H.E. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser
The High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
at The Plenary entitled
“Countering Violent Extremism: the Role of Religious Leaders in Promoting Religious Pluralism and Advancing Shared Well-being”
3rd World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue
Baku, Azerbaijan | 18-19 May, 2015
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to address you once again today. In my address this morning at the opening ceremony, I highlighted the importance of a global collective action to stem out violent extremism and protect our youth from falling prey to radical ideologies.
In this plenary, I will be more specific as to what course of action should be taken to counter violent extremism and acts of terrorism as well as the role of religious leaders in this context.
Allow me first to recall the landmark adoption of the UN Counter-terrorism Global Strategy in 2006 – and I use the word “landmark” because this was the first time that all Member States agreed to a common strategic vision and approach in the fight against terrorism – three biennial reviews of strategy have taken place.
At the United Nations, we achieved among other outcomes, an important universal document; the United Nations Global Counter Terrorism strategy. The Alliance is focusing on its first pillar or as we call it pillar 1 which focuses on the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. We know from our experience – from both successes and the failures – that regardless of how much we improve our society, terrorism and violent extremism will not vanish until we address the conditions conducive to its emergence and growth.
Last September, a very important resolution was adopted unanimously by the Security Council aimed at stopping the flow of foreign extremists to battlefields around the world, in the context of combatting the threat of terrorism. Security Council Resolution 2178 requires Member States to take specific steps to prevent suspected foreign terrorist fighters from entering or transiting their territories and to implement legislation to persecute such fighters. It also calls on states to undertake various steps to improve international cooperation in this field, such as sharing information on criminal investigations, interdictions and prosecutions. Specifically, the resolution calls upon States to enhance CVE (or combatting violent extremism) and to take steps to decrease the risk of radicalization and terrorism in their societies such as engaging local communities and engaging religious leaders in reaching out to the various sectors of the society.
Why religious leaders? I see few distinguished religious leaders among the panel. The answer is simple.
All of the world’s major religions bear shared commitments to building peace and emphasizing the oneness of humanity, to standing on the side of the marginalized and to working to resolve conflicts.
Therefore, religious mediation compliments and supports preventive diplomacy. Religious communities have followers across race, class and gender. The international community and national governments should support religious leaders in spreading their messages of peace, harmony and hope. We should encourage them to be fully engaged including with the United Nations to maximize their respective strengths.
It is important to note that Combating Violent Extremism is a process that needs programs, as means to ensure that we take actions that are practical and effective. While doing so, we need to take into account to employ human centered approaches. By this, I mean by listening to the concerns and experiences of communities, particularly marginalized communities, that have long struggled with violence and violent extremism. While being human-centered, we need to willfully and honestly work as the providers who build the capacity of local communities to handle their own affairs. Our commitment should always be on working towards creating behavioral shifts and changing mindsets. At the end we should focus on building societies that are peaceful and inclusive.
Often our work at the Alliance in this area consists of creating avenues of empowerment for marginalized communities and especially young people. We are also constantly looking for ways to improve our monitoring and evaluation of such activities so that we may better assess their impact and adjust accordingly. We also believe that we should always focus on challenges facing youth, who are the primary victims of radical ideologies. Youth are vital in creating a more tolerant future generation with educators at school and parents at home having a particularly important role to play in their upbringing.
We should not overlook, the constructive use of media being an important communications platform for moderate voices. Social media tools need to be creatively and effectively leveraged to counterbalance negative messaging from violent extremist groups.
In conclusion, violent extremism is a global problem that requires a global solution. The political and collective will of the international community working hand in hand with religious leaders, civil society , and academia is vital if we are to conquer violent extremism.
Thank you. I look forward to our discussion.