Remarks of H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser
The High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
Alliance of Civilizations Istanbul Conferences
“NEW WORLD, NEW TURKEY, AND THE ALLIANCE OF CIVILIZATIONS”
Cemal Resit Rey Concert Hall
October 23, 2016, 19.00-21.00
Your Excellency, Mr. Tugrul Turkes
Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey,
Your Excellency, Prof Bekir Karliga , Chairman of the Turkish National Committee for UNAOC
Your Excellency , Mr. Kadir Topbas, Mayor of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
Your Excellency , Mr. Ibrahim Karaosmanoglu, Mayor of Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality
Ladies and Gentlemen ,
I am very pleased to address this distinguished gathering in the first series of the Alliance of Civilizations Istanbul Conferences. I seize this opportunity to express my appreciation to the Government of Turkey for its support for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations as well as its continuous commitment towards achieving UNAOC’s goals.
I particularly thank my dear friend Prof. Bekir Karliga for his vision and the consistent support he always lent to me personally and to the organization I lead. Our friendship and collaboration dates back to 2011.
The Alliance will always continue to build intercultural bridges among people and to stand as a bulwark against ignorance and all forms of violence. Following the failed coup that aimed at overthrowing the legitimate Government of Turkey on 15 July 2016, UNAOC condemned the coup and expressed its support to the legitimate leadership of the President H.E. Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan. I wish, once again, to express our solidarity with the people of Turkey.
Turkey , like many countries in this region and elsewhere in Europe, Asia , Africa and the US has been targeted by a band of terrorists and radical extremists who have hijacked tolerant and peaceful religions and committed heinous crime in the name of God.
Our World is changing and so are the challenges and threats around us. As you know, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations was created more than 10 years ago to challenge Huntington’s prophecy about the “Clash of Civilizations” at a time where the World was already polarized, fueled by injustice and inequality that so often lead to violence and conflict that by default pose a serious threat to international peace security.
As stated in the UNAOC 2006 High Level report drafted by eminent personalities, “the anxiety and confusion caused by the “Clash of Civilizations” theory regrettably has distorted the terms of the discourse on the predicament the World is facing.”
It also reflected the urgent need to build bridges between societies, promote dialogue and understanding, and forge the political will to address the World’s imbalances.
It is in this context that the mandate of UNAOC was drawn more than 10 years ago. And today its relevance is as clear as ever. The challenge of addressing polarized perceptions, clashing cultures and mutual suspicions has never been more important. Fostering dialogue between people, promoting respect and understanding, seeking opportunities for constructive exchanges of ideas and peaceful coexistence, all these tasks must be continued.
The promotion of dialogue, respect and tolerance among people is crucial to preventing conflicts, maintaining peace and achieving sustainable development worldwide. Today, our World is facing not only changing but also complex and interlinked challenges. Increasing migration pressures present societies with major policy dilemmas. A growing number of societies are becoming multicultural and multi-lingual.
These changes challenge governments and societies to accommodate and embrace diversity. In too many countries, we continue to see how migrants and refugees are highly vulnerable to discrimination, racism, xenophobia, and marginalization.
These phenomena serves as fertile ground for violent extremism and terrorism. The lack of opportunities, employment, education, and justice are all drivers of violent extremism. Too many people, in particular youth, continue to join terrorist groups because they feel frustrated or lack prospects and meaning in their lives.
It is our role to show them that violence is not and cannot be the right answer. Only prevention by addressing the root causes of violent extremism can put an end to this madness. This is our responsibility to show them the way. Youth participation is key in preventing and countering violent extremism, and we need to make a special effort to reach out to them and recognize their potential as partners and leaders. Their voices need to be heard in political processes and decision-making.
It is in this spirit that I welcome the Turkic Council’ s initiative in organizing an international conference on the role of Youth in Preventing violent extremism that we co organized together 2 days ago. This event served as an opportunity to provide our youth with a platform where they can share their own views on means of prevention of violent extremism, as well as explore ideas on how they can participate to build their own future.
The Alliance has always been committed towards contributing to preventing and countering polarization, radicalism, and violent extremism, in particular when they are religiously or culturally motivated. In this context, UNAOC is part of the working group of the Secretary General Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. The Plan identifies distortion and misuse of beliefs, ethnic and cultural differences as one of the drivers of violent extremism. One of the key recommendations focuses on dialogue and conflict prevention. We are full partners of the Counter-Terrorism Task Force and the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center for the promotion of dialogue and education to combat violent terrorism. It also recognizes that security-based counter-terrorism measures cannot eradicate violent extremism unless preventive steps are taken to address the roots causes .
The distortion and misuse of beliefs, ethnic and cultural differences are one of the drivers of violent extremism. One of the key recommendations focuses on dialogue and conflict prevention. We are full partners of the Counter-Terrorism Task Force and the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center for the promotion of dialogue and education to combat violent terrorism.
We have also recognized the key role religious leaders play as messengers of peace. The engagement of religious leaders is essential to counteract the messages of the leaders of terrorist groups who distort the core of religious beliefs for self-serving purposes.
We need religious leaders to assert their rejection of violent doctrines and emphasize the peaceful and tolerant values inherent in their theologies.
With that in mind, last year, with the UN Secretary General and the President of the General Assembly, we hosted a High-Level Thematic Debate on “Promoting Tolerance and Reconciliation: Fostering Peaceful, Inclusive Societies and Countering Violent Extremism”. During the debate, we provided the UN as platform for more than 19 religious leaders from several faiths around the world to make recommendations on means of providing a narrative to counter violent extremism.
The Alliance has invested efforts in working on inclusive approaches to address all these global challenges in the context of cultural and religious diversity. UNAOC has made it a priority to work closely with a broad range of actors, especially the civil society, to accomplish its mission.
We provided experimental paths to address essential questions of bridging cultural identity groups and reducing polarization by combatting stereotypes. Many of these paths have been explored through UNAOC’s direct implementation of projects, some of them groundbreaking in their innovative approaches.
Concluding, Let us all remember that we are all partners in this effort. We are all global citizens.
Allow me to close by re-iterating a firm belief that “war begins in people’s minds , and the way to peace is through people’s hearts.” We hope that the global platform that UNAOC provides will help reach out to the hearts and minds of people to build bridges to peace.