Opening Remarks by the High Representative for UNAOC
at the High-Level Meeting of UNAOC Group of Friends
New York, 29 September 2020
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For the first time in many years, we gather virtually for our annual high-level meeting of UNAOC Group of Friends as COVID-19 has deprived us from getting together in person here in New York. I am heartened to see your commitment to participate in the meeting despite the physical distance and the time zones.
This also reflects how united we all are in our enthusiasm to rebuild a peaceful, cohesive and inclusive societies in a COVID19 challenging environment. This is the spirit that we need to prevail today more than ever before.
This is also the work that the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations has been doing for the past 15 years since its creation. The progress that we have achieved could not have been possible without the support of all of you, the community of the Group of Friends and most importantly the consistent political and financial support of the co-sponsors of the Alliance the governments of Spain and Turkey.
Yet, a lot remains undone. Our mission is far from over and especially now.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic unraveled, there was a strong push-back on multilateralism, cultural diversity, religious pluralism and human rights. This pandemic as a global human crisis has exposed the fragility and the fissures within our societies. It laid bare deep rooted inequalities and fractures. Societies are divided across cultural, ethnic and religious lines. We see it in the resurgence of Neo-Nazis organizations and anti-Semitism. Manifestations of hate speech, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and persecution of Christians as well as all forms of discrimination against vulnerable communities continue, leading to a vicious circle of toxic hate and deadly violence. Youth and women were further marginalized despite their indispensable potential and valuable contribution.
As we mark the 15th anniversary of UNAOC, the international community also celebrated virtually the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. It is worth recalling that the existing multilateral governance structures emerged from a devastating global war and the world-wide depression and a pandemic that preceded it. Only events of such global consequences could and should generate the solidarity, resolve and vision necessary to create those structures. As we usher a Decade of Action, It is noteworthy that we haven’t fully used the existing toolbox within our reach. A case in point is the powerful tool of interfaith and intercultural dialogue which has been often overlooked as a viable tool for conflict prevention and conflict resolution. I firmly believe that culture in terms of diversity and religion in terms of spirituality are crucial components that should be included in our future diplomatic toolbox.
There is no alternative to standing together in unity and solidarity in cohesive and equitable societies. Fulfilling Goal 16 “Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies” of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is more imperative now than ever before. Showing compassion and kindness to the most vulnerable nations and people is what makes us all human belonging to One Humanity despite our many cultures and identities. It is the raison d’être of UNAOC.
In this context, the overarching theme of this opening plenary session of the annual high-Level meeting of the UNAOC Group of Friends “Shaping a Better World: Building Cohesive and Inclusive Societies in a Challenging COVID-19 Environment” will provide me with the opportunity to present to you in a PowerPoint Presentation what has been accomplished since we last met in September 2019, what we have done during the pandemic and the way forward. It goes without saying that the pandemic which has forced a new modus operandi, has impacted our activities. We had to postpone few of our global events notably the UNAOC 9th Global Forum which was scheduled in Fez, Morocco in November 2020. We hope that the global situation gets better so that we can identify with our Moroccan friends a new date.
The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations has turned 15 this past July. I am very glad to announce that today we have grown to 153 members that include 124 member states of the United Nations, along with 27 international inter-governmental organizations and 1 non-member state. Yet I am sad to say that only less than 10% of the Group of Friends contribute to the UNAOC Voluntary Trust Fund. Political support is indeed crucial to our existence but financial contributions will always be the vital life-line for our survival.
As we have a short time and a very long list of speakers, I will conclude my opening remarks by thanking you all and I look forward to our continued partnership in fulfilling the mission of the Alliance.