REMARKS OF H.E. MR. NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER
High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
at the EXECUTIVE MODEL OIC SUMMIT: Solidarity in Action
Baku, 11 May 2017
Distinguished Young Diplomat and leading students,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honored to join the Executive Model OIC Summit, under the theme “Solidarity in Action” and to welcome you, young men and women, to celebrate together the Executive Model OIC Summit in the margins of the Fourth Islamic Solidarity Games and at the end of the Fourth WIFD!
I would like to extend my gratitude to the organizers of this event, the Ministry of Youth and Sport of Azerbaijan, the OIC General Secretariat of the Executive Model OIC and of course the ICYF-DC for its leadership.
I understand that you want me to address the Award Ceremony of the Executive Model OIC Summit. But let’s remind ourselves of all the good work that has already gone into this effort and how far we have come.
We are living in times where hate speech and incitement to hatred against minorities and migrants are on the rise across the world. In a growing number of countries, polarization and harsh talk is dominating domestic politics.
Communities today are facing these unique challenges that get magnified with the 24/7 information dissemination through all forms of media. Media coverage in many cases exacerbates the biased sentiments because of lack of enough context and the youth face additional pressure through social media.
Since its conception in 1969, the OIC has safeguarded the interests of Muslims around the world in the spirit of promoting peace and harmony. The International Model OIC Summit has provided an opportunity where students from all over the world can share experiences, knowledge, and engage in trans-cultural dialogue about socio-economic and political problems of the Muslim world.
The aim of the Summit has also been to foster inclusive, open and diverse societies by providing a platform for discussion and building partnerships with communities and civil society. This forum acknowledges the role and potential of media in promoting inclusiveness and preventing tensions, especially with regard to the younger generations.
But the work of the OIC and UNAOC does not stop there.
Its significance is wider, given that it contributes to the efforts of the United Nations in many areas, including terrorism and sustainable development.
Through its programming and activities, the Alliance and the OIC contribute to the implementation of the United Nations Global Counter- Terrorism Strategy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and serves as a platform for sharing good practices and ideas.
International Model OIC (IMOIC) progress:
Since the First International Model OIC (1st IMOIC) organized by ICYF-DC in Turkey, we have seen more than 800 youth representatives from the top Universities of the OIC Member and Observer States, Muslim minorities of non-member states have been trained within the frames of enhancing the intellectual capacity of young generation.
The Model OIC has not only helped produce young diplomats of the future, but also promoted OIC as a leading international institution throughout the universities of Member States. Apart from the training, the Summit has provided a safe space for discussions on important topics like condemning terrorist groups that threaten the future of Islamic youth, condemning the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, humanitarian catastrophes in the Middle East like the mass migration from Syria to name just a few.
This brings us to our theme this year, “Solidarity in Action”.
The theme of Solidarity in action this year is in line with SDG 16 dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies.
As you know, UNAOC was created to foster understanding between nations and peoples and to promote differences between cultures and faiths as a wealth and not a danger. As the High Representative of UNAOC, I am determined to combat xenophobia and hatred. However current events all over the world show us that we still have a long way to go to achieve our goal of global peace and harmony.
As we expand our focus and scope of activities it is evident that the role that OIC plays within the international organizations and regional actors is more relevant today than ever before. We recognize that more needs to be done as societies get fragmented. Development aid alone will not be enough to solve the emerging issues facing the world today.
Globally minded citizens are needed to lead sustainable local change and improve our responses to identity-based crises.
Through the programs of the OIC we see hope in your alumni who continue to further the good work of the Alliance in the areas of youth, inclusiveness, education, migration and cross-sector initiatives. Our lasting impact comes not from our brick and plaster offices, but from the legacies of our programs, who are helping countries and organizations to use cultural diplomacy as a tool to build bridges.
At the Alliance, we make every effort to empower marginalized young people in troubled communities: We have developed an expertise and leadership on youth, education and countering extremism. We provide meaningful alternatives to young people who are the target of extremist groups.
We offer them a platform where their voices can be heard through workshop, trainings, and small grants to fund local projects. We put the emphasis on international, intercultural and interreligious dialogue and cooperation to address the problems targeting youth and extremism.
We also believe that the primary of agents of change—not just in the future—but in our present ARE young people. Our projects and programs are built around this principle.
An important program of UNAOC is the Youth Solidarity Fund, which provides youth-led organizations that foster peaceful and inclusive societies with direct funding to implement outstanding projects promoting intercultural and interfaith dialogue. This year, we funded projects in Africa and the Middle East, in areas affected by tensions, conflicts and violent extremism. They are focusing on improving intercultural relationships through online citizen journalism, engaging faith-based organizations and training for tolerance and collaboration between groups of different faiths, languages and cultures.
Established in 2008, the Fund responded to calls for action made by youth-led organizations around the world on the importance of establishing funding mechanisms for youth. Today, the Fund is more relevant than ever: As the global agenda increasingly speaks of youth’s participation and contribution to peace, development and security, it is critical to support this participation and contribution through funding and partnership opportunities.
Through our Fellowship program, we sponsor every year young people from the Middle East, Europe and North America to experience immersive visits in each other’s regions.
This program enables participants to understand other cultures and traditions, to believe in the importance of living with the others and to encourage them to reject any type of violence. It empowers them to better fight Islamophobia and the East-West divide as they go back to communities where they are emerging as leaders.
In 2016, activities and discussions of our Fellowship program focused on “Education as a tool for the prevention of radicalization and xenophobia.” Participants traveled to the United States, Germany, France, Spain, Morocco, Egypt, and Qatar with the goal to develop long-term intercultural collaborations.
The recommendations presented were supportive of UNSG Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism and of UNSCR 2250 on Youth, Peace and security.
This is the first resolution that specifically addresses the role of young people in issues of peace and security. It is groundbreaking because it focuses not only on the devastating impact of armed conflicts on youth but also the crucial role that youth play in managing conflict and establishing peace processes.
At UNAOC we believe that promoting dialogue between religions and cultures needs to be supported by concrete action plans.
This is why the activities of the Alliance are organized around four pillars: migration, education, media and youth, with the goal to reduce cross-cultural tensions. All our projects have one common thread: the promotion of religious and cultural tolerance. All of them constitute solidarity in action.
Together, with our vast network of partners, we are working on fostering diversity and preventing intolerance. Our portfolio of projects brings together young men and women from diverse cultures and religions to meet, discuss, and work together. They learn through solidarity in action to accept their differences and understand how much they can gain from cooperating with one another through their differences.
Last January, UNAOC held its third Hate Speech Symposium in Brussels in partnership with the European Union to discuss the prevention of hateful narratives against migrants and refugees in the media.
We also organize a video festival called Plural +, which celebrates young filmmakers who creatively address critical issues affecting our world. This youth video festival acts as an international platform that amplifies young people’s voices on migration, diversity and social inclusion.
At the Alliance of Civilizations, we know from our experience of supporting youth-led initiatives on the ground that peaceful and inclusive societies cannot be sustainably built without the participation and engagement of young people.
I hope some of you had the chance to participate in the 2017 ECOSOC Youth Forum, held last February in NY, calling for youth worldwide “to show solidarity and to take action”. Action must be in your mind at all times. The Forum showed a youth collective action supporting the 2030 UN Development Agenda with its 17 goals and people centered approach.
“Young people are stepping up to engage with the Agenda, support its implementation, advocate for the SDGs and hold their Government accountable”.
Dear young leaders, your recommendations address areas of concern and present solutions. In receiving these recommendations, I would like to encourage heads of State to remember their role when it comes to youth development and empowerment. May they listen to you, work with you and support you.
Continue to raise your voices at the local level and stay up-to-date on what is happening in your communities, countries and the world at large. Let us keep this commitment.
Let us pick up the momentum. I urge Member States to work together and to work with youth in keeping this promise.
Let us not just talk about youth. Let us work WITH youth in true solidarity.
Your alumni and organizations that benefit from the tutelage of the Alliance are testament to our mission and restore our faith in the mission of the OIC and UNAOC.
With this backdrop in mind I would like to honor the achievements of this year’s award recipients. Creativity, commitment, resilience, courage and passion are all qualities that define the people that will be honored to day.
They are all witness of how small changes can contribute to global peace and prosperity and therefore make a difference.
The value of this award rests in the collection and subsequent dissemination of knowledge, experiences and best practices. I trust that everyone will learn from our Award winners this year. I hope that their creativity and innovations will inspire you to replicate them in your own institutions.