High Representative’s Remarks
Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites – Consultation with Member States
2 December 2019
Thanks for accepting the invitation to participate in this meeting on the implementation of the UN Plan of Action to safeguard religious sites, which was officially launched by the Secretary-General on 12 September.
Since the Plan is a framework for action containing recommendations for different stakeholders to better prevent, prepare and respond to possible attacks against religious sites, the success of the Plan will be measured by its implementation.
As you know, some of the recommendations are addressed to the United Nations, others are directed to Member States, and there are also recommendations for religious leaders, civil society and online providers.
In accordance with the mandate given to me by the Secretary-General to lead in all efforts in the implementation phase, one the one hand, I intend to spearhead initiatives and actions that the UN is called upon to implement, and on the other hand, I will remain closely engaged with Member States and other stakeholders to encourage and support all of you in the implementation of those recommendations addressed to you with the final goal of better preventing, preparing and responding to attacks against religious sites, which, as we well know, can unfortunately hit any country in the world.
In this context, first I would like to update you on what is happening in relation to the recommendations addressed to the United Nations regarding prevention of attacks against religious sites.
Secondly, I would like to open the floor for your comments, inputs, information sharing about current legislation, policies and actions that your respective governments have in place in relation to the prevention of attacks against religious sites, future initiatives in the pipeline and any other inputs that you may consider relevant in relation to the implementation of the recommendations contained in the prevention section of the Plan.
As noted in the invitation letter, I would like to dedicate this meeting to prevention and, if you consider that this format of discussion is useful, we could have another session later on focused on preparedness and response.
It is my hope that this format of an informal consultation with interested Member States will allow for substantive and constructive exchanges and that the fact that we have representation from different regions in the world can also have the benefit of cross-regional fertilization.
Let me now provide you with an update of what is being happening on the UN side since the launch of the Plan in September:
- Mapping of religious sites. As you know, one of the recommendations in the Plan is to develop a mapping of religious sites around the world as an online tool to capture the universality of religious sites and contribute to fostering respect and understanding of their profound significance. I am actively engaged with UNITAR’s Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) in the development of a detailed work plan over a period of three years, which is the time span required for the completion of this ambitious endeavor. The mapping will include data collection and agreed-upon and safe sharing of information, both existing and new. The mapping will be developed in full collaboration with Member States, which will have the last word about the information that is shared in the online tool. UNAOC will work closely with UNOSAT, UNESCO and other partners which can provide technical expertise in the development of the mapping. I will keep Member States duly updated on progress on the mapping.
- Global communications campaign. UNAOC will lead on a global communications campaign that will celebrate the universality of religious sites as symbols of our shared humanity and emphasize the role of individuals in safeguarding religious sites, regardless of religions or belief. The campaign, which will span a period of twelve months, will primarily target young people who are active on social media.
- 2020 Global conference. As stated in the Plan, the Secretary-General will convene a global conference with relevant UN entities, Member States, political figures, religious leaders, faith-based organizations, media and civil society to spearhead political support that will translate into action to implement the Plan. We are still working with the Secretary-General’s Office on possible dates and the inclination is to have the conference in the second half of next year.
- Global program on the protection of vulnerable targets, including safeguarding religious sites from terrorism-related threats. This program will start to be implemented next year under the leadership of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, in consultation with relevant United Nations entities, including the UN Alliance of Civilizations, with the objective of increasing the ability of Member States to identify, prevent, deter, and counter threats against soft targets and increase capacity to recover from attacks, including religious sites, through the provision of expert technical assistance. Should any of you be interested in this program, I stand ready to provide any assistance you may need, including liaising with UNOCT.
As I mentioned previously, recommendations in the Plan are addressed to different stakeholders and it is my intention to remain engaged with all of them in the implementation phase. In this context, tomorrow I will meet with members of the Multi-Faith Advisory Council of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on religion and sustainable development, and some other key actors. As you know, the Advisory Council is an entity composed of the UN system’s faith-based partners, reflecting on the diversity of religions and covering thematic areas which mirror the UN’s mandate. Tomorrow’s meeting will be an opportunity to discuss with them the recommendations addressed to religious leaders on the prevention section of the Plan to see what can be done to move forward.
At this stage, I would like to turn the floor over to you and kindly ask those delegations who want to take the floor to approach my colleagues on the side of the room. First, I would like to invite the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka, Her Excellency Kshenuka Senewiratne, to address this meeting.
“The success of the Plan will be measured by its implementation,” he emphasized. pic.twitter.com/WiRQSXkOYk
— UNAOC (@UNAOC) December 2, 2019
Currently underway: #UNAOC consultation with Member States for the implementation of the @UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites. Member States express their support for High Representative @MiguelMoratinos and his mandate. #Commit2Dialogue pic.twitter.com/q9fnQXaG7q
— UNAOC (@UNAOC) December 2, 2019
Productive meeting today with interested Member States regarding the @UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites. Chaired by #UNAOC High Representative Mr. @MiguelMoratinos, the discussion focused on the Plan’s implementation and next steps.https://t.co/HF3SymIhY7 pic.twitter.com/puTSSLpxHe
— UNAOC (@UNAOC) December 2, 2019