High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
Belt and Road Forum 2019 (Beijing, China)
“People to People Exchange”
The High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
His Excellency Mr. Miguel Ángel Moratinos
April 25, 2019
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a real privilege to have the opportunity to address this thematic session on “People-to-People Connectivity”. At the outset, I would like to congratulate H.E. President Xi Jinping and the Government of China for the 2nd Belt & Road Forum for International Cooperation.
The Belt and Road Initiative or The New Silk Road is a very ambitious initiative that extends beyond building infrastructure, economic development or being a geopolitical tool. The theme of this session on People-to-People connectivity is a testimony of the aspect of human development inherent in the initiative. If we look back at the routes our ancestors took at the Ancient Silk Road, we will see the spirit of inclusiveness and openness. From the Nile valleys, the Tigris & Euphrates to the Ganges and Yangtze Rivers, we will see the story of encounters between diverse peoples, civilizations and religions. These ancient Silk Routes connected the ancient civilizations of Egyptians, Babylonians, Indians and Chinese as well as Muslims, Christians and Buddhists. It is always useful to remember our history so as to build a better future. And the Ancient Silk Road is telling of a story of human progress as well as economic prosperity.
This brings me to today’s session. The 21st Century Belt & Road Initiative taps into this ancient story. It is rooted in a shared vision for global development. It seeks to build trust, promote understanding through dialogue and people-to-people exchange.
As the High Representative of the United Nations Alliance Civilizations, I feel strongly about the latter.
Fifteen years ago, The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations was created as a soft-power political tool promoting intercultural and interfaith dialogue as essential tools for conflict prevention and conflict resolution. UNAOC addresses the roots of radicalization and violent extremism conducive to terrorism.
I would be stating the obvious to say that our world today is facing complex challenges. Old conflicts remain unresolved and new ones are irrupting every day, unhindered. Terrorism, hate speech, discrimination based on religious, ethnic or cultural identity are on the rise. Ironically, while all these challenges are global requiring collective global approach, we see trust in multilateralism on the decline. I am a true believer in multilateralism. One that is sustainable and results-oriented. A Multilateralism that trickles down to the masses, is one that leaves no one behind.
The aspects of this historical and cultural initiative that goes back to the 13th century and 14th century should be fully explored, and transformed into a new model initiative. One Belt One Road aims to connect people, to connect ideas, to facilitate a change of goods. But we should not forget the cultural element inherent in this initiative. The people to people connectivity. It is about how people live together, how people from the Eastern part of China, connect with the West part of Asia. Central Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean and certain African countries. It is an embodiment of what we call is Spanish “conviventia. Bringing people and culture together is the basic form of multilateralism. But we have to make it a credible multilateralism. We have to bring forward an engaged multilateral framework fortified by some specific ideas and projects. And I think the Belt and Road Initiative and UNAOC have a lot in common that qualify them to work jointly.
Therefore, we should forge a new norm of international collaboration based on a win-win cooperation and equal partnerships and alliances.
As the Belt & Road initiative opens new routes for goods, let us work together in opening new channels for dialogue that is inclusive. Dialogue nurtures trust, understanding and respect. Dialogue between peoples serves as a diplomatic tool that contributes to fulfilling peace. However dialogue is not enough. We need an alliance. We need that the Belt and Road as an initiative join UNAOC Group of Friends.
In this context, I am here today to renew our commitment.
One of my priorities as High Representative of UNAOC is to revamp this MOU and to put it into action. Through this initiative, I believe China brings a tremendous instrument that will support our main objective of fostering understanding and dialogue between different religions, different cultures, different civilizations and at the same time to create the environment for exchanging ideas, respecting each other, and working together. UAOC can benefit from China’s outreach in South East Asia , Central Asia, Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean to expand the geographical scale of our projects.
I would like to conclude by quoting an ancient Chinese saying :” A long journey can be covered only by taking one step at a time”. In this spirit, UNAOC is willing to take this journey with you.
Let us continue this work, together! Thank you.