Remarks by the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
at the Launch of the Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites
New York, 12 September 2019
I thank the Secretary-General again for entrusting me with developing this Plan and for his input and guidance throughout the process. I have to say that it has been an extremely challenging and enriching exercise.
The Plan is the result of an extensive process of outreach to all major stakeholders, including UN entities, governments, religious leaders and faith-based organizations. The Plan is also mindful of the importance of a comprehensive approach to the safeguard of religious sites in which all relevant actors have a role to play.
As part of the consultative process leading up to the Plan, I convened a briefing with Member States on 11 June to share with all you my initial thinking and the proposed outline, and more importantly, to listen to your ideas and feedback. I was heartened by the overall support received on that occasion and thankful for the inputs received that contributed to enrich the text.
During the 11 June briefing, Member States stressed:
- the importance of ensuring that the Plan was global in nature and that it supported governments in their efforts to protect religious sites;
- the centrality of prevention including actions to combat hate speech particularly online;
- the role of women and youth;
- the need to include in the Plan actions for all key actors;
- and the importance of framing the Plan in the context of relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.
All those inputs together with the more detailed suggestions received from some of you were duly reflected in the text to the maximum extent possible.
The Plan also benefits from the substantive discussions that I had with relevant high-level representatives from governments during my official visits to Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Morocco, China, Egypt, Russia, the Vatican, Austria, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Plan intends to be a result-oriented document that can provide better preparedness and response to possible attacks against religious sites. The success of the Plan will rest on its implementation and on the sustained commitment by all stakeholders, and in particular Member States, to work actively in the safeguard of religious sites, in collaboration with relevant actors.
The Plan of Action will be complemented by the Global programme on the protection of vulnerable targets, including safeguarding religious sites from terrorism-related threats, that is being developed by the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism in consultation with relevant UN entities. The programme aims at increasing Member States mitigation capacities, crisis management, and contingency planning across all relevant stakeholders.
I very much look forward to your sustained commitment and engagement to guarantee the safety of the faithful to worship in peace. From my side, I will spare no effort to help implement the recommendations contained in the Plan and to continue to work closely with all of you for safe and peaceful worship.
Thank you very much.