The Annual Kofi Annan Faith Briefings
“Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality:
The Role of the UN and Multi-Faith Collaboration”
Monday, 15 July 2019
Opening Remarks by the High Representative
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to start by expressing my deep gratitude for the invitation to provide opening remarks at this important gathering on behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General and in my capacity as High Representative of the Alliance of Civilizations.
These annual briefings offer a unique opportunity for representatives from all relevant stakeholders committed to dialogue and multilateralism to have thorough and timely discussions about the pressing issues of our times.
I am very impressed by the quality and diversity of speakers that will take part in the sessions scheduled today and by the topics and guiding questions for the sessions. These annual gatherings are a stark reminder of our common determination to strengthen multilateralism and dialogue as the most effective way to make progress in the challenges facing all of us today.
I am also particularly honored to participate in an event celebrating the legacy of the late UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who played an instrumental role in the establishment of the UN Alliance of Civilizations on 14 July 2005, almost exactly fourteen years ago. He clearly identified the need for an initiative to build bridges, overcome prejudices, avoid polarization and strengthen dialogue and mutual respect. Fourteen years later this need remains as acute as ever and I am determined to work together with all of you represented in this gathering to advance peaceful and inclusive societies.
Turning now to the subject that brings us together today, I applaud the decision to hold the annual briefing in the margins of the High-Level Political Forum this year, since the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 is a shared agenda for all and every one of us in this room.
For the UN Alliance of Civilizations, three of the Sustainable Development Goals under review in 2019 are central to our mandate and constitute a strong normative framework for the basis of our programmatic activities. I am referring to SDG 4 on inclusive and equitable quality education; SDG 16 to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development; and SDG 17 on the global partnership for sustainable development.
Through its education programs, UNAOC enables participants to develop critical thinking skills to help dialogue and understanding. In an increasingly multi-cultural and interconnected world, education is a crucial tool to foster understanding and appreciation of other societies and cultures. UNAOC is fully committed to the promotion of critical thinking that can help overcome polarization, stereotypes, and intolerance. Our collective objective should be to establish a culture of peace from an early age, a culture which will ensure future generations of global citizens from different identities, faiths and cultures. I am committed to expanding the scope and scale of UNAOC education portfolio by including Global Citizenship Education and seeking new partners in the implementation of this approach.
The promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies and the emphasis on a global partnership for sustainable development are the common thread that weaves through every activity and project undertaken under the pillars of the Alliance of Civilization, namely, youth, migration, media and education. It will also permeate a fifth focus area that I have introduced in my capacity as High Representative in order to promote the role of women as peace mediators in conflicts with an intercultural and interreligious component.
Societies can only be peaceful and inclusive if they are able to ensure the right of every individual to practice their faith in safety and peace.
In fact, the issue of safeguarding the sanctity of religious sites and the safety of worshippers has become a central part of my mandate as High Representative since March, when in the aftermath of the attacks against mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the UN Secretary-General entrusted me with the elaboration of a Plan of Action to safeguard religious sites.
During the extensive process of consultations that I have been conducting with all relevant stakeholders, including the United Nations, member states and religious and faith-based organizations, I have been heartened by the overall support for a Plan that can serve as an action-oriented roadmap to bring us together to prevent and better prepare and respond to attacks against religious sites.
The elaboration of the Plan is in its last stages and I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of its main components:
1. The Plan is anchored in a number of principles and in relevant General Assembly resolutions and religious texts promoting intercultural and interfaith dialogue and understanding.
2. The Plan will contain a section on prevention which will take stock of some of the main initiatives on the prevention of violent extremism and will highlight the role of all main stakeholders including member states, religious leaders and civil society in preventing violent extremism. Continued and pro-active engagement by all actors, the role of social media and the importance of education will also be highlighted.
A mapping of religious sites around the world will be developed as an online interactive tool which will serve as a reminder of the universality of religious sites around the world and contribute to foster respect and understanding of their profound significance for individuals and communities in every continent.
The Plan will also include a global communications campaign to foster solidarity and mutual respect and understanding.
3. The Plan will include a section on how to respond to attacks against religious sites and worshippers who are peacefully practicing their rites will stress the importance of having normative frameworks and national plans to address the protection of religious sites, and include some recommendations for all relevant actors to strengthen their own internal security measures and to work better with each other.
Once the UN Secretary-General decides on next steps for the adoption of the Plan, the cooperation of all key stakeholders represented here today: Member States, the United Nations system, religious and faith-based organizations, international and regional organizations, and civil society, will be key to implement its recommendations in the multi-stakeholder multi-pronged approach contained in the Plan.
Let’s continue to work together to advance dialogue, respect, collaboration and mutual understanding in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. You can count on my tireless efforts in support of this noble cause and in my availability to continue to work with you all for an effective and result-oriented multilateral system in which we can prove that together we are stronger and can overcome any obstacle and deal effectively with the challenges confronting our world.
Thank you very much.