H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser
High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
at the Italian Diplomatic Academy’s “UN: A MESSAGE TO YOUNG LEADERS”
United Nations Headquarters | 11 March 2017
Dear Young Leaders,
Dr. Abramo Chabib, Executive Director, Italian Diplomatic Academy,
Excellency Mr. Sebastiano Cardi, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations,
Mr. Maher Nasser, Director of the Outreach Division of the Department of Public Information,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
What a great honor to be, once again, part of this exceptional program. Dr. Chabib, friends of the Italian Diplomatic Academy, thank you for inviting me and giving me the privilege to address a message to our young leaders.
Let me first congratulate you for your commitment to come together to empower youth. When I look at this room, I am encouraged.
As we are here today to reflect on how you, young people, as agents of change can raise awareness, build cooperation and contribute to achieve peace and sustainable development in your countries, I would like to draw your attention on two prerequisites for dialogue: respect and tolerance.
These two values are at the core work of the organization that I lead, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. As you know, the Alliance was created in 2005 to reduce cross-cultural tensions and build mutual respect among people of different cultures and religions. Part of our mission is to empower youth to embrace tolerance and diversity and reject extremism through education.
The Alliance has a long history of promoting respect, tolerance and peace through education. From our Summer Schools to our media information literacy initiatives, we have offered spaces for youth to move beyond their differences to foster inclusive societies, achieve peace and sustainable development with the commitment to leave no one behind.
Among our activities, we have developed projects, such as the “#SpreadNoHate initiative” or the “Young Peacebuilders”, that enable young people to come together, learn about their beliefs, cultures and faiths, and embrace each other to work on the most pressing challenges, including counter hatred, discrimination and violence.
As the flow of migrants and refugees continues to rise worldwide, there has been a global increase of hate speech towards populations from different cultures and religions. Among them, many young people were deprived of their families, but also of education. The spread of narratives of hatred severely challenges the possibility of a sense of belonging, and hence of integration in host societies.
I am sure that like me, you are concerned by this situation. If you are, I encourage you to commit and join us in spreading the message that the narratives of hatred used in politics, in the news, and in social media have consequences on peoples’ lives. The use of social media to disseminate hatred towards vulnerable people makes it difficult to handle. You have all heard about “fake news” and “alternative facts” that characterize what some call our “Post truth World”, and you are all aware of the confusion, mistrust and tensions it can generate.
Narratives of hatred often lead to extremism and violence. As history has shown, hate speech and constitutes a serious threat to peace. In this context, creative measures are needed and we need you, young people, to join our efforts in providing innovative ideas to counter hate, in particular on social media.
Key findings resulting from our last #SpreadNoHate Symposium held last January in Brussels include the crucial role of youth in changing the situation and the perceptions of minorities and vulnerable people. Among the preliminary recommendations, many focused on strengthening education for tolerance and diversity through media information literacy (MIL) and online human rights courses for youth.
This shows how important your role is in countering hate speech and providing positive narratives. You are the future. Our World is in your hands. I count on you to take these messages back to your universities, your peers, your governments, and spread tolerance in your communities – both online and offline.
The rise of hate speech reminds us of the importance of education for tolerance. Our most recent initiative, the Young Peacebuilders, was created towards that end. The programme was designed to support youth from specific regions affected by tensions and conflicts in gaining skills that enhance the positive role they can play in preventing conflict and building peace. One of the key objectives is to enable young participants to learn about people from other cultures and faiths and to foster intercultural cohesion and collaboration, including on issues related to violent extremism. As such, the project responds to the recommendations outlined in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 (2015) on Youth, Peace and Security, and in the Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism.
These are key international policy instruments. Resolution 2250 is your resolution. Young people must be part of the international peace agenda and I strongly encourage you to engage with your government and take part in their implementation at national and local level. The International Community and the United Nations acknowledge the role that you, young leaders, can play in transforming our societies into more cohesive and stable wholes. Although progress has been made over the past few years, much remains to be done, in partnership with you.
In order to harness the benefits of education for tolerance, it must be part of our way of life. We need it to be addressed in educational policies and in national curricula. I invite those of you interested in education to work on curricular reform with governments, academic institutions and education programs. Global citizenship, intercultural education and communication, media and information literacy should be taught more systematically and to younger children.
I also urge you to tell your political leaders – and to not forget when you are in the decision making seat – to invest in teacher education and professional development of teachers to support their ability to provide quality education. Teachers today have the tremendous opportunity to educate young people and open their minds to diversity and dialogue to prevent violent extremism. We must support them in this crucial task.
Countering hatred and promoting education for tolerance among youth are key to build a peaceful future for our peoples, a future based on sustainable positive dialogue and the “peace continuum”.
Our new Secretary-General has set the “sustaining peace agenda” as a priority and stressed on the importance of integrating prevention to the three pillars of our work at the United Nations. We must all, including you, young leaders, consistently advance coherent and comprehensive approaches to sustaining peace, encompassing conflict prevention, development, human rights and peace-building.
UNAOC’s work cuts across many of the Sustainable Development Goals, bringing the perspective of diversity and social inclusion into education, women’s empowerment, sustainable cities and peaceful societies. You have a crucial role to play in developing north-south exchanges and dynamics. We need to keep building and deepening sustainable positive dialogue to make our world a better place to live.
Dear young leaders, if I have an advice for you today, it would be to use your energy and creativity to make the changes you want to see, not only in your countries, but also in the world. As Gandhi used to say: “as a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the World towards him”.
Keep these words in mind. Embrace diversity, open your minds, and be tolerant. Dream big. Think big. The solutions to tomorrow’s challenges cannot be but innovative. Keep pushing yourselves. And remember: the magic always happens outside your comfort zone.
We are here today with messages for you, but we know that you have messages for us too. Let us listen to you, make your voices heard, and help you transform the discussions into action.