmental level, our member countries develop national strategies to implement our commonly shared goals within the context of their specific needs and resources.
These national strategies are supported and coordinated in each region by the regional strategies of the Alliance, which address the specific challenges and opportunities to that region.
Asia and Latin America are of unique importance. They are home to many great civilizations, and have the largest populations in the world compared to other regions.
Thus, they rank highly on our list of priorities.
Indeed, Asia and Latin America have immense potential to contribute to a stable, peaceful and harmonious world.
On the other hand, their conflicts and disputes can pose a serious threat, not only to their regional peace, but also to the prosperity of the whole world.
We believe that the people of these two continents are destined to play a major role in contributing to world peace, prosperity and inter-civilizational harmony.
The AoC is making special efforts in reaching out to the people of Asia to facilitate them in the realization of their destiny.
This is being done by engaging Asian governments through their national strategies, and working with civil society organizations, intellectuals and interfaith dialogue.
Last year the Alliance participated in forums in Shanghai and Beijing. This year the 6th Annual Forum of the Alliance will be held in Bali with the support of the government of Indonesia. The forum will focus on the theme “Unity in Diversity”.
There are reasons to why I believe Bali is a good choice to host the sixth Global Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations.
Many civilizations are neighbor to each other in Asia, and those civilizations come together to make the Malaysian nation.
Indeed, Malaysia exemplifies another symbol of shared values that we promote, which makes it a good choice to host this conference.
Malaysia has a healthy record of multi-culturalism, religious tolerance and upholds the politics of unity in diversity.
Historically, the Malaysian nation and its leaders have been known for their efforts to promote mutual understanding, dialogue and cooperation in the midst of diversity.
It was in recognition of these characteristics that Bapa Merdeka “Father of Independence” Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, was awarded the historic responsibility of being the first Secretary General of the OIC.
This was a job he did very well, despite the division in the Muslim and south nations because of the cold war at the time.
Indeed, Malaysia’s vision and sincere activism for regional peace, stability and cooperation was acknowledged by her neighbors when, in 1972, they came together in Kuala Lumpur to sign the ASEAN Declaration of ZOPFAN .
The ZOPFAN agreement declared the ASEAN region as a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality.
The ZOPFAN Declaration kept the ASEAN region safe from the cold war era, which was a war between rival super powers, and allowed the region to successfully pursue economic development and earn the respect of the world.
ASEAN as regional organization has a rich history of contributing to stable peace for prosperity, and the AOC looks forward to working with ASEAN.
Malaysian intellectuals and academics are also committed to promoting intercultural understanding and interfaith dialogue.
I experienced it first hand early last year, when I was invited by the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) to launch the International Centre for the Alliance of Civilizations (INTAC).
UNAOC and INTAC are now working closely to realize our common goals.
Tomorrow, we will both sign a cooperative Memorandum of Understanding.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As a diplomat I have spent the longer part of my life in the international arena, particularly in the multilateral field.
I was entrusted with the honor of heading diplomatic missions, UN bodies: such as the UNSC and the UNGA and also heading other commissions and subsidiary bodies at the United Nations at different stages of my career.
Lastly, here I am heading the Alliance of Civilizations.
As a diplomat I have always actively supported sustainable development, especially for developing countries, and the AoC is fully aware of the importance of the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals.
Even if the International Community couldn’t achieve the goals as planned in the year 2000 due to multifaceted factors, it would be wise to recognize that there is a need more than ever before, for uniting all efforts among all nations to exert further efforts for achieving peace, prosperity and development, for the sake of humanity.
This is not only a moral call of duty; it is also what our cultures require from us.
I thank you and wish you successful deliberations and results.