High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
His Excellency Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser
Madrid Conference on the Victims of Ethnic and Religious Violence in the Middle East
Madrid, Spain | 24 May, 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset I would like to commend the Governments of Spain and Jordan for their leadership and follow up on this critical issue . Hate speech, populism and xenophobic rhetoric against religious minorities is escalating rather than de-escalating. Hence, leading to violence against these communities which by default poses a threat to peace security.
The atrocities committed by ISIS or Da’esh in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere demand an urgent response. The targeting of minorities by ISIS is appalling. We have seen the horrible plight of the Yazidis, attacks on the Kurds, and the flight of Christian populations. We have also seen the destruction of historic sites, and we learn every day of the criminal attempts of these terrorist groups to denigrate entire cultures and eliminate evidence of their existence.
Daesh’s hateful ideology is the exact opposite of what the rest of humanity and the global community consider the foundation of our coexistence: that we are at our best when our communities are inclusive, diverse, peaceful, and respectful of differences. Their criminal acts and perverse interpretation of the sacred texts runs counter to the principles of the United Nations and the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Adding to the complexity of this issue, the flow of migrants bearing different traditions, cultures and religions, societies are increasingly becoming multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual. This evolution of modern societies brought with it fear. Fear that national and religious identities are being diluted by growing diversity.
I am particularly concerned by the rise of xenophobic rhetoric increasingly used by political leaders and candidates that feed on stereotypes and suspicions that echo a very dark past.
We, at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, have seen the benefits of engaging in project activities that promote our shared values of tolerance, inclusivity and diversity.
It was therefore so refreshing to see that the Paris Action Plan in its Third Part encourages support for UNAOC’ work as well as other organizations in the area of strengthening dialogue between people from different cultures and religions as a tool to preventing and fighting radicalization, violent extremism and terrorism. Prevention is key as the UN Secretary General stresses all the time.
During the past few years the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations has been able to make considerable progress in promoting the use of interreligious and intercultural dialogue as a vehicle for prevention. We have been doing so through a wide range of partnerships on the ground with grassroots organizations, faith-based leaders, youth, media experts, academia and the business community. Through these projects, we have addressed many of the areas identified the Third Part of the Paris Plan of Action.
The topics covered by our activities form an important framework for longer-term strategic action. In this regard, allow me to briefly give you a sense of what we did on the ground in 4 strategic areas.
1) Focus on Youth:
UNAOC has sought to engage youth as critical messengers who can spread the word when it comes to issues of inclusion and diversity. We recognize that instilling values in our youth is the one most lasting, most sustainable investment we as a global society can make. One example of this focus has been our Youth Solidarity Fund, an ongoing project, we provided grants and technical support in the past 18 months to 11 youth-led organizations working to prevent conflict and build peace in conflict affected contexts or post-conflict countries.
Our Plural+ project, where young people from around the world compete for recognition for their videos, all designed for use in social media – a critical path for engaging young people today.
2) Emphasis on Education:
The next generation will not learn the most important values we need to teach them if we sit back and wait. Our most recent projects is the Young Peacebuilders” a regional programme designed to support young people between the ages of 18 and 25 in gaining skills to promote diversity, peace and prevent violent conflict. As such, it responds to the recommendations outlined in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security.
We plan to launch the next edition in the MENA region this year.
3) Empower Civil Society:
The positive values we seek to impart to the youth of the world require the help and cooperation of civil society. UNAOC has acted to advance the agenda of strengthening civil society, recognizing its ability to extend the reach of official programming. All of UNAOC programming includes an element of connection to civil society. Most notably, we have engaged in a partnership with BMW Group to recognize and empower outstanding civil society groups through the Intercultural Innovation Award, which provides for longer-term mentoring of these groups. We also engage religious leaders, academia and other civil society groups to promote the broad interests of citizens.
4) Create New Narratives in the media :
In December 2015, we launched (hash-tag) #SpreadNoHate initiative which we. The initiative aims at countering hate speech against cultural, religious and ethnic minorities culminating in a symposium in partnership with the EU in Brussels this past January.
In conclusion, let me share with you my hope that by addressing the needs of our youth, by ensuring that our shared human values become part of basic education, and by strengthening the institutions that promote those values, we can combat the scourge of violent extremism that faces us now and into the future. While governments and the formal institutions of the international community – the Security Council above all – have the immediate, primary responsibility for protecting minorities, we must also engage with partners in civil society to eradicate the germ of fanaticism and hate at its roots and make sure that such extremist ideologies will never threaten humanity again.