H.E. MR. NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE OF THE UNITED NATIONS ALLIANCE OF CIVILIZATIONS
UNITED NATIONS ALLIANCE OF CIVILIZATIONS
GROUP OF FRIENDS MINISTERIAL MEETING
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS AND UNAOC
1 OCTOBER 2015
UN HQ CONFERENCE ROOM 2
Your Excellency Mr. Mogens Lykketof, President of the UNGA
Your Excellency, Mr. Oh Joon, President of ECOSOC,
Your Excellency Mr. Feridun H. Sinirlioglu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey,
Your Excellency, Mr. Ignacio Ybañez, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Spain,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start with a warm welcome to you all.
Our meeting today is a good opportunity to remember the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Alliance of Civilzations, take stock of our achievements and outline the path that the Alliance should follow to promote a peaceful, just and inclusive society. It is also a reminder of the context of the time when the Alliance was initiated. A time when polarization between cultures was high and a wave of terrorist attacks took our world by a storm. Sadly, today we find ourselves in an almost similar position. Despite the similarities, the wisdom of establishing an Alliance of Civilizations remains unchanged and the 4 pillars that identify our work is as relevant today as they were 10 years ago.
Over the last ten years, the support of the international community to the Alliance has grown rapidly. Our Group of Friends includes today 144 Members of which are 118 UN Member States and 26 international organizations. They represent all continents, societies and cultures.
You, the Group of Friends of the Alliance play a vital role in the formulation of our strategy, in the implementation of our programs and in providing us both political and financial support. Support, that was demonstrated when in this past July, the General Assembly adopted by consensus Resolution “The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations”.
Allow me to also recognize the top 10 donors, who have generously supported UNAOC Trust Fund since its establishment: Spain, Turkey, BMW Group, State of Qatar, United Kingdom, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Portugal and Sweden.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Historical events have taken place at the United Nations over the last few days. The address of His Holiness Pope Francis to the General Assembly was a message to the world that it is the responsibility of today’s world leadership to secure a world where future generations can coexist in peace, in justice and economic dignity. In the words of the H.E. the President of the General Assembly , Mr. Lykketoft , quote “our ambition will only be realized in a world of peace and security and respect for human rights – not in a world , where investment in armament and wars and more and more absorb and destroy a huge share of the resources”. Very wise words, indeed.
Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a series of high-level meetings and side events where we participants re-affirmed the need to foster a culture of peace and to mainstream all the dimensions of sustainable development throughout the United Nations system. No stone should be left unturned. All possible paths should be explored.
All of us, States, international organizations, private businesses, civil society, faith based organizations need to join hands and confront the challenges of the 21th century.
This agenda of a world where peace and freedom prevail is at the core of the creation of the United Nations. More than ever, we all feel a sense of urgency. More than ever, we understand that the new sustainable development agenda 2030, must include all people, especially young men and women, embracing cultural diversity and religious differences.
This is where the work of the Alliance is paramount. Sustainable development is not possible where wars and conflicts reign.
The vision of the founders of the Alliance was shaped by the awareness that promoting understanding between nations and communities across cultural and religious divides were fundamental for conflict prevention.
We all know that the 17 development goals, which were just adopted by the General Assembly, are attainable when people realize that cultural and religious diversity enriches societies. This is where the Alliance role come into play.
To reach the targets defined under the 17 goals, we need to reinforce dialogue across civilizations and religions. We need to strengthen the culture of peace and work towards achieving the ultimate goal of living together in harmonious, inclusive and peaceful societies.
We have developed our portfolio to transform into action the vision of the post 2015 agenda.
Although the Alliance has limited financial means, our strategy sought to channel our efforts on high impact and cost efficient projects.
We place youth at the forefront of our activities. We have a range of projects that help young people to build bridges across culture and religion through education programs that also provide them with valuable employment skills and platforms to make their voices heard.
Here are some examples of the projects we have launched to support the goals of the SDGs. They focus on supporting youth, education and the Media and Migration. They are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Let me illustrate our work by mentioning few of our current initiatives
Our Summer school, in partnership with EF Education First, brings young people from across the world, to address global challenges in the context of cultural and religious diversity. Since its first edition, almost 500 youth representing 119 countries, participated in the Summer School. Our project Entrepreneurs for Social Change, in partnership with CRT Foundation, provides mentoring and financial support to young entrepreneurs from the Euro-Mediterranean region. Up to now, 60 young entrepreneurs coming from 23 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea took part in the initiative. Since 2010 our Fellowship Program supported by the German Government has brought together over 200 young civil society young leaders from the MENA region with young leaders North America/Europe. It engages the Fellows in intercultural dialogue to broaden their understanding of culturally sensitive topics.
But the impact is more dramatic when you consider the work done by those who participate in our projects. Since 2008 our Youth Solidarity Fund has provided seed funding to 46 outstanding youth-led initiatives that promote long-term constructive relationships between people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. Coming from 30 different countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, the work of the supported organization impacted over 700,000 people.
Additionally the impact of the NGOs work who were recipients of the Intercultural Innovation Award (IIA) have benefited over 600,000 people from 88 countries around the world. IIA is in partnership with the BMW Group where we select innovative and sustainable projects of non-profit organizations that promote dialogue and understanding.
We also have a series of media projects that promote bias free information and intercultural dialogue taking into account the new dimension of information through social media and games.
Through our work on the coverage of the media, we continue to provide journalists, advocates, policy-makers and the general public with a more complete and nuanced understanding of current critical topics such as migration, education and youth. By doing so, we seek to foster a broader platform for a richer public debate. In this mission, we are collaborating with UNESCO on enhancing media and information literacy. Through our Plural + Youth Video Festival, we support the development and distribution of youth-produced media on the topics of migration, diversity and social inclusion. PEACE App developed in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and with the support of the MIT is a contest that invites app and video game developers from around the world to create apps or mobile games designed to generate new opportunities for intercultural dialogue and conflict prevention. We developed with partners a media friendly glossary on migration that provides journalists with a useful tool for covering migration-related issues.
As you can see, in 2015 we continued to develop our portfolio of activities and programmes.
We encouraged UNAOC Project Managers to expand or evolve them, especially based on our aggressive effort to seek feedback from participants and partners. Through this feedback process we adjusted the content of the training provided through the BMW Intercultural Innovation Award to improve the focus of the training events.
In 2015, and for the first time since the Fellowship Program was launched in 2010, both cohorts will have the chance to meet for two days in Sarajevo, a city shaped by multiple religious communities and a historical crossroad influenced both by Western and Muslim heritage. In Sarajevo, and under the overarching theme of Interfaith Reconciliation, UNAOC Fellows will be given the opportunity to interact with each other and discuss with local actors.
In November we will launch our new Hate Speech Project. Our project will explore the reasons that hate speech remains a pervasive element that contributes to violent extremism. We will also explore the link between hate speech and the treatment of migrants. As we continue to promote social inclusion as a fundamental principle in the treatment of migrants, the role of hate speech in preventing this inclusion must be addressed.
Our outreach efforts to partners progressed over the course of the past year. We increased direct contact with Member States on a bilateral basis, intergovernmental organizations and with the private sector. We are currently negotiating extensions and expansions to existing partnerships while exploring new ones that could bring additional revenues to the Trust Fund of the Alliance.
Moreover we are expanding our network of regional and international institutions and faith-based organizations mandated with promoting inter-religious dialogue with the aim of addressing the drivers of violent extremism and promoting the role of religious leaders.
In this context, the Alliance actively engages and partners with various entities at the United Nations System focusing on preventive diplomacy. We were part of the ad-hoc interagency working group led by the CTITF, the Department of Political Affairs which was tasked with developing a Plan of Action to prevent violent extremism.
Within the same vein, we cooperated with two prominent German Foundations namely The Alfred Herrhausen Society and the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung last May in organizing a conference on The Notion of Progress and Diversity of World Cultures in American, European , Asian and African contexts. World renown thinkers and social scientists joined the dialogue that the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique made the conference coverage the central piece of its October issue.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The above-mentioned projects are just a few examples on the holistic relationship between the goals of the Alliance and the SDGs. I hope that over the next few years we will be able to expand on both the number and scope of such projects.
Before I conclude, I would like to announce 2 upcoming activities:
1.Our next Focal Points meeting will be held this November here in NY.
2. Dates for the UNAOC 7th Global Forum in Baku is set for April 25-27 2016. We will her later from H.E Ilmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan followed by a representative of the Host Country Organizing committee who will do a short presentation.
Concluding, I think you all and look forward to hearing your comments on today’s topics.