H.E. MR. NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE OF THE UNITED NATIONS ALLIANCE OF CIVILIZATIONS
HIGH LEVEL PANEL DISCUSSION
“SOCIAL HARMONY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: PROMOTING UNDERSTANDING AND RESPECT IN A TIME OF INTOLERANCE”
PERMANENT MISSION OFALBANIA TO THE UN
PERMANENT MISSION OF JORDAN TO THE UN
THE PERMANENT OBSERVER MISSION OF THE HOLY SEE TO THE UN
26 SEPTEMBER 2015
CONFERENCE ROOM 1
Your Excellency, Mr. Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania,
Your Excellency, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, the Holy See,
Your Excellency, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, High Commisioner for Human Rights
Your Excellency, Mrs. Irina Bokova, Director General opf UNESCO,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to participate in this High Level Panel Discussion organized under the leadership of the Permanent Missions of Albania, and Jordan, in collaboration with the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See. I have had the opportunity to work with all of you in separate occasions and it is always a pleasure to reinforce our common efforts towards harmony, understanding and respect for religious and cultural freedoms.
To our agenda, I would like to note that the themes selected for this panel discussion are timely and allow addressing the interconnection that exist amid the notions of (1) social harmony; (2) Sustainable Development and (3) Promoting understanding and respect in times of intolerance. The challenge of encouraging and implementing the 2030 Development Agenda will require concerted multinational and multilateral efforts . We often hear that there cannot be sustainable development without peace and security. I would like to add to this notion that there will not be any successful sustainable development without dialogue and harmony among people . Two elements which are essential to peace and security.
We are meeting today at a crucial time. The 193 countries represented at the United Nations are gathering this week to celebrate the values and ideals bolstered by the UN Charter. The understanding and implementation of these values since 1945, has allowed the world to face critical challenges from conflicts and wars to humanitarian and environmental devastations.
The UN Charter also served as a valuable tool to foster inclusive societies. I have in mind the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals in the year 2000, which reinforced the world humanity’s commitment to development, and now, this year, the transition to the transformative 2030 Development Agenda. This agenda is a call to action as it seeks to combine development and dignity for all.
I would like to stress that the values and ideals of the UN Charter also served as a stepping-stone in launching the initiative of the Secretary-General, the UN Alliance of Civilizations in 2005. It allowed setting the stage for better comprehensive policies and dialogue between Occidental and Muslim worlds at a time of great intolerance and misunderstanding after the dramatic events of 9/11.
The challenges we are currently facing regarding the scourge of intolerance and lack of respect for diversity and inclusivity have reaffirmed the significance of the UNAOC beyond the Western and Muslim worlds. The celebration of our tenth anniversary this year with the adoption of the 2015 resolution “United Nations Alliance of Civilizations,” by the UN General Assembly, confirms this need for dialogue. It demonstrates the importance that member States attach to the role of the Alliance in tackling the root causes of hatred and violence and in encouraging peaceful and inclusive societies.
I am convinced that the soft power tool of dialogue, which drives our mission and activities, must be applied to all fields of society. There is absolutely no doubt that dialogue must remain one the top priority tools to enhance cooperation, capacity building and information sharing during this time of transition to the sustainable development agenda. Doing so will reinforce the social harmony we all seek to implement.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The atrocities committed by extreme terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria, in the western regions of Africa and Asia with local radicalized groups pledging allegiance to violent values demand an immediate response. The misleading use of religious ideologies is harming the global balance of harmony among nations, cultures and people.
We are facing attacks based on the grounds of religious or ethnic affiliations not only in the Middle East but also in other regions of the world. These attacks are disturbing centuries-long mosaics of tolerance, respect and understanding.
As one of the many results, we are witnessing the worst humanitarian tragedy Europe has faced since World War II. In that regard, I would like to commend the Governments of Albania and Jordan for their leadership in welcoming Syrians and Iraqi refugees who risk their lives to reach conflict-free zones.
There is no question that the 2030 Development Agenda will largely depend on the security-peace situation of the signatory countries. Our mission at the UNAOC is to assist them in fostering peaceful and inclusive societies in accordance with our mandate, which echoes the SDG 16.
The UNAOC plays a unique role at the United Nations. I have seen the many benefits of engaging UN Member States and agencies, civil society and academia in activities that promote our shared vision of tolerance, inclusivity and diversity.
The foundational document of the UNAOC, the High Level Group Report, mandates us to work on preventing the drivers causing polarization, radicalization, and violence between and within communities.
I have made it my priority to extensively collaborate with other UN agencies, such as CTED, CTITF , DPA as well as academia and civil society. I have signed several working arrangements to ease the implementation of preventing radicalization and violent extremism programs and activities.
The pursuit of our objective remains two-fold, based on short and long-term strategies targeting young people, education, the media and religious mediation.
Our first target, youth: The UNAOC seeks to engage youth as critical messengers of peace who can spread the word about inclusion, diversity and respect. We are involving them in multiple programs to include a successful summer school, which welcomes about 100 young men and women from around the world. We recognize that instilling shared values in our youth is the one of our most lasting and sustainable investment.
Our second target, Education: Educating youth about the current challenges of radicalizations and extreme violence is one of the top priority of the UNAOC. Unfortunately, we all concede that despite efforts, there is a clear lack of investment in this crucial element to build peaceful and inclusive societies. This can result in enormous gaps in terms of understanding the shared humanistic values of the world religions. Our various partnerships and activities aim at fulfilling this gap.
Our third target is the media: Through our media programming, we seek to encourage ethical and legal awareness of relevant UN instruments on how to practice freedom of speech based on norms agreed by all, without encouraging hatred and intolerance.
Our fourth target is reflected in religious mediation. I am glad that today’s meeting includes both political and religious leaders, who are complementary actors in promoting inclusiveness and respect among communities. In this area of work, we have engaged leaders of different faiths to speak out and engage in interfaith dialogue to tackle the issues of radicalization and violent extremism. We organized a high-level debate in the UN General Assembly on the role of religious leaders in fostering inclusiveness and reconciliation and countering the rise of violent extremism last April.
The Alliance is always undertaking innovative ways to further promote social harmony, understanding and respect, specifically in times of intolerance.
I strongly think that we can tackle intolerance accordingly with the sustainable development goals through dialogue and pro-active actions such as: trust building; employing human-centered approaches to conflict resolution and mediation and by reinforcing multilateral efforts towards our shared objective to live in harmonious societies.