Unity in Diversity
Op-ed by Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, The High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
The Sixth Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations on the theme “Unity in Diversity” could not take place in a more fitting venue than the city of Bali. Indonesia is indeed the concrete achievement of that most challenging of philosophical pursuits – reconciling unity and diversity.
The UNAOC was born at a critical juncture in world history, when we as human beings faced a potential global cultural confrontation, the result of the criminal extremism of a band of terrorists, who before hijacking commercial flights and turning them into weapons of mass destruction, planned to hijack a faith of peace : Islam.
Faced with this danger, the international community established the new institution to equip the United Nations with a new tool of preventive diplomacy to apply to situations of cultural and identity-based tensions in a world equally blessed and doomed by the new paradigm of globalization.
The daunting challenge for our societies in the near and, more so, in the long-term future will be how to live peacefully with the other: he or she who does not share the color of our skin, our deeply-held beliefs or traditions, or our language, but who is our neighbor or colleague in this globalized world in which borders have become fluid, if not obsolete.
More than ever, the wise idiom, “live and let live,” will be of great value. The virtues of tolerance, mutual respect, moderation, and reason if taught seriously in schools, upheld in the home, and practiced in daily civic life could save future generations from collective catastrophes like those of the last century.
The reason the Alliance was created and the reason I agreed to lead it, is that it remains one of our best hopes to counter polarization across and within societies. I find that sometimes what we fear most, we often ascribe to those so-called “others”, as a way of legitimizing our fears. Indeed, the purpose of much of the UN’s work, and certainly the Alliance of Civilizations’ work, is to remind us of our shared dignity, and from that, our responsibility to the world we share. This is not a mere sentiment. It is a view that has deep and practical consequences in how we carry and conduct ourselves in the world.
The Alliance ability to deliver on our goals is based on meaningful partnerships on the ground. Religious leaders, academia, civil society organizations, the media and the corporate sector have a critical role to play in fostering understanding, respect for diversity and tolerance. All of these human values lie in the heart of the mission of the Alliance. In that sense, the UNAOC is a true reflection of the aims and the principles of the UN Charter.
Not only does diversity matter even more tomorrow than it does today: it is our inescapable human condition. The question is how to equip future generations with the tools that will enable them to make this coexistence an experience of peace, creativity, personal happiness, and a better life for all.
Let’s all work together to make this brighter future possible.