High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
His Excellency Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser
Fifth Edition of the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES)
Monday 16 July – 22 July 2018 | Seville, Spain
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to begin by paying homage to His Majesty King of Spain Felipe VI and to thank the Government of Spain for their political and financial support for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. I also seize this opportunity to also thank the Regional Government of Andalucia, the Kingdom of Morocco, and the Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation for the opportunity to address the distinguished members of this conference and to be here in this magnificent city of Seville.
No other city seems more suitable to host this conference than Seville, a city that bridges Eastern and Western, Northern and Southern traditions and customs. Through much of its history, Seville has prospered as a mosaic of cultures, contributing to the Iberian Peninsula’s rich civilization. This is my first visit to Seville but certainly it will not be my last.
The great Andalusan historian, Ibn Khaldun, taught us that the history of civilizations is rooted in mutual exchanges and persistent cross-fertilization.
Segregated and inward-looking communities fuel mutual ignorance and prejudice. Freedom of thought, critical thinking and evidence remains the antidote.
Since it’s founding more than 5 centuries ago, the University of Seville where the Congress will take place has gained prominence for its teaching activities and the quality of its research.
The very principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are reflected in the university’s ancient motto: “Equality, Liberty, Justice and Pluralism”.
The Government of Spain has taken a leading role in translating this ancient maxim into modern practice. In 2004, the Government called for the creation of the Alliance of Civilizations during the 59th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. In 2005, the Government of Turkey joined as the co-sponsor of the initiative. Thirteen years onwards since its inception, the UN Alliance of Civilizations has 146 members of the Group of Friends of the Alliance including 116 UN Member States, one non UN Member State and 26 International organizations.
I would also like to commend the Kingdom of Morocco for exemplifying a model of peaceful coexistence between different cultures and religions. Their policies have contributed effectively to the country’s richness.
Since 2005, UNAOC has responded to the need to overcome prejudices, misconceptions, and polarizations. I have witnessed first-hand the benefits of engaging in project activities that promote our shared values of inclusivity, diversity and peaceful coexistence.
The scourge of terrorism and violent extremism remains an ongoing challenge. The perpetrators of ethnic, religious, and gender-based violence continue to find fertile ground in countries plagued by poverty, high-unemployment, and corruption.
The spread of hate speech, xenophobia and incitement to violence against religious and ethnic minorities is on the rise.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
At this present juncture, we cannot afford to retreat into the comforts of our familiar worldviews.
We must seek to continuously broaden our understanding of different cultures and traditions that bind our common humanity.
We also need to continue to promote grass-roots efforts to advance the values of tolerance, pluralism and understanding.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
If Ibn Khaldun were to join us today, I am sure that he would share this message: an Alliance of Civilizations can only be fully realized when we hold on to our traditions on the one hand, while also embracing a future of mutual co-existence and learning on the other.
I trust that this congress will generate innovative perspectives to these pressing issues facing the region.
I thank you.