H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser
High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
at the 1st International Conference
on “Peace in diversity: the integrative approach to
intercultural and civilizational affairs”
Agadir, Morocco | 6-7 April 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very honored and delighted to be here among you today to inaugurate the 1st International Conference on “Peace in diversity: the integrative approach to intercultural and civilizational affairs”, but also and particularly to join you in inaugurating the “Ibn Batuta International Center for Inter-Cultural and Civilizational studies”.
Ibn Batuta is famous for his travels around the World and its description and understanding. Through “el Rihla”, which contains “Tuhfat al-anzar fi gharaaib al-amsar wa ajaaib al-asfar” (A gift for those who contemplate the splendors of cities and the wonders of travel), this great Moroccan traveler brought us a tremendous and rich heritage that shape many spirits and mindsets and should continue to influence generations to come.
Travel enlightens. Ibn Batuta understood the importance of diversity and intercultural understanding, which are crucial elements for peace and dialogue. The United Nations through its three pillars, peace and security, human rights, and development, has made it a priority for the World to embrace these core values.
The UN Alliance of Civilizations that I lead was created by former UNSG Kofi Annan in 2005 under the co-sponsorship of the governments of Spain and Turkey. It was conceived as the soft power tool of the United Nations Secretary General to thwart the supposed “clash of civilizations” theory developed by Huntington that caused anxiety and confusion. In this context, the need to build bridges between societies and to promote dialogue and understanding has never been greater. This urgent task constitutes the raison d’être of the Alliance.
We are here gathered today to prove wrong those who predicted such a clash. The UNAOC High Level Group report of 2006 defines and guides the Alliance’s action: “the history of relations between cultures is not only one of wars and confrontation. It is also based on centuries of constructive exchanges, cross-fertilization, and peaceful coexistence. Moreover, classifying internally fluid and diverse societies along hard-fought lines of civilizations interferes with more illuminating ways of understanding questions of identity, motivation and behavior.”
The values of tolerance, respect, solidarity and understanding are at the core of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations work. Through our 4 pillars, namely migration, media, youth, and education, we work towards promoting intercultural dialogue and achieving peaceful and inclusive societies, in line with our commitment to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
By adopting the new SDGs in 2015, the international community acknowledged the linkage between the three pillars of the United Nations. Peace and security cannot be achieved without respect of human rights and sustainable development, and sustainable development won’t be implemented without peace and human rights for all.
Through the adoption of this Agenda for the future, we also recognized the role of youth as agents of change. We must uphold our commitment and provide youth with the opportunities to join us in our efforts. Part of our mission at the Alliance is to empower youth to embrace diversity, intercultural understanding, respect and tolerance, and to reject extremism through education for peace.
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 learn about each other, embrace other beliefs, cultures and faiths, and work together towards achieving peace and tackling the most pressing challenges, including xenophobia, discrimination and violence.
Our most recent initiative, the Young Peacebuilders was created in line with the objectives defined by education for tolerance that we share with the Ibn Batuta International Center for Inter-Cultural and Civilizational studies. 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.
Young people must be part of the international peace agenda and I strongly call upon the international community to help them play their role in transforming our societies into more cohesive and stable wholes.
We must work together to achieve the vision set by our new Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres through “sustaining peace agenda” and “the peace continuum”. Prevention must be integrated to the three pillars of our work at the United Nations. We must all consistently advance coherent and comprehensive approaches to sustaining peace, encompassing conflict prevention, development, human rights and peace-building.
And we must do so in partnership with youth and women, civil society, the business community, religious leaders and all actors that are willing to commit to build a better world.
The Alliance works closely with these stakeholders to uphold values of peace, tolerance, intercultural understanding but also solidarity. Together we work to prevent hatred, tensions, conflict and violence worldwide. Our “#SpreadNoHate initiative”, focusing on the media and migration pillars, reflects these close cooperation with journalists, civil societies, diaspora, representatives of organizations, including NGOs, Member States, academia and the business community.
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. The spread of narratives of hatred severely challenges the possibility of a sense of belonging, and hence of integration in host societies. 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.
Our last #SpreadNoHate Symposium held last January in Brussels was the result of a strong partnership and collaboration between the United Nations, the European Union, journalists and media experts from around the World, IT companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, activists and representatives of NGOs, to fight hate speech against migrants and refugees and provide balanced narratives to change their perception in host societies and foster their social inclusion.
The world today is more complex, more interdependent and more interconnected than ever before. International migration and development are closely interlinked. Migrants provide positive contributions to sustainable and inclusive development worldwide. In September 2015, Member States agreed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and highlighted the positive role of migration, pointing the way forward for the work we are doing today.
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. Together, we have a crucial role to play in developing north-south exchanges and dynamics. We need to keep fighting for diversity and deepening sustainable positive dialogue to make our world a better place to live.
Last year, through the adoption of the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants, Heads of State and Government and High Representatives, proclaimed: “Diversity enriches every society and contributes to social cohesion. Gathered today at the United Nations, the birthplace and custodian of these universal values, we deplore all manifestations of xenophobia, racial discrimination and intolerance. We will take a range of steps to counter such attitudes and behavior, in particular hate crimes, hate speech.”
The promotion of dialogue, diversity, respect and tolerance among people is crucial to maintaining peace and achieving sustainable development worldwide. UNAOC’s mandate was developed 10 years ago but its relevance is as clear as ever. The challenge of addressing polarized perceptions, clashing cultures and mutual suspicions has never been more important. Building bridges between societies, promoting dialogue and understanding, seeking opportunities for constructive exchanges of ideas and peaceful coexistence, all these tasks must be continued. I know that UNAOC will be ready to tackle these issues and more in the years to come.
And I am here today, asking you to join us in our efforts. The 2006 High Level Report that I referred to earlier, states that “Diverse cultural identities are an integral part of the richness of human experience and as such must be respected and promoted. In particular, traditions and customs play a key role in the development and transmission of modern identity.”
Let’s not forget that Ibn Batuta left us a beautiful Muslim Heritage. He enriched our lives with different cultures, religions, traditions, with diversity. It is our duty to pass this knowledge and richness to future generations, especially to our youth. It is our goal. And I believe that it is also yours as well as Morocco’s objective with the creation of the promising “Ibn Batuta International Center for Inter-Cultural and Civilizational studies”.
To conclude these remarks, let me quote the poet Nasir-i Khusraw as did our Secretary General at the Nowruz celebrations: “Knowledge is the seed.” This is a profound lesson inspired by Nowruz and Ibn Batuta: “Knowledge renews us. It is an opportunity to learn about each other and our world. It is a chance to renew our pledge for peace, friendship, human rights and human dignity.”